Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Future of the Oceans is in Our Hands

Writing a public blog for the first time has proven to be a rewarding experience for me. I began this journey as part of the curriculum for the Social Web for Social Change course at BGI. We were asked to create weekly posts on a topic of our choosing related to sustainability. I have been a life long water person and see the health of our oceans as one of the greatest sustainability issues in the world today. Deciding to write about it was an easy choice for me. What has surprised me is how much I have learned about not only the issues related to ocean health and conservation, but how effective a tool the social web can be in creating change and raising awareness. 

Over the last 8 weeks I have researched a wide range of topics related to marine conservation. I created posts discussing; feeding a growing human population and the plight of the bluefin tuna, the importance of Marine Protected Areas, the effects of oil spills on the oceans, the connections between life on land and life in the seas, the effects of climate change on ocean chemistry, and plastic pollution. There are many more issues I would like to cover, but the fall term is coming to an end and my new courses will require my full attention. With new courses starting I will not be able to post weekly to this blog, but I do plan to keep it going, perhaps posting once a month as opposed to once a week. I thank all of my readers for their time and  commitment to ocean conservation.

Perhaps the biggest take away for me over the course of this project is that the number one issue our oceans face is a lack of awareness. Social media is a powerful tool to spread awareness and engage people in the fight to protect our oceans. The future of our oceans is in our hands. We can make a difference, everyone of us. I ask you all to do your part, here are 101 Ways to make a difference. Over the last 8 weeks I have created a stack of bookmarks related to this project in delicious and encourage any of you who are interested in learning more and looking for ways to make a difference to explore the links and get involved.

Get involved, get wet, tell your friends and remember to take only pictures and leave only bubbles!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Our Oceans Are Turning Into A Plastic Soup

Ed Begley Jr.
Excerpt from:
Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them
By Ted Danson, Michael D'Orso

"Plastics have betrayed us like a cheating spouse. Early in the dating process, we were smitten, to be sure. He made everything so damn easy. From feeding us, to picking up the dry cleaning, even taking out the trash, he was eager to help at every turn. He was clearly well-to-do. He had earnings in the billions and employed workers by the millions. It was hard to not fall in love, and we soon became wed to this new way of life. Sure, he changed over the years. He was so controlling. He started inserting himself in every aspect of our lives, but the thought of divorcing seemed impossible. What about the kids? They loved him and the toys he provided with every happy meal. Some friends tried to warn us, but we accused them of being jealous. Of having their own agenda. When they wouldn't shut up about it, we simply stopped talking to them. And we found a way to justify it all, because we were simply in too deep. Until that day a few years back, when we drove down to the coast to take in the view, and there he was, caught in the act. The rain had flushed his lies out in the open and they sat there before us, as far as the eye could see. And we quickly learned that it wasn't just in our town. Of course, he had an explanation. It was a onetime thing. What we had witnessed wasn't his fault. It was because of the rain, or faulty storm drains. He promised he'd never do it again. But soon we couldn't ignore the facts. It wasn't restricted to the coast. He was cheating us everywhere. In out lakes, rivers, and streams. On land, and yes, even in our bloodstream. It turned out ... he was slowly poisoning us! We decided we'd get away to think things over. We went out in the middle of the ocean to clear our head. See if we could not think about him for a while. And, there he was. Caught worse than before. Out here he was known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and he was cheating on families in every corner of the globe. He was working this same scam everywhere. He had a gull in every port...choking on plastic debris. And, countless other sea birds, fish, and marine mammals. Clearly WE needed help as much as he did. So what were we to do? We formed support groups, like: And we slowly got some recovery in our lives and started to spread the word. We hope you'll do the same."

To many of us Midway Island is distant and is perhaps disconnected from our daily lives. However for my fellow BGI students, Cortez Island is much closer to home. It is where we were all introduced to the BGI culture at orientation and is an example of how global the issue of plastic pollution in the ocean has become.

Business can be part of the solution, Method a San Francisco based company that makes eco-friendly home cleaning products and personal care products is one example. Method Unveils Bottle Made of Ocean Litter. Recycling plastic is something many of us do every day, the reality is that recycling plastic is not as easy as  you might think. The future of ocean plastic recycling is one example. The staggering amounts of plastic that humans generate requires bold thinking and innovative technology. The good news is that progress is being made and the problems associated with a "throw away" mentality are beginning to get the attention they deserve. We can't clean up all of the plastic in the oceans, but we can stop adding more. Please do your part; avoid using single use plastic products and packaging, bring a reusable bag when you go shopping, look to buy drinks in glass bottles, pick up some plastic litter and dispose of it properly.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Climate Change Threatens Ocean Life - Ocean Acidification

For years we have been hearing about the negative effects of climate change. One aspect you may not be aware of is the impact of climate change on the health of oceans. Ocean acidification is a global environmental issue caused by the man-made release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Ocean acidification is often called the "evil twin" to climate change, because both issues are rooted in carbon dioxide emissions. 

Fundamental changes in seawater chemistry are occurring throughout the world's oceans. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) from humankind's industrial and agricultural activities has increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The ocean absorbs about a quarter of the CO2 we release into the atmosphere every year, so as atmospheric CO2 levels increase, so do the levels in the ocean. Initially, many scientists focused on the benefits of the ocean removing this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.  However, decades of ocean observations now show that there is also a downside — the CO2 absorbed by the ocean is changing the chemistry of the seawater, a process called OCEAN ACIDIFICATION.

While the oceans are becoming more acidic, they are still on the basic side of the pH scale (basic - neutral - acidic). It is highly unlikely that the oceans will ever become actual acid. However, even small changes in the acidity of the oceans can result in severe ramifications. As they become more acidic, corals and other organisms will find it increasingly difficult to build new skeletons and shells and those that already exist may begin to dissolve.

The acidification of the world’s oceans from an excess of CO2 has already begun, as evidenced recently by the widespread mortality of oyster larvae in the Pacific Northwest. Scientists say this is just a harbinger of things to come if greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar. elizabeth grossman

A new study says the seas are acidifying ten times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred. And, the study concludes, current changes in ocean chemistry due to the burning of fossil fuels may portend a new wave of die-offs. carl zimmer

Monday, November 14, 2011

Coastal British Columbia an Ecosystem in Peril

I recently wrote in this blog about how oil and water don't mix. When oil spills occur the impacts on marine life can be devastating. Let's face it, we are addicted to oil. Until this addiction is overcome spills are going to happen. The effects of spills on marine life are obvious, but the impacts to the creatures on land, humans included can be a little harder to see. Why should we care? We should care because all life is interconnected. The oceans are the birth place of life on Earth. When the oceans suffer we all do. I recently watched the film Spoil which does an amazing job of showing how the oceans are connected to terrestrial life. I was moved by this film and I think you will be too.  This short trailer will whet your appetite. 

The full length film is well worth 45 minutes of your time. The photography is stunning, the story is compelling, and the call to action couldn't be more timely. With the US government putting the Keystone XL pipeline on hold last week, pressure may well build to find alternate routes to get the oil from the Alberta Tar Sands out to market. If the US government has identified enough potential environmental damage associated with a pipeline running through the fields of Nebraska to delay approval, then surely the Canadian government should question the safety of a proposed Enbridge pipeline.  A pipeline that would run from the interior of the country over the Rocky Mountains and through the Great Bear Wilderness. The pipeline would stretch 1,100 km, cross thousands of streams and deliver 500,000 barrels a day of unrefined bitumen to the port of Kitimat. Where some of the worlds largest super tankers would have to navigate through dangerous and complex waters to deliver their cargo to locations around the world. It is a recipe for disaster. It is not a question of if a spill will occur it is a matter of when and how big it will be.

I encourage you all to watch both Spoil and Oil in Eden: The Battle to Protect Canada's Pacific Coast and to do your part to help protect BC's wild coast. Visit and

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Don't forget to have a little fun

The health of our oceans is a serious topic with many committed and dedicated people working hard to raise awareness and inspire action. Several of the ocean conservation organizations I have mentioned here in my blog are skilled at taking advantage of the power of the social web to get their messages out and create change. They tweet, blog, have facebook pages and websites. They provide helpful links and tools to help readers get involved. They use powerful images and video to help tell their stories. They understand their audience, make friends, write often, and share what they know. They seek collaboration and invite their readers to become part of their community and contribute to the ongoing dialog. 

The social web is indeed a powerful tool. One organization in particular, Oceana, is doing a great job of using social media to it's fullest extent. The latest topic in BGI's social web for social change course looks to the power that fun can bring when working on creating social change. Fun is a powerful emotion that has the ability to engage people in ways that other forms of communication do not. Some great examples of fun creating change can be seen at the fun theory web site.

With a prompt to incorporate fun into my "beat blog" I went in search of an example that I could share. I found one courtesy of the folks at Oceana. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Join the conversation: What do you love about the ocean?

I have been inspired by the organization Oceana and their sweeping efforts to support ocean conservation. They are doing a admirable job in spreading the word and prompting engagement. Their latest effort is centered around Thanksgiving. As many of us in the United States join with family and friends to celebrate all that we are thankful for, I ask you to consider the oceans and the contributions they make to our lives. We have much to appreciate and be thankful for. Starting today Oceana's blog The Beacon is launching a campaign that asks you to join a conversation and share what you love about the ocean on their Twitter page using the hashtag #oceangiving and to sign up with HelpAttack to donate a little money every time someone tweets with #oceangiving. I hope that in some small way my blog supports the efforts being made by Oceana and the many other groups and individuals who share my passion for ocean conservation. Join the conversation, get involved, and make a difference.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oil and Water Don't Mix

It is well know to school children the world over that oil and water do not mix. Yet for decades our addiction to oil has resulted in one catastrophic oil spill after another. Most readers today are familiar with the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, AK and the recent Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but did you know that the largest spill in history was deliberate? 8,000,000 barrels of oil were released into the Persian Gulf after the Gulf War by the Iraqi army which destroyed tankers, terminals and oil wells in Kuwait. Even larger amounts of oil were set on fire at oil wells in Kuwait releasing oil and combustion pollution into the air, land and water.

Earlier this month the container ship Rena ran into a reef in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand creating one of the worst environmental disasters in the country's history. Conservationists are warning that a wildlife tragedy looks eminent. When will the spilling and wildlife destruction end?

Photo Credit:NOAA's National Ocean Service  CC by 2.0
You can do something about this alarming and damaging situation. Big oil companies receive over $4 billion in tax breaks each year. Speak up and let your voice be heard. Sign a letter to congress asking them to end subsidies to the polluting oil industry and help protect the environment and wildlife from future oil disasters.