Ocean win in Congress! Plus, Lubchenco in NYT.

March 26, 2009

Both the House and the Senate have approved increased funding for ocean research! Sheril broke the news yesterday:

The package includes ocean exploration, NOAA undersea research, ocean and coastal mapping integration, the integrated coastal and ocean observation system*, federal ocean acidification research and monitoring, coastal and estuarine land conservation, and lots more…Folks, this is as much a bill about the environment as it is about people and our collective future.

The bill will now to to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law. Congratulations to all who worked hard to get this bill through!

For more ocean policy goodness, check out this NYT profile of Jane Lubchenco, the head of NOAA. She plans to create a climate observation service similar to the National Weather Service and to tackle the problem of overfishing.

Dr. Lubchenco, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a MacArthur grant recipient, said she did not take the NOAA job thinking it would be another chance for her to chip away at the culture of science — not consciously, anyway. “I took the job because I had the chance to be helpful,” she said.


The Managed World: Wolves in the West

April 13, 2008

There is no place on earth, no matter how remote, untouched by humans. We are mighty: we can trawl the deep, explore the South Pole, and fish every single island in the South Pacific. But as every young nerdling knows, with great power comes great responsibility. That is why I’m introducing a new series in the Oyster’s Garter: The Managed World.

If we want to have nice things, like coral reefs and top predators, we’re going to have to actively take care of them. There’s too many people with too much technology for a laissez-faire approach. We need to actively choose the world we want to live in – and I am rooting against the world of Oryx and Crake.

So, for this first Managed World: wolves. The American West isn’t as big as it used to be. There’s no uninhabited lands for unprotected wolves to roam – instead, there’s a patchwork of ranches and towns and farms. So do we want truly wild wolves? Or do we only want to have wolves as exhibits in a park-zoo?

Read the rest of this entry »


Tell environmental philanthropists how to spend their money!

March 19, 2008

Don’t have huge wads of cash to donate but wish you did? Tell philanthropy-minded rich folks how to spend their environmental dollars. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (of NPR advertising fame) funded the Keystone Center for Science & Public Policy to create a “listening survey” designed to answer this question:

What are the major challenges to biodiversity conservation over the next 5 to 10 years and beyond and what might be the most significant opportunities for philanthropic impact?

The results will inform the Doris Duke Foundation’s giving. In other words, this survey could have a real impact in how environmental dollars are spent. So click here to tell them what you think!

The survey took me about 15 minutes to complete. There aren’t many questions, but many of them are open-ended. And you get a cookie at the end! (ok, it’s only a nerd-cookie, but you do get to see the results of the survey so far. including write-in comments.)

Via Bug Girl


China bans plastic shopping bags

January 12, 2008

Like South Africa, Ireland, Taiwan, and Bangladesh, China has banned free plastic shopping bags. The flimsiest bags are banned outright, while merchants will be required to charge extra for the more study type. Go China!

Screw that scene in American Beauty – plastic bags are ugly litter, clog storm drains, and blow into waterways. At sea, 90% of the trash I see is plastic bags. They never biodegrade, strangle sea life (particularly endangered sea turtle that mistake them for jellyfish) and are a navigational hazard (picking shreds of bag out of the propellor is Not Fun).

Australia may be next to implement a plastic bag ban. Will the US be an environmental luddite on yet another issue? Probably, but write your elected representatives anyway!

Special bonus! Sing along with the Australian minister of the environment as he rocks out with Midnight Oil. I *heart* Peter Garrett.


But do you ever see redtail hawks in Crip territory?

January 9, 2008

I love urban wildlife. For all the hundreds of species that are pushed out, a few can make a go of it in human-dominated landscapes. There’s urban salmon that spawn in the middle of Seattle and wild turkeys that beat on Boston joggers. There’s female moose in Wyoming that protect their calves from grizzly bears by hanging out near paved roads. And of course, the red-tail hawks of the Upper East Side.

I think urban wildlife is incredibly important to maintaining city dwellers’ connection to nature. The “Last Child in the Woods” syndrome has been amply documented, but not everyone has the opportunity to run amuck in an Idealized American Childhood. If an enterprising kid can catch frogs and see raptors, he or she is going to feel some connection to the natural world.

Cities can do relatively easy things to encourage wildlife to reside in their parks and streams. Minimizing big open spaces encourages more small mammals – cool ones like the Vancouver marmot. Removing antiquated culverts that block streams encourages fish migration. And apparently Florida has built special highway underpasses for its bears (scroll down).

Right now I’m pretty happy watching the extremely dignified and dinosaur-esque pelicans off SIO and looking for the San Diego Bay green sea turtles.

Photo from palemale.com


Fisheries management & snacks – two great tastes that taste great together

October 1, 2007

Why do fisheries fail in the developed world? We’ve got all these scientists and agencies and laws and monitoring. Kate Wing of the NRDC has a tabletop fisheries management simulation that offers great insight. I know that even the most dedicated gamers among you are unlikely to play “fisheries,” but although it lacks boffer weapons, it does have snacks! And knowledge! Mmmm….crunchy knowledge….

Via Carnival of the Blue V


Ben Hueso laments Mexico sewage problem

September 17, 2007

San Diego City Council member Ben Hueso posted a commentary at Voice of San Diego lamenting the lack of sewage treatment in Baja – and criticizing the U.S. developers (Donald Trump! eeek!) that make the problem even worse. It’s shocking that all the millions of dollars in real estate development doesn’t go towards improving local infrastructure. Besides, who wants step outside their lovely seaside condo to go swimming in turds?


Flexible mussels

August 31, 2007

San Diego County has 12 water reservoirs, and they are all now officially infiltrated by the quagga mussel. A tiny fresh-water mussel, the quagga is a close relative of the infamous zebra mussel, which has caused millions of dollars of property damage in the Great Lakes. The city is working on eradication, but don’t count on it – this little dudes are nearly impossible to remove once they’re established.

These tiny mussels wreak havoc in two ways – filtering the water and clogging pipes and walls. By removing tiny plants and animals from the water, the mussels take away food from native critters, fertilize the bottom with their excretions, and allow more light to reach deeper in the lake. This creates perfect conditions for invasive and/or noxious plants to take over the bottom of the reservoir. And mussels love high water flow, since it brings more food their way – which means that their favorite places to live are in intake pipes.

Unfortunately, they are going to be very hard to eradicate. Mussels are broadcast spawners, which means that each individual can spooge out millions and millions of sperm or eggs into the water. As long as there’s one male and one female and they are close enough together to fertilize, millions and millions of baby mussels can be pumped into the lake. And the larvae are hardy – a mussel larvae floats about for about four weeks before settling to the bottom and becoming an adult mussel, plenty of time to be sucked into a boat’s ballast water and transported to another lake.

Because of this decandent molluscan lifestyle, the city’s proposed solutions are a bit laughable. Lowering the level of the reservoir, pulling adults of lines and floats,. dredging the lake – none of these will address the problem of a month’s worth of microscopic larvae just waiting to turn into brand new adults. Unless there is a way to simultaneously remove all adults, then do it again in a month when the larvae settle, then do it again to clean up any stragglers – but such a way would likely kill everything in the lake. It seems likely that the quagga mussel is here to stay – too bad they probably don’t taste good with coconut-basil sauce.

Further info: Here’s a comprehensive FAQ from USGS


Mad as the San Diego flourescent bulb policy

August 30, 2007

There’s no such things as a free lun- er, reduction in harmful greenhouse gases. Those cute little polar bear cubs plastered all over are gonna make us PAY, one way or another. And the latest way in which saving energy has unexpected consequences is in energy-saving compact flourescent lights. Those bulbs, which SDG&E subsidizes at Costco and Al Gore plugged in his movie, are chock-filled with mercury.

We REALLY don’t want mercury in our landfills. It is a nasty poison – that’s why hatters went mad. (Babies and children are especially susceptible to brain damage). It also builds up in the environment and can accumulate at very high levels in top predators – like the extremely tasty yellowtail I saw swimming by La Jolla today.

For these reasons flourescent bulbs count as hazardous waste, and it is illegal to just throw them in the trash – you’re supposed to recycle them. Unfortunately, the only way to do so in San Diego is to make an appointment with the nice folks at the city environmental services, then bring your bulbs in at the appointed time. No walk ins, no drop offs. How many people are going to do that? Only the most frothing enthusiasts – and there are a lot of flourescent bulbs out there these days.

Flourescent bulbs are great – they save huge amounts of electricity – but as always, there is a cost. In order to avoid some big unpleasant problems later, we need to advocate for an easy and effective recycling program. Or maybe just drop your bulbs by the office of your friendly city councilperson…

Previously discussed on Last Blog on Earth


Some oceans just can’t hold their arsenic.

August 27, 2007

dirty_runoff.jpgAmerica’s Finest City also has America’s second-most-polluted bay. Yay us.

These days, most of the nasty flowing into San Diego Bay (and other parts of the coastline) is a cocktail of urban runoff, with a fine bouquet of oil, pesticides, and heavy metals.

So, when the City of San Diego went to update its storm water discharge permit, the Regional Water Quality Control Board laid the smack and is requiring the city to take some measures to reduce polluted runoff.

Most of the proposed measures target development projects 50 acres or greater, and are aimed at reducing the amount of runoff and slowing down the remaining runoff. This means less impermeable surfaces like concrete and more catchment basins and slow-down devices.I did not have the fortitude to wade through the permit itself, but you can get handy FAQ sheets and links to more info at Think Blue, the City’s storm water reduction website. (Didn’t know they had one of those? Me either.)

There’s also a public meeting tomorrow, August 28th, 5:30-7:30 PM, should you desire to share your runoff-related thoughts with the city and perhaps with a posse of angry developers.


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