Apr 242008

I had heard about Sharkwater on the film festival circuit for a year, but wasn’t ever in a place where it was showing. It came out on dvd last week and I finally watched it last night. Sharkwater is really three movies in one. Part nature documentary on sharks, part educational documentary on shark finning (mostly for sharkfin soup aka fishwing), and part docu-drama. Rob Stewart has some beautiful underwater footage in the movie, and one could see how that was how the movie started out. But the hook of the film is the drama they encounter in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Ecuador.

That drama ties into explaining the sharkfinning industry, and just how dangerous it is to the ocean – our lungs. The movie doesn’t hold back in terms of imagery. In addition to finning sharks, the viewer is shown exactly what longlines are, and just how wasteful and brutal they are for large fish species. Today, it is estimated 90% of shark populations are gone from our seas. The removal of this top predator from the oceans will have a huge impact on an already off-balance ecosystem.

Though parts of the movie are hard to watch, I think it is a very important film to get into the public consciousness. Unless laws and enforcement change, most species will be gone within a decade.

Watch the Sharkwater trailer here:

Apr 212008

I’ve been working my way though the many wonderful talks at TED and was happy to see a new one pop up with Gore showing his new slide show: New thinking on the climate crisis. Do yourself a favor, and watch it. He is a great speaker, and the topic is extremely important. Gore is right, the scale of change requires law and politics.

As fantastic as the talk was, I have a nitpick. I wish he spoke more about the huge car dependence we have in the USA. It is sort of the elephant lurking in the room. Any changes to our impact on the environment will have to start there. There are solutions, there just needs to be the will to change business as usual – More rail for cargo and transport, better mass transit, conversion to electric, and making cities walk-able through approaches like new urbanism.

The fundamental issue, as Michael Pollan says, is cheap energy. Without putting a price on carbon, there won’t be enough change. Of course, cheap energy was a temporary state, and now as crops are turned into ethanol, the decision seems to be fuel or food in many respects. How the rich starved the world is an interesting read.

This seems somewhat appropriate: Thousands of people saw varying shades of green at EarthFair yesterday at Balboa Park – and it seemed like all of them came in their cars.

Mar 312008

Voice of San Diego has a good article on the increasingly skinny grey whales that migrate down the Pacific coast to Baja. It is thought that warmer waters have allowed for more fish migration and greater competition for plankton in Arctic seas. The whales end up with a longer migration in their search for food. The dropping numbers in Baja lagoons has put some hurt on the “eco-tourism” down there. The greys aren’t in danger as a species, but this could be a a warning of the changes that are taking place in our oceans.

Jan 162008

Like Canada, Colorado and Wyoming have a massive fight on their hands with mountain pine beetle outbreaks due to drought and warm winters.

Every large, mature lodgepole pine forest in Colorado and southern Wyoming will be dead within three to five years, killed in a mountain pine beetle infestation unprecedented in the state….

A lack of soil cover and the potential for forest fires as the dying trees dry out could leave reservoirs and rivers clogged with sediment more likely to pour off the landscape.

Recreation, too, is jeopardized, as campers and skiers are faced with spending their vacation time amid red-needled trees, or those with no needles at all.

It makes me wonder if we will see Solastalgia here soon.

Jan 032008

Wired has a really interesting story called Clive Thompson on How the Next Victim of Climate Change Will Be Our Minds

People are feeling displaced. They’re suffering symptoms eerily similar to those of indigenous populations that are forcibly removed from their traditional homelands. But nobody is being relocated; they haven’t moved anywhere. It’s just that the familiar markers of their area, the physical and sensory signals that define home, are vanishing. Their environment is moving away from them, and they miss it terribly.

Albrecht has given this syndrome an evocative name: solastalgia. It’s a mashup of the roots solacium (comfort) and algia (pain), which together aptly conjure the word nostalgia. In essence, it’s pining for a lost environment. “Solastalgia,” as he wrote in a scientific paper describing his theory, “is a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at home.'”

…Ironically, we may simply be rediscovering a syndrome that we thought was dead and buried. Back in the 1940s, the military considered homesickness to be a serious and potentially fatal illness, because drafted soldiers who got shipped overseas would often become savagely depressed. These days, Americans are rarely dislocated against their will, and the army is all-volunteer. Few of us have the experience of being unmoored in the world.

But that may be changing rapidly. In a world that’s quickly heating up and drying up, you can’t go home again — even if you never leave.

It is a very thought provoking topic for me. I’ve often thought about what it will be like to watch things change around us. Will we move further north with the climate, or adapt and stay?

Oct 182007

As anyone who has driven through OC to the California central coast knows, there are lot of offshore oil rigs out there. The UT has a great article on the debate over what to do about the California oil rigs once their life span is up. Some want them dismantled, but as the article shows, they currently support a huge amount of life – the support structures essentially act as artificial reefs.

Among their proposals: Cutting down platforms 80 feet or more below the sea’s surface so that ships can safely pass over the remaining structure, or simply toppling whole platforms onto the ocean bed.

These options, say proponents, would preserve at least portions of the platforms as artificial reefs for fish and other marine life. Indeed, CARE estimates that the 27 Southern California platforms provide 4.1 million square feet of living space for marine invertebrates, such as mussels, barnacles, anemones, scallops, sponges, corals and crabs.

As for fish, several surveys in recent years have found that some of the platforms attract greater numbers and varieties of fish at times than do nearby natural reefs.

Assuming there were minimal heavy metal issues, I’d vote for keeping them around. Our oceans need all the help they can get, and these artificial reefs are great nurseries. They would probably be great spots for diving as well, in better shape than San Diego’s NOS tower.

Aug 282007

When I first moved near down town, I had no access to recycling. This was a pain in the ass, as I would always end up dragging it to someone else’s bin, or to a center somewhere. But most people in the building would just trash it all, because they had no blue box options in the building. It was disheartening to see entire dumpsters filled with glass, plastic, and paper.

But it sounds like that will change in the future. Voice of San Diego has a story about Jerry Sanders getting on board with mandatory recycling:

The mayor, who had previously rejected calls for expanding the city’s lagging recycling policy, has reversed course and proposed a law that would require city residents to recycle their cans, newspapers and glass bottles.

His proposal would also make recycling available to thousands of apartment, condo and office dwellers who lack it. Blue bins would be phased in, with the largest apartments (more than 100 units) and office buildings (more than 20,000 square feet) required to provide recycling by January 2008.

Any special event requiring a city permit would be required to provide recycling bins.

Aug 162007

Ars Technica has a interesting writeup on a study of the life cycle of alternative energy sources, and their total environmental impact. The article is called The ‘greenness’ of alternative energy sources. It looked at the “flow of material and energy used in the construction, operation, and ultimate decommissioning of a renewable energy supply. In addition to these terms, it takes into account the impact of manufacturing the materials needed to extract energy, as well as waste generated by the process.” The quick summary: wind and geothermal do the best, with solar needing wide scale use before its efficiency gets to fossil fuel levels – but dramatically lower on the pollution side, of course.