Surfers At the Forefront

Surfers have been at the forefront, involved in protecting the beaches and oceans of the world far longer than any other group of citizens.  Organizations like Surfrider have been performing beach cleanups and lobbying for protective measures for decades.   Surfrider members perform regular cleanups of the shoreline, a largely messy and thankless job that they have to do because other visitors who enjoy the oceans and beaches refuse to clean up after themselves.

  Perhaps it takes a vested interest, close contact, to motivate people to do the right thing.  Similarly, it’s falconers who make up the vast majority of those involved in the recovery of the Peregrine Falcon and other birds of prey.  There may be some merit to having a vested interest, but most of the trash left on the beaches and other public natural places comes from people who likewise visit and enjoy these places.  So it seems that surfers (and falconers) must still be some pretty exceptional people to step up to the plate, giving their time, labor and money into clean water, beaches, wildlife, and the world’s eco-systems. 

Once again, surfers are taking the lead, this time in the form of a company called ReRip.com.  This effort, stared up by two surfer chicks from San Diego, is the Craigslist of board sports.   They provide classified ads to rehome surf, skate and snow boards, helping to ensure that the boards continue to be recycled, rather than ending up in a landfill.  Moreover, they’re providing surfboard blanks made of BioFoam.  The high performance Biofoam blanks are 50% plant based.  Their production results in 36% less global warming emissions and a 61% reduction in non-renewable energy use.  That’s a pretty sharp contrast to the traditional poly-resin board.  Bioboard blanks give surfers good cause to buy locally shaped Bofoam-core boards rather than a pop-out from China with its long string of toxicity that eventually leads to the air and ocean.

We’re pleased to tip a hat to surfers, on behalf of a grateful planet.

Sec. Salazar Cancels Gas & Oil Leases

Last Wednesday, President Obama’s newly appointed Secretary of the Interior canceled leases on 77 parcels of land in Utah that the Bush administration offered up for gas and oil drilling in a last-minute attempt to help his cronies. Amongst those were the parcels bid upon by the clever young activist who committed civil disobedience by bidding on them when he knew he could not afford to pay, to keep the oil companies from spreading their destruction on lands near his home.

Other 11th Hour actions by the Bush adminstration are also being reviewed. It is the expressed opinion of Secretary Salazar that the Bush Adminstration “rushed ahead to sell oil and gas leases at the doorstep of some of our greatest national icons, some of our nation’s most treasured landscapes” and that they did so without legitimate scientific review or consultation.

Salazar didn’t say new drilling was categorically out, but rather that the Obama administration would find a “new balance” between protecting cherished and sensitive park areas and allowing public lands to be used for exploration and drilling for gas and oil.

In January, a Federal District Court judge in Washington agreed that Bush’s Department of the Interior had not done proper research. The judge issued an injunction preventing the oil and gas companies from taking possession of the leases.

Canceling the leases is a fait accomplis. The government will give up $6 million in fees for those leases, but this is small price to pay, considering the permanent damage that the leases could have done to the unique geography of that part of the country.

“This is a critical first step and a dramatic difference from the Bush administration,” said Sharon Buccino, senior lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which worked on the lawsuit to block the leases.

Kathleen Sgamma, who represents independent natural gas and oil producers, expressed “grave concerns” over the direction the new administration was taking. “This is going to make it more difficult to develop the natural gas resources we need for our nation’s energy security,” she complained. It’s not surprising that oil and gas barons would be upset by the Obama administration’s move, but they don’t have a fellow oil baron in the Oval Office anymore. If this nation does what it can to achieve independence from combustion engines, the gas and oil can become outdated, unnecessary, and that is a far greater security for everyone.

Mr. Salazar said reviews of other Bush administration choices are continuing in nearly a dozen policy areas, including offshore drilling and endangered species. Special attention is being given to those made in Bush’s final months.

The oil and gas barons may not be happy, but the rest of us see it as a very welcome sign that President Obama and Mr. Salazar are taking the sacred trust seriously, and that they realize that further drilling is not the solution the U.S. or the world need.

A travesty was just reversed, and other such disasters will most certainly be avoided. Cudos to President Obama and Secretary Salazar. Now just pardon that young patriot who bid on the leases as a brave act of civil disobedience, and you’ll have the appreciation of this Green nation!

What happens on land nearly always affects the oceans. All of the earth is linked, inextricably linked into one global ecology. It all comes back to the source, the ocean, and protecting the ocean brings life and health to us all.

How Fishing Cooperatively Saves Species

I was reading an article in the New York Times, written by Aaron E. Hirsch, a biologist and researcher, about the fishing practices of the people in the Bay of Los Angeles, down in Mexico.  One very strong point presented was that fishermen who have a vested and local interest in the area are less likely to fish an area out than commercial vessels from another country who know that they may never come back to harvest from that region again.

Over the years, overfishing has been responsible for the severe decline or extinction of several species of marine wildlife, from fish to inverts.  It’s not just the large fish which have fallen.  Crustaceans, many varieties of shellfish,  sea cucumbers, these join with grouper and other fish with numbers that are a mere fraction of their numbers from just a score of years ago.  Consistently, the guilty party is overfishing.

When fishermen go out together, fishing collectively, they retain that pride and personal investment.  They are out there every day, so they can see trends and respond to them quickly.  They have a vested interest in maintaining a healthy breeding population.  Japanese fishing vessels, on the other hand, are there for the maximum profit in minimum timeframe, and may not have recognized the depleted numbers (if they’d have cared in the first place.)

This approach may simply be Capitalism, expressed in another way.  Regardless, it’s working –very well. Waters fished by people who have a vested interest in those waters’ productivity are consistently healthy in their numbers.  Meanwhile, toxic waters and overfishing, reef destruction and other factors caused by human indiscretions are causing species to drop like flies.  Fishing coops may be the only functional solution.  So long as the unprincipled rape of the oceans is perpetuated by the Japanese for their own greed, declines will continue.  The governments of those countries need to protect their waters from such volatile exploitations.

Only by protecting the ocean can we bring life and health to ourselves.