Thursday, November 26, 2009

DEEP TROUBLE - OUR OCEANS

[opening clip from Greenpeace]


To be a life scientist now, is to explore despair. Arriving for the glory of the natural world, the experts find themselves chronicling the end of species, of the climate, of the ecosphere.

I'm Alex Smith. We're going to dedicate this Radio Ecoshock program to the sea, and to one of it's lovers, Dr. Daniel Pauly, head of the Sea Around Us Project. His latest article, published in The New Republic magazine September 28th, 2009 is titled "Aquacalypse Now, The End of Fish". I'll tell you where to find more Daniel Pauly online.


We'll hear some clips from Dr. Pauly, and an interview with one of his prize students, Dr. Jennifer Jacquet at the University of British Columbia. Her paper shows that a third of our ocean harvest is being fed to pigs and chickens. That's right, in this upside down world, pigs may not yet fly, but they have been morphed into major ocean predators, thanks to our industrial food complex.

In our second half hour, we'll zero in on the mighty salmon. This popular food fish is challenged around the world by humans - their rivers dammed, streams destroyed, our sewage and warming oceans. No worry. We'll make our own - farmed fish. Our guest Catherine Stewart of the Living Oceans Society warns that aquaculture, from Scandinavia to Chile, is pushing out the sustainable wild stock. Horrible things are happening, in places you and I never see.

Our Radio Ecoshock show for March 23rd, 2007 carried a 47 minute portrait of Dr. Daniel Pauly, based on a speech he gave at the Vancouver Institute, among other sources. It's still a good introduction to the man and his work. I'll play you a couple of minutes, and then we'll go to more recent news from his institute.


The music clip in there was from "Fisherman's Blues" by the UK band "The Waterboys". Find them at www.mikescottwaterboys.com

Now let's go with a teaser from the Daniel Pauly article that kicked me into action, again, calling on you to help stave off disaster, down deep in our oceans. This is the opener from "Aquacalypse Now":

[End of Fish reading]
[http://www.tnr.com/article/environment-energy/aquacalypse-now?page=0,0]


That was courtesy of The New Republic magazine. Get the rest at www.tnr.com.

In the show, we run a lively interview with Jennifer Jacquet, one of the new generation of scientists taking on the sea. She's the lead author on a new paper showing that a third of our fisheries catch is now going to animals, mainly pigs and chickens. It's a big conveyor belt taking the last of our sea creatures right into the agri-industrial complex.

Jacquett says consumer choice, knowing what to eat and not, is good - but nowhere near enough to preserve the fisheries. Pigs, chickens and farmed salmon don't get to chose their menus. We need to reach not just government, but the big fish companies, and the supermarkets - the big players that shape the ocean debacle.

We also chat for a moment about former ocean explorer and TV personality Jacques Cousteau. Why has he vanished from public view, and from the brains of the younger ocean science crowd?

Jennifer also talks a bit about Dr. Pauly.

I've covered scientist Dr. Daniel Pauly whenever I can. He's one of the most experienced. Other fisheries scientists use his calculations, and his software, to count the fish left on our oceans. Find his important speech to the Vancouver Institute on our Oceans page at ecoshock.org. That was delivered March 10th, 2007. I've titled it: Global Fisheries: Are the Gloom & Doom Justified? You'll find the full speech and the Q and A as free mp3 downloads.


Next I interview Catherine Stewart of the Living Oceans Society.

Catherine worked for 17 years as a Greenpeace campaigner, on both oceans and forestry issues. She represented Greenpeace in the negotiations with multinational forest executives, as they hammered out the Great Bear Forest agreement. That protected up to 50 pristine mountain watersheds along the Central and Northern coast of western Canada.

Then Stewart was hired by The Living Oceans Society to handle negotiations with a giant aquaculture company, Marine Harvest. It's one of three Norwegian fish-farming corporations straddling the world, from Canada to Chile to Europe. Living Oceans works in partnership with several other NGO's, including the David Suzuki Foundation, the Georgia Strait Alliance, and more. That's called CARR, the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform at http://www.farmedanddangerous.org/

Catherine and I cover the basics of salmon, followed by the latest moves to save the wild salmon from sea lice, pesticides, and escapes from farmed salmon pens.

You'll find out what you can do about it.


Salmon aquaculture, as we've heard, is simply unsustainable. Here is what Dr. Daniel Pauly said about it:

[Pauly on Aquaculture]

We could go on and on about the risks from fish farming. Just two quick examples. Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper reported November 23rd that Asian Carp were poised to invade the Great Lakes. DNA tests showed this invasive species, which threatens to kill off most other food fish from the lakes, has bypassed a fence set up by the Army Corp of Engineers. The fence was suppose to stop the Asian Carp from traveling from the Mississippi River to the Lakes.

The Asian Carp was brought to the United States to control algae in catfish farms. Now it's poised to wreak major changes in both Canada and the United States.


Or how about this one: some aquaculture operations have been feeding dried cow blood to the fish. Now scientists are hurriedly testing to see if that practice risks transmitting Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, known as Mad Cow Disease, through farmed catfish. See the article in Science Daily November 6th, 2009.

On October 22nd, 2008, Daniel Pauly listened to a detailed listing of the Canadian government's failure to protect endangered ocean species. This was a break-through speech by a top government advisor, Dr. Jeff Hutchings. You can download his "Lament for A Nation's Oceans", as recorded by Radio Ecoshock, from the oceans page at our web site, ecoshock.org.

When it comes to protecting the oceans, Canadians have a wretched record. The U.S. isn't much better. The Europeans have already stripped their cupboards bare. The Japanese steal fish from people all over the world. It's sad, and it's madness.

By the way, the latest ocean science questions why so many ocean species died during the great extinction periods on land. Like the time the dinosaurs died, and the four previous great extinctions. Many scientists now believe the ultimate cause of massive marine die-off was ocean acidification, derived from excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

[Pauly on extinction from acidification]


Finally, what does an ocean scientist say, one he knows that democratic governments fund the industrial fisheries, the very machine that strips our ocean stock down to nothing? Dr. Pauly was asked to comment, and this is what he concluded:

Democracy isn't working. The scientists tell bureaucrats the fish are disappearing, and nothing happens, no matter who is in office. All we can do is raise Hell. If we try as individuals, like the old anarchists, Pauly says, we fail. The only solution is to organize.

[Pauly clip Democracy Deficit Raise Hell]

Join the people who care what is happening to our oceans. Find your regional non-profit, join them, donate, help. Organize, or we lose the lush gifts of the sea.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening to Radio Ecoshock.

We close with a clip "Fisherman's Son" from the Rankins.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Economy: Dinosaurs Will Die

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock. This week's program is about schizophrenia: the state of hoping the system will crash before it kills the planet, while counting on all the usual creature comforts of home, jobs, and a well-stocked supermarket.

Yes, I know the Western world is hanging in suspension. We're waiting for the shopping to resume, for the economy to rebound, for the good life to return. Most politicians and the mainstream press promise that it will all go back to the normal process of chewing up and spitting out the last of the planet's goodness.

Meanwhile we go to movies like 2012, slurping up scenes of the destruction of everything. Part of our secret selves hopes it all goes down in flames, or floods. Even while we worry about our children having a decent life. You see how it goes?

I know you are worried about the economy. Maybe even your own job or home is at risk. Despite the propaganda, we'd be crazy not to worry about it. I've been told the general formula for every speech and radio program goes as follows: we paint the grim picture, but always, always end on a positive note. Give humans solutions, or they'll just go numb and do nothing.

Sorry. This week we violate the rules. Lately Radio Ecoshock has run a series about greening our cities. A couple of listeners have written back, saying cities can never be sustainable, as Derrick Jensen says. Have I fallen into the camp of false good cheer?

We'll start out with one of the most promising solutions I've heard about lately - a dream of new economics coming from a British government advisor, Professor Tim Jackson. He's got a new book out "Prosperity Without Growth".

Then we'll head into more pessimistic territory with Dave Cohen, an analyst for ASPO, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas. Having written the American Empire is now obviously in decline, Cohen asks "Now What?" We talk more about the economic crisis, Wall Street bull (and bears) - and the energy crisis.

Along with James Howard Kuntsler, and our recent guest Richard Heinberg, Cohen says normal consumption is never coming back. We might as well prepare ourselves for very hard times.

We'll trash smug Canadians a bit, since real estate north of the border is just as stupidly over-leveraged as the American market. Then we'll notice Australia melting in the heat, while they push even more coal. A big Canadian company has just bought into the dirty Aussie coal market. Aren't we proud?

In the end, I wonder, is hope just getting in the way of dealing with the limits of reality?

This show is peppered with audio clips, including shorties from Max Keiser, Jeff Buckley's song "The Sky Is A Landfill", Bob Holman's "We Are the Dinosaur", and of course ending with the show title "Dinosaurs Will Die" from NOFX. We open with "Times Is Hard" by Loudon Wainwright III.

READ MORE

Thursday, November 12, 2009

GREENING PORTLAND - Your City How To

I tossed this recording of "Greening Portland" into a small line at the bottom of last week's Radio Ecoshock blog, thinking maybe a few people would be interested. To my shock, over 400 people downloaded it within two days! I didn't know that many people read my humble show notes... Thanks for being here.

I'll go into a description of this week's program and speakers, followed by a bigger question about the role of cities in solving climate change, now that we see big governments too paralyzed, or too corrupt, to act. We'll role through the latest Scientific American article, James Howard Kunstler's theory, Derrick Jensen's despair, and a glance at the ideas of Dr. Bill Rees. Maybe cities are the leaders, the only meaningful level of government?

What makes the city of Portland so desirable as a place to live? It's walkable, a national leader in bicycle commuting, and a green model in many respects.

Yet this West Coast allure also drives unique problems for Portland. Sure the economic crash brought high unemployment, as everywhere else. But Portland has become a refuge city, a place where people come seeking jobs and a comfortable social culture. That's raised unemployment and problems like homelessness. As other West Coast cities like Vancouver and San Francisco know too well, perceived success breeds it's own challenges.

To give you ideas for your own city, we're going to hear a brief from Portland's Green Mayor Sam Adams. But in a sign of the times, Adams cedes the stage to the two women who are leading the city's sustainability drive, Susan Anderson and Erin Flynn. Susan Anderson is the Director of the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Erin Flynn is Urban Development Director for Portland. She's also the driving force behind Portland's new Five-year Economic Development Strategy.

Mayor Sam Adams was elected in May 2008 with a good majority, after four years on Portland City Council. In addition to his outstanding green credentials, Adams "is the first openly gay mayor of a top U.S. city" (according to Wikipedia).

All this recorded by Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock, at the Gaining Ground Resilient Cities conference in Vancouver, Canada, on October 20th, 2009. Download this presentation from the Cities page at ecoshock.org.

At the end, we'll also hear a clip from Sarah Severn of the Nike corporation, which has headquarters in Portland. Did you know the "air" in Nike running shoes was actually a terrible global warming gas? (Sulfur hexafloride). We'll hear how Nike fixed that, and their other efforts toward sustainable energy.

That same morning, Sarah Severn of Nike, the shoe maker, outlined their efforts to green the corporation. She covered such things as water usage, toxics in their materials and manufacturing, and this brief on Nike and climate change. You can download Sarah Severn's full 26 minute presentation from the Cities page at ecoshock.org. (26 min, 6 MB here)

Sarah has been the Global Director of Nike's Environmental Action Team (NEAT), a department of Nike's Corporate Responsibility division. She's also on the Board of Directors of the non-profit group "Focus the Nation" ("Community and the Road to Copenhagen")

The introduction is by Rob Abbott, the corporate greening consultant, and author of the upcoming book "Conscious Endeavors: Business, Society and the Journey to Sustainability"

Find out more about the conference at gaininggroundsummit.com.

CAN CITIES SAVE THE CLIMATE?

READ MORE

Oh, and by the way, we just added our 18th station to broadcast Radio Ecoshock. It's WRFA_LP 107.9 FM in Jamestown, in Western New York State. Another is coming, in Whitehorse, in Canada's Yukon. Please write, email or call your local radio station requesting Radio Ecoshock. It's free, and ad-free, all for the cause of a better climate.

Alex.

Thanks.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Future: Dark or Resilient?

Hi there.

We have so much great audio for you this week - I don't have time to tell you about it. Buckle up for a new Radio Ecoshock interview with Richard Heinberg, famous Peak Oiler, author of "The Party's Over", "Powerdown" and now his latest "Blackout: Coal, Climate, and the Last Energy Crisis."

Then it's off to the Resilient Cities conference for the keynote speech by Paul Hawken, author of the Ecology of Commerce, and lately, "Blessed Unrest" - the strength of movements to make social change.

A double-decker audio blast. Let's go.

We were lucky to get Richard Heinberg. It's not just that he's now famous as a mover and shaker in the "post-carbon" movement. Or that he does big speeches and big media interviews all the time. But Richard jealously guards his time for research. Heinberg doesn't just offer opinions. He digs into the background, the facts, the stats - as he did for the coal industry for his new book "Blackout".

I followed some of Heinberg's research in the regular issues of his newsletter, called the "Museletter". I get it by email. Or you can find it here.


We talk about coal. Will available coal run out in just a decade or two? Why build new coal plants at all? Will a coal shortage, or "peak coal" save us from climate change? (No).

But I also ask Heinberg about his new concern. We could experience a different kind of "blackout". What if the electricity goes out, or becomes spotty, and all our knowledge for this civilization is in computers? Without backups in paper libraries, we are risking it all, just as energy to run those electric plants becomes questionable. I'll bet this becomes Heinberg's newest book. Find out more about "Our Evanescent Culture" here.

Paul Hawken is a man beloved by many people, in many social movements. His 1998 book "The Ecology of Commerce" became a hit in business schools. He also co-wrote "Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution" with Amory and Hunter Lovins, and lately "Blessed Unrest, How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming".

That book blossomed into a database of organizations working for a better ecology and social justice - millions of them, around the world, found at wiserearth.org. Very helpful to find groups in your area - so get active!

I was surpised to find that Paul was one of the first into the whole foods business in the United States in the early 70's - Erewhon Natural Foods. And Hawken is still active in business - but now in the new digital age. He's got a couple of companies which specialize in data distribution and other exotica. Check out his bio at http://www.paulhawken.com/

We broadcast Paul Hawken's keynote address to the Gaining Ground Resilient Cities conference in Vancouver, Canada on October 20th, 2009, recorded by Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. The topic: "The City and the Resilient Future" Enjoy.

Find it online at ecoshock.org, in our program archive, and on our "Cities" page. I've uploaded a ton of speeches from that Resilient Cities summit - they had some of the best speakers in the world! People at the top of their game, the best. I've got some more to post, once I've prepared the audio, including Richard Register, the dean of eco-cities.

So far you'll find Bill Rees of course, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson's new green plan (announced at the Summit), and an intriguing speech by Sarah Severn of Nike. Normally I don't post much corporate stuff (they can afford to advertise themselves) - but this shows what a corporation can do - even without prodding by the government.

I didn't know "Nike Air" actually contained a terrible global warming gas down there in the shoes. Sarah explains how Nike replaced it with common Nitrogen, harmless. Nike is based in Portland, and I've included 6 minutes of her climate initiative in a special on Portland, which I call "Greening Portland". That features Mayor Sam Adams, plus his green city leaders Susan Anderson and Erin Flynn. I like how Adams gave up the stage for the women who are actually doing a lot of the work. You don't often see that, and we should.

Find all that here: http://www.ecoshock.org/DNcities.html - and check back in a week or two for more from the Resilient Cities Summit. You'll likely hear more on Radio Ecoshock as well, including Richard Register.

Our bits of music this week came from Million Dollar Nile, the Seattle green band. Good music, with a green message (and not phony or stilted like so much we hear).

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock