Arctic Drilling

IMG_5453Photo: sea lion at my zoo

With the earthquake this morning (a 7.9 magnitude), I was reminded of yet another reason I oppose drilling in the Arctic.  The Trump administration is determined to open up this vast area for oil exploration and extraction.

Here are some reasons to oppose it:

1. Oil Spills

The US government itself estimates that there is a 75% chance of an oil spill in the Chukchi Sea if it is opened to offshore drilling.  Unlike the Gulf of Mexico spill, the remote location and ice will greatly complicate the clean up.  In fact, there is no proven method for cleaning an oil spill off an icy landscape.

2. Animals

An oil spill would be disasterous for wildlife.  But, development will hurt animals too.  197,000 caribou migrate to their calving grounds.  Migratory birds, sea lions, seals, wolves, polar bears, and more call this area home.  Building rigs requires building transport routes and human settlements, undoubtedly causing disruption.

3. Environmental impact everywhere

World scientists are trying to limit average global warming to 2 degrees C.  Drilling in the Arctic will make it  nearly impossible to meet the goal.  Rising sea levels will affect all areas, so if you’re living in Miami you should still care about the great white north.

4. Technology

I was shocked to see a few minutes of CNBC – the stock channel – and hearing them saying they were opposed to drilling in the Arctic and on US coastlines.  If anyone was for it, I would think it would be those looking to make a quick buck.  But, the commentator explained that new technology used by companies like Halliburton have made drilling in current locations very profitable and efficient.   It is possible to have a surplus of production without drilling in new areas.  He believed the long term costs of opening vulnerable areas to drilling would far outweigh any benefit, and hurt our economy in the future.


USA pulls out of climate agreement

Selfish and ignorant.  Those were my first thoughts when I found out the USA has pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord.

The agreement was not perfect, but what on a such a massive scale could ever be deemed perfect?  It was inspiring to see the world come together with goals to help our planet.  195 countries, to be exact.

We all share this planet, after all.  We all breathe this air, and we all drink this water.  We all seek shelter from storms.

Supporters of the President will say the agreement was economically unfair to the USA and now the USA can be free to pursue it’s own goals.

But now, we join Syria and Nicaragua as the countries who are the outsiders on this issue.

We have willingly turned our back on diplomacy.

If worst comes to worst, we may have turned our back on the basic health and security of our children and grandchildren.

If worst comes to worst, this will be the defining moment when we have decided to condemn the entire world to higher temperatures, bigger droughts, rising seas, severe storms, migration, conflict, disease and starvation.

The USA is currently the #2 polluter in the world.  If our industries become unregulated, our levels of pollution likely rise in the name of short term profit while creating great long term harm.

Even if the US impact is small, it can push the most vulnerable countries underwater – such as the Maldives (population 325,000), Seychelles (87,000), Kiribati (102,000), and the Solomon Islands (585,000).

We must hope that despite not being part of the agreement, our industries will continue to invest in new technologies and try to find cleaner and safer ways to create energy.

We must speak out and support those who do what is good and right for the environment and criticize and hold accountable those that do not.

We must support science.

We must support one another.  This is our planet.  We share it with billions of humans, animals, and plants.

So here we are.  What we do matters.  How we vote matters.

Walk with grace, leave small footprints, but keep your eyes open and use your voice.


(Photo taken at local March for Science)








Killer whale with high levels of PCBs

Lulu the killer whale died last year, caught in fishing rope.  Results have now been published about tests on her carcass.  Lulu had incredibly high levels of PCBs in her body, one hundred times accepted levels.  This likely made her infertile, and PCB also makes killer whales prone to poor immunity and cancer.

The killer whale population has been declining and PCB is likely a big reason why.

PCBs were banned in the US in 1979, but for over fifty years the chemical was used in refrigerators, electrical insulators, and sprayed on roads.  Of course, chemicals entered the water system and did not simply disappear.

A killer whale, near the top of the food chain, would have high levels of PCB since each level of the food chain would have consumed the chemical.

If this story makes you wonder what’s lurking in your seafood meal, you are not overly paranoid.  Fish and other seafood often have dangerous chemicals that we ingest.  Therefore, it is wise to limit seafood consumption and check environmental standards of your seafood through sites like Seafood Watch by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.



Northern Rangelands Trust: saving wildlife, improving communities

The Northern Rangelands Trust believes that conservation is not only good from an environmental standpoint, but an economic one as well.  That is why they have worked in Northern Kenya with help from USAID to invest in saving elephants and increasing eco-tourism.  NRT was founded in 2004, and has done amazing work.  There has been a significant decline in poaching in areas where they operate.  CITES estimated in 2014 that 60% of killed African elephants were killed illegally – but that number was 46% in Northern Kenya and was continuing to trend downwards.


From Forbes Magazine:

In 2015, tourism revenues to NRT conservancies from entry and bed-night fees totaled over US$ 410,000 – a really significant income for these remote and marginalized communities, derived from their wildlife. Two safari lodges – Sarara and Il Ngwesi – are actually owned by the community, who contract operators to manage them. Wildlife tourism revenues are split 40/60 – with 40% going toward annual conservancy operating costs (like ranger salaries and vehicle fuel) and 60% going toward development projects deemed a priority by the constituent community at their Annual General Meetings. Most commonly the communities decide to spend these funds on educational bursaries for the poorest family, health care support, and water supplies to reduce the burden on women from collecting water from afar.

Palau and Ocean Protection

Only two years ago, the island nation of Palau designated 193,000 sq miles of ocean as protected, forbidding fishing and mining.  The move was controversial, with opponents saying it would decimate the fishing industry and impoverish the country.

Early evidence shows the opposite.  The fishing industry is healthier, thanks to conservation.  Nature is amazing in how it can repair and heal itself, if we give it the space.

An excerpt from National Geographic:

“Protected areas allow Palau’s fish to produce more offspring, which in turn produces a number of benefits for local fishers. The study suggests that when biomass increases inside protected areas, the resulting spillover of adult fish populations into non-protected waters leads to more abundant catches for local fisheries.”IMG_5153photo: ocean photo taken by me, not in Palau

Coral Reefs

Last night I watched a PBS News Hour special report on coral reefs.

The situation is worse than I thought.

Here are some excerpts:

“Half the size of Texas, spanning 1,400 miles, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on the planet. It is rich in beauty and diversity, but it is dying, as the ocean waters steadily warm.”

“Since June of ’14, we have had continuous bleaching somewhere in the world. Globally, over 70 percent of the coral reefs around the globe have been exposed to the high temperatures that cause bleaching.”

“It is clear warming water is the culprit, and reducing our use of fossil fuels is the only solution.”

Seeing how the US is now debating whether to adhere to the Paris Agreement to reduce fossil fuels, this is terribly discouraging.

Video: YouTube, National Geographic

Another PBS report taught me that sunscreen damages coral reefs too.  The chemical ozybenzone, in particular.  So, if you are going to snorkel, scuba, or swim, think twice about wearing typical sunscreens. According to the report, “The U.S. National Park Service for South Florida, Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa recommend using “reef friendly” sunscreen (those made with titanium oxide or zinc oxide, which are natural mineral ingredients) and wearing clothing and hats to protect the skin from the sun.” Certain tourist areas in Mexico have banned chemical sunscreens – not only because they harm the environment, but because damaged and bleached coral reefs can also hurt the tourist economy.  People want to see the beautiful colors and diverse wildlife – sadly, these may be very rare within the next 10-30 years.