Oceans of Plastic Stew

July 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Environment, Front Page, Litter, Ocean, Slideshow

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It’s mighty easy to throw away a plastic bag or plastic cup-lid, and then think nothing of it. Into the wastebasket it goes — out of sight, out of mind — and then into the trash bin, and then into the waste truck, then to the landfill. Plastic indefinitely clogging our terrestrial landfills constitutes its own problem, but an alarming amount of this detritus ends up in our drainage systems. It may take years, but these scraps may eventually find themselves adrift in the ocean — ultimate receiver of the continents’ freshwater output — thousands of miles from their factory origin, let alone the site of their discarding.

In recent years, firsthand observation has borne out the predictions of oceanographers: Much of this marine litter, as it’s called, ultimately turns up contained in and by the loops of rotating currents called gyres that mark each ocean basin. The spin of the earth and the heat-driven coasting of winds help create these prevailing current configurations. Ocean-borne debris is drawn into the encircling “highways” of the gyre, then edged into the calm waters of its center — where they remain….

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Sailors for the Sea Encourages Ocean Conservation

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As the official sustainability partner with America’s Cup, Sailors for the Sea is reaching their largest audience to date.

Sailors for the Sea educates sailors and boaters about protecting the oceans. Their partnership with America’s Cup, a race between two yachts that is the oldest trophy in international sport, allows them to reach sailors from countries around the world.

“Now, we are moving to an international level,” explains Dan Pingaro, CEO. “[Sailors] can make a positive difference on the ocean,” he says.

Pingaro says involving sailors is imperative because of the problems facing our oceans today, including a changing pH balance and plastics floating in the water. The changing pH balance has an impact on shellfish, coral fish, and feeder fish for larger ocean dwellers. And plastic trash is the major component of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, among other polluted areas….

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Notes from Virginia: We Share Responsibilty for Activists’ Deaths and Rainforest Destruction

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Dear Reader,

Today I read an article on the Huffington Post called Adelino Ramos Killed: Third Environmental Activist Murdered This Week In Brazil. In case you didn’t know, as I didn’t, there’s conflict in Brazil. Loggers, farmers, and ranchers are illegally laying claim to the rainforest. The most terrifying aspect is that environmental activists, 1150 recorded to date, are being killed by hit men hired by the companies that profit from the destruction of the rainforest.

It’s hard to think of a better reason to act on principles. I’m writing to get us started on thinking of how we can make a difference for those struggling to sustain the most vital piece of our planet’s environment, our life sources, and biological diversity. The enemy is obvious, and his power is too: money. What’s less obvious is how American consumers are responsible for the conflict….

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Notes from New Mexico – Documenting Ecotourism

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From Albuquerque, highway 25 sprawls northeast to Santa Fe and Taos, alongside vast mountain ranges, beside pastel-red adobe homes and flashing casino lights, past cholla cacti and ranching supply stores and tribal reservations. The Rio Grande River Gorge cuts through the landscape, quietly winding south under a brilliant blue sky.

New Mexico is a place of converging cultures, a state where ranch lands border Native American reservations; where filmmakers, skiers, and artists flock; where Hispanics and descendants of Spanish conquistadors live together, along with 19 sovereign Native American nations. The topography is just as diverse, from sprawling deserts to high mountain ranges and pine forests.

I was in New Mexico with Green Living Project, a media production and marketing company that showcases sustainability initiatives around the globe, to check out the state’s ecotourism initiative….

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Eye of the Whale by Douglas Carlton Abrams

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Intrigue. Romance. Danger. Life. Death. Loyalty. Betrayal. Eye of the Whale has what it takes to get a reader’s pulse racing clear to the last page. But there’s more to this novel than a mystery. After years of thorough research, author Douglas Carlton Abrams has skillfully woven a tale that teaches as much as it entertains. Abrams combines hard scientific facts about the pollution that threatens the world’s sea creatures with a page-turning thrill ride.

Eye of the Whale is an excellent literary vehicle for making the current threat of pollution immediate and real. The author accomplishes this by creating characters — not all of them human — that readers come to know and care about. From a mother whale who begins a new, mysterious song that carries around the world to a ravenous shark whose violent kills are simply a means of survival to a male whale stranded in a California river, the animals have compelling plot lines that draw the reader in.

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BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit Coming to Monterey

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Monterey, California, is a lovely seaside community with a world-class aquarium. It’s long been a vacation destination for ocean enthusiasts. And now, it is the new, permanent setting for the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit.

If you’re planning to be in Northern California August 24–29, consider attending the festival to see the year’s leading films about the wonders of the ocean, to hear lectures and panel discussions by leading ocean researchers, to view an ecstatically beautiful photo exhibit by National Geographic photographer David Doubilet, and to participate in other exciting events….

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Iowa Rivers Revival Invites You to Rivers Rock! September 11

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Whether you’re a paddler, a lover of rivers, or someone who wants to find out what all the fuss is about, Iowa Rivers Revival invites you to fall in love with Iowa’s rivers at Rivers Rock! Float and Music Fest on Saturday, September 11….

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1 Mississippi Photo Contest Ends Sunday

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The Mississippi River has long been memorialized in song, story, and legend for its beauty and the spirit of adventure it inspires. Uniting 31 states in its watershed, the river is a part of our culture and our heritage as Americans. And it serves as a superhighway for goods that flow north and south, connecting communities along the way. This valuable asset deserves our protection and our respect.

A group called 1 Mississippi has invited both amateur and professional photographers to submit photos of this diverse and important waterway that unites our nation. But hurry! The contest ends on Sunday.

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2010 Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone Among Largest Ever, Scientists Say

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The delicate ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico was wounded long before Katrina stormed ashore, and her wildlife was poisoned by chemicals streaming down the Mississippi River long before BP stirred a few million gallons of crude into her waters. The Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) has been monitoring hypoxia — lack of oxygen — in the Gulf waters since 1985. Much of this hypoxia is caused by agricultural chemicals and farm animal waste products that flow into the Mississippi from 19 states to the north. (Iowa alone is estimated to be responsible for 25% of the farm chemicals and fecal matter pouring into the Gulf.) Efforts are underway to reduce the agricultural pollution that is contributing heavily to the Dead Zone, but more must be done to make a positive impact on the area.

Yesterday, Blue Planet Green Living received an email from Dr. Nancy Rabalais, Executive Director of LUMCON, with the group’s latest report. The following information is reprinted from “2010 DEAD ZONE – ONE OF THE LARGEST EVER,” dated 1 August 2010, from Cocodrie, Louisiana….

“The area of hypoxia, or low oxygen, in the northern Gulf of Mexico west of the Mississippi River delta covered 20,000 square kilometers (7,722 square miles) of the bottom and extended far into Texas waters. The relative size is almost that of Massachusetts. The critical value that defines hypoxia is 2 mg/L, or ppm, because trawlers cannot catch fish or shrimp on the bottom when oxygen falls lower….”

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Frank McKinney – “Tapped” to Live a Dichotomous Life

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Frank McKinney isn’t just a man, he’s a full-fledged brand. His name is synonymous with the most expensive, most lavish homes built on speculation in the United States. In typical style, Frank McKinney’s Acqua Liana estate is a not only a $22.9 million masterpiece of architectural design and luxury, it’s also arguably the most environmentally friendly home for the super rich that’s been built to date. As you might guess, Frank McKinney doesn’t do things half way.

But this interview series isn’t about Frank McKinney, builder to the world’s elite. It isn’t about Frank McKinney, extreme athlete (he’s that, too, running an ultra marathon across Death Valley each of the past five years — in his mid 40s). It isn’t even about Frank McKinney, daredevil and showman, dressed as a pirate and descending a zip line at one of his luxury home unveilings. It’s about Frank McKinney, humanitarian.

Blue Planet Green Living interviewed McKinney by phone from his oceanfront home in Florida. This is part one in a three-part series about McKinney, his Caring House Project Foundation, and his book, The Tap….

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Burt’s Bees – A Safe Way to Shoo Pesky Gnats

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Burt’s Bees Outdoor All Natural Herbal Insect Repellent saved my skin this week.

On Monday and Tuesday, I volunteered at the Iowa River Call field trip experience at River Junction, Iowa. There’s no getting away from bugs when you’re near a river, and the swarms of gnats were pretty much driving all of the volunteers crazy. One of our crew got bit in the first few hours she was at the site, and a red, itchy patch swelled up to cover most of one side of her neck.

On Monday, one of the kids was so troubled by the gnats that he spent much of the day with his arms over his head, until an adult offered him a hat. Another of our volunteers tried both Cutters and a second chemical insect repellent (I’d tell you if I knew the name), but the darned gnats just wouldn’t leave him alone. I didn’t wear any insect repellent that day, and though I didn’t get bit, gnats swarmed my head constantly.

On Tuesday, I remembered that I had a bottle of Burt’s Bees Outdoor All Natural Herbal Insect Repellent and took it with me to the river….

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Notes from Minnesota: Return of the River Otter

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On a frigid February afternoon, I walked the path around the Mill Pond in downtown Austin, Minnesota. A recreational area with a bike path, skate park, and swimming pool, the Mill Pond was formed by damming the Cedar River in the early years of the city.

As I crossed a bridge spanning the river, movement out on the ice caught my attention. For a moment, it looked like a sheet of black tar paper, waving in a non-existent breeze, but a closer look revealed an otter! A big guy, he was greedily devouring a fish.

I pulled out my camera and began to shoot video as a second otter appeared from under the ice. This was the first pair I’d seen since those I’d observed in Austin’s Sutton Park back in the mid 1970s. After 35 years, the river otters had returned….

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Iowa River Call – Teaching Kids to Love Their River

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How do you teach a child to love a river?

It’s not hard to figure out that you can’t love something you don’t know. Surprisingly, to an awful lot of Iowa kids, a river is just something they cross over in a car. I say, “surprisingly,” because Iowa has the image of a pastoral state, where children skip stones into the water from the riverbank, go fishing with their friends, and swim in the creeks that feed the rivers. But the reality is much different for the majority of city kids, like those who live in the Iowa City Community School District.

For the past two days, fourth graders from Hills Elementary (Monday) and third- and fourth-graders from Twain Elementary (Tuesday) participated in a field trip experience designed to help them fall in love with the Iowa River.

You might wonder why falling in love with a river is important. The answer is simple: As Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love.”

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Sowing the Seeds of Sustainability

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Economics. Environment. Equity. Though the word “sustainability” means various things to different people, it can be pared down to just these three words. True sustainability must take into account all three concepts. The reason most of humanity does not understand this is because we cannot grasp how all three can work at the same time.

Humanity is good at the economic portion. Capitalism focuses on economics and often neglects environmental and social issues; in many cases, economic success comes at the expense of the environment and social equity. Even capitalism does not always work: When our banks fail and need federal bailouts, we end up in a recession. Our economy is based upon the consumption of dwindling and non-renewed natural resources — how long can this last? …

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Saving Dolphins

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When the Oscar award-winning film, The Cove, was released last year, I resisted seeing it. The trailers upset me. I anticipated that the film would be emotionally devastating. I love dolphins. I have warm memories of watching the television program Flipper as a child. I’ve been thrilled to see a pod of dolphins playfully dive in and out of the water as they passed by a time-share condo in Florida that I once shared with my grandmother and my sister.

I’ve experienced a combination of emotions when seeing dolphins perform in various aquariums around North America: joy, sadness, curiosity, concern. I’ve sat by the window in the subterranean viewing area of our Vancouver Aquarium, watching the Pacific white-sided dolphins swim up to the window and wondering at how healthy and happy they are in their bleak enclosure.

I finally was convinced by my teenage son to watch The Cove this week. We downloaded it from our cable provider, and my son, husband and I sat down to watch it together. It was even more emotionally devastating than I had anticipated.

By the time the film was over, I felt completely emotionally overwhelmed. There were deep, deep sobs heaving within me, threatening to engulf me, but I wanted to debrief the film with my son. So I released a few tears and took a few deep breaths. We talked first of all about the dolphins in our local aquarium….

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Wembe Soaps – The “Wild Spirit of the Rainforest”

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Get “the wild spirit of the rainforest,” says Wembé about their handmade soaps. Each soap is crafted using plants native to Paraguay. The company sells 15 varieties of the Wembé soaps, ranging in price from $7.00 for the Coconut Exfoliating Blend to $10.85 for the Black Clay Exfoliating Blend.

I tested the Yerba Mate exfoliating blend, Green Blue River exfoliating blend, and White Rose cleansing blend. They all smelled beautiful and instantly softened my hands. Plus, they’re natural and made from organic ingredients. None of the soaps contain silicone, petroleum products, parabens, sulfates, or synthetic fragrances and dyes.

The soaps’ outer packagings were so pretty, I didn’t want to open them at first. When I did, I found one of the most unique products I’ve ever seen. The interesting swirls of color make the soaps look like they came directly from the rainforest. Since they’re natural and handmade, they all vary in shape and size, though the standard weight is 3.75 ounces.

The Yerba Mate soap is vegan and rich in antioxidants. It contains essential oils, exotic weeds, and crushed yerba mate leaves. Plus, its ability to exfoliate the leftover winter dryness from my hands will make it an Iowa essential for the upcoming December and January months. The cost of the Yerba Mate bar is $9.45 for 3.75 ounces….

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Beyond the River Banks – IRR Annual Conference April 30 – May 2

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If you love Iowa’s rivers, you won’t want to miss the 5th annual conference hosted by Iowa Rivers Revival at the end of this month. The conference will be held from April 30 through May 2 in Cedar Falls and Waterloo. This year’s theme is “Beyond the River Banks: Celebrating Iowa’s Cedar Valley.”

As Iowans — and those who followed the severe Midwest flooding of 2008 — know, the Cedar Valley experienced historic water levels, reaching beyond the 500-year floodplain in Cedar Rapids and other places along the Cedar River watershed. The conference “emphasizes a watershed approach that recognizes that rivers and streams need space to expand and recede, coexisting in harmony with the communities and habitats they shape,” according to IRR’s executive director, Rosalyn Lehman.

“The floods of 2008 and threats of future flooding have many Iowans talking about a new vision for Iowa’s waterways to ensure the safety of river communities and to preserve and enhance Iowa’s natural heritage,” Lehman says….

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Nominate an “Ocean Hero” for Oceana Contest

March 24, 2010 by  
Filed under 2010, Activists, Blog, Contest, Front Page, Ocean, Slideshow, Youth

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There are people around the world who are doing their utmost to stop the destruction of our oceans. People who are putting themselves at risk to make the world’s seas a more habitable place for fish and marine animals. People, including youth, who are making a difference by raising funds to support the work of others. People who not only care about the oceans, but also take action. Each one is a hero, though their efforts may be untrumpeted and little known.

But people who are selflessly working to make the oceans a healthier ecosystem deserve recognition for their efforts.

Do you know anyone who is making a difference to the world’s oceans? If you do, here’s an opportunity to nominate him or her for recognition as an “Ocean Hero,” through a competition sponsored by the conservation group Oceana. Nominations will be accepted at the official contest website, Oceana.org/heroes, until April 18, 2010.

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Industrial Overfishing Causes Food Insecurity in Uganda

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“Fishing has almost collapsed in Uganda, especially Lake Victoria,” said Seremos Kamuturaki, Executive Director of Uganda Fisheries & Fish Conservation (UFFCA). “The stock has dwindled tremendously, as evidenced by the fishermen’s small daily catches. This has resulted in very low incomes and a food-insecure fishing community. The people have nothing to eat.”

While visiting in the United States, Kamuturaki explained the dire situation facing his nation in an interview with Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL). He was on a mission to ask for public support from the US, Canada, and the EU in boycotting Nile perch in order to save the livelihoods of local Ugandan fishermen and their families….

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They’re Blowing Up Our Mountains – There Oughta Be a Law!

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In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama mentioned that the U.S. needs “continued investment in … clean coal technologies.”

But, according to Matt Wasson, Ph.D., Director of Programming at Appalachian Voices, as well as many other experts, when you look at the entire process — from mountaintop removal through burning and coal ash disposal — there is no such thing as clean coal.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with Dr. Wasson about the activities of Appalachian Voices, and about coal in particular…

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