I’ve been associated with the Blue Frontier Campaign, a nonprofit organization based in Washington DC, since before the start of my Pacific row. I was first introduced to David Helvarg, the Executive Director, by paddler and environmentalist Margo Pellegrino back in 2007. David’s guest blog touches on some issues that have cropped up in my own blogs recently, including the question of finding gainful service for the bored and disenfranchised to prevent the kind of unrest recently witnessed in the UK. Enjoy!
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U.S. Comedian Bill Maher recently pointed out that the most conservative sector of society that denies the science of evolution and climate change (what sea level rise?) now also denies Keynsian economics. According to this basic economic theory when there’s a recession and people are unemployed and in debt there’s little consumer demand to generate private sector sales and new production. At that point cutting back on government spending and laying off public employees will only worsen the crisis. We need to put unemployed people to work doing useful things like fixing our broken infrastructure including coastal ports, bridges, old sewer lines and storm drains that can pollute near shore waters making people sick and spawning algae fed dead zones. We also need to be supporting new technologies like sustainable aquaculture and offshore clean energy as part of a comprehensive approach to the management and protection of our public seas, global commons and, not to overstate the obvious, the crucible of life on our blue marble planet.
Instead the conversations in Washington, London, Athens and too many other capitals are about slashing public spending and embracing austerity, mostly for others. That means zeroing out funding for things like seafood safety inspections, worker safety on our docks and ships, water pollution enforcement and other environmental protections and marine conservation programs.
By contrast I just got to meet Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna. He was in San Francisco to greet 16 Pacific Voyagers from his nation who’d crossed the ocean. They were crewing one of 7 Vakas, double-hulled Polynesian sail/canoes on a trip, not unlike Roz’s, to celebrate explorer culture and raise awareness of ocean conservation. “We are a country very serious about saving our ocean and saving the environment, and that of course will help our people,” Puna explained.
This year, as part of my work with the Blue Frontier Campaign, I’ve been privileged to meet with three heads of state committed to building economies that protect our oceans and lands and provide hope for a better future. They include President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica (winner of a 2011 Peter Benchley Ocean Award) and President Anote Tong of Kiribati as well as Prime Minister Puna. They have established or expanded (or are about to) huge marine parks and also addressed the challenge of climate change (that threatens to overwhelm the nation of Kiribati through sea-level rise by mid-century). The Cook Islands plans to be free of fossil fuels by 2020, becoming the first nation in the world to do so.
I only wish that the leaders of larger, more influential nations like the United States, China and France would make similar commitments to protecting our environment and in the process create millions of new green (and blue) jobs in clean energy, science and sustainable agriculture and transportation. Each of us, as citizens and consumers, members of families, clans and communities of life have a chance to make a difference. Roz is making a difference in a dramatic way, rowing whole ocean basins to raise awareness. She was greeted by President Tong when she landed in Tarawa, on her Pacific voyage. But history is also the things we do everyday to make a difference from not using single use plastic to the food and energy choices we make. Each of us can. Each of us must.
A Favorite quote
When the people lead the leaders will follow
The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment
David Helvarg is founder and executive director of the Blue Frontier Campaign a U.S. based marine conservation group dedicated to supporting seaweed (marine grassroots) efforts at the local, regional, national and global levels, with an emphasis on bottom up organizing to bring the voice of citizen-activists into decision-making that will impact our living seas. A long time journalist, Helvarg is also author of several books including: Blue Frontier, The War Against the Greens, 50 Ways to Save the Ocean, Rescue Warriors, and Saved by the Sea – A Love Story with Fish.
I found a decent-sized flying fish on deck this morning. I sized him up for breakfast, but decided that, for the size of him, it was more trouble than it was worth. I was sure he wouldn’t go to waste, and I was right. Less than 3 seconds after I chucked him overboard, a dorado had snapped him up.
I saw a different kind of bird today. I’ve got so used to seeing storm petrels that this one immediately stood out as a different species. He was completely white, apart from dark feet and a dark beak – and maybe a dark face as well, but I couldn’t see. His most distinctive feature was a very narrow tail, looking almost as if it was just a single feather. Any suggestions on ID?
I was in the cabin writing up my logbook when there was a major yellowfin frenzy outside. Big outbreaks of splashing, first on one side of the boat, then on the other. I could feel the boat shaking with the impacts, and they splashed water so high that a few drops came into the cabin. Quite a furore!
Julian – glad you enjoyed “Rowing the Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean
Erica – good for you, spreading the good green word in Italy! I am so sorry to hear that some people are abusing the organic system. That really is not helpful. I hope (!) that in the future organic standards will have to conform to a global standard, and will be better enforced so we consumers know what we are getting.
Bruce – you made me laugh with your comparison between my loyal readers and the chaps downstairs – especially the belly flopper!
Quote for the day, sent to me by Jay….: “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” (Martin Luther King)
Sponsored Miles: Grateful thanks to Leland Palmer and Patricia Collins.