Nightly Reader: Nov. 8, 2012

1) Fisheries Fecklessness: The failure of New England fisheries managers to enforce a law requiring that pingers–which alert marine life–be used on gill nets is causing the entanglement and deaths of thousands of porpoises:

Ironically, New England fishermen worked with scientists to develop pingers. Then, fishermen themselves pushed for their use in the 1990s, as an alternative to closing fishing areas. They got what they wanted.

And, when the National Marine Fisheries Service first required New England gill-net fishermen to use pingers in 1998, porpoise deaths indeed plummeted 95 percent, from more than 2,000 in 1994 to under 100 in 2001.

But federal enforcement faded. Many fishermen stopped using pingers. And—they frequently encroached into areas that had been officially closed to protect porpoises.

By 2003, fishermen fished without pingers on almost 75 percent of all nets. And they set their nets in closed areas in another 8 percent.  And these statistics come from fishing trips with federal observers on board!; we’ll never know how many violations went unobserved. Porpoise deaths quickly rose again; more than 1,000 drowned in 2005.

2) Disaster Device: One of the most useful things to have, post-Sandy? A bicycle.

New Yorkers are learning things from this storm, and from the relief efforts that are ongoing even as another weather front sweeps through this afternoon, forcing another round of evacuations. Practical things. They are learning where to go for help, and how to help each other. They are learning how to get around when the transportation system fails, and the importance of redundancy and resiliency in all kinds of infrastructure. They are learning what you really need to have on hand when supply chains are disrupted, and what you can do without. They are learning how to assess the accuracy of information, and how to spread it. They are learning that individual efforts, pooled together, can make a substantial material difference in a crisis.

Bicycles are part of all this. In the early days after the storm, when the trains and buses stopped running, bikes were one of the few reliable ways of moving people, objects, and information around streets choked with debris. They don’t require the gasoline that people are still lining up for hours to get. They don’t need to be charged up – just add some basic food to a human being, and you can power the legs that turn the cranks.

3) Great Barrier Breakdown: Turns out that the human devastation of the world’s most glorious reef began much earlier than you would think:

Several recent studies have shown that snorkelers and climate change kill coral, and one study found that half of the majestic Great Barrier Reef has vanished over the last 30 years.

But Pandolfi’s team wondered whether humans had been altering reef ecology for much longer.

To find out, the team drilled sediment cores, 6.5 to 16.5 feet long, from the seafloor at Pelorus Island, an island fringed by coral reefs off the Queensland coast. When coral dies, new coral sprout on the skeletons of old organisms and ocean sediments gradually bury them in place, Pandolfi told LiveScience.

By dating different layers of that sediment, the team reconstructed the story of the reef.

The fast-growing Acropora coral dominated the reef for a millennium. This massive, three-dimensional coral can grow to 16 feet high and span 65 feet across, forming a labyrinth of nooks and crannies for marine life to hide in, Pandolfi said. [ Image Gallery: Great Barrier Reef Through Time ]

“They’re like the big buildings in the city, they house a lot of the biodiversity” he said.

But somewhere between 1920 and 1955, the Acropora stopped growing altogether and a slow-growing, spindly coral called Pavona took its place.

That spelled trouble for the panoply of animal species that shelter in the reef, and for the nearby coastline, because the native Acropora species provide wave resistance to shelter harbors.

BONUS VIDEO: A (heart)warming wilderness tale.

Nightly Reader: Nov. 7, 2012

1) Hope And Change? Honestly, I’m more interested in change. But I’m glad to hear mention of the climate (FINALLY!), and I sincerely hope that the aspirations and ideals expressed so beautifully in this speech translate into true leadership and a kickass political strategy that leads to a real shift in what America cares about, and what sacrifices America is willing to make for the global good.

2) Annals Of Inexplicable Subsidies: Does federal flood insurance, which encourages people to build in vulnerable locations, make any sort of sense anymore? Not really.

3) Deja Vu All Over Again: Another week, another brutal storm for the Northeast. This one with wind, rain, AND snow.

BONUS VIDEO(S): Nine awesome TED Talks which aim to show you nature from a different perspective or in a different light.

Nightly Reader: Nov. 5, 2012

1) Farm Bill Folderol: You’ll never read this 700-page legislative opus. But you should care an awful lot about what’s in it.

2) Desperately Seeking Denmark: Today I showed you what a Copenhagen “rush hour” looks like. Here’s what happens when a North American an American cyclist becomes a Copenhagen cyclist.

Hmm, see if you can pick out the North American cyclist.

3) Global Poll (FWIW): If the entire world got to vote in the US election it would be Obama by a landslide (except in Pakistan).

BONUS VIDEO (election Edition): Rory Stuart acknowledges a crisis of democracy, and makes a plea for renewed commitment to the ideal of democracy.

Nightly Reader: November 1, 2012

1) If Only: I’m always wary of stories that turn on the phrase “according to a recent study.” But when the study suggests that vegetarians and vegans live an average of eight years longer than the meat-eating general population, I am happy to propagate it without too much scrutiny. Plus, of course, you have these folks. Even meat-eaters who don’t care about animal suffering or the environment can get behind living longer.

2) Beluga Basics: A(nother) deep dive into the arguments, politics, and economics of the Georgia Aquarium’s proposed import of 18 wild Russian belugas. I don’t expect it, but it will be an amazing reversal if NOAA denies the permit.

3) A Man And A Walrus: Former Marineland trainer Phil Demers tells the story of his relationship with Smooshi, and how concern for her well-being drove him to speak out against the conditions she lives in.

BONUS VIDEO: Here’s Smooshi in action.

Nightly Reader: Oct. 30, 2012

Apologies for the Hurricane Sandy-induced hiatus. Normal blogging resumes, starting now….

1) A Pox On Both Your Houses: Chris Hedges makes the case against casting your vote for EITHER Romney or Obama. I can’t resist posting the intro here:

The November election is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It is not a battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It is a battle between the corporate state and us. And if we do not immediately engage in this battle we are finished, as climate scientists have made clear. I will defy corporate power in small and large ways. I will invest my energy now solely in acts of resistance, in civil disobedience and in defiance. Those who rebel are our only hope. And for this reason I will vote next month for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, although I could as easily vote for Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. I will step outside the system. Voting for the “lesser evil”—or failing to vote at all—is part of the corporate agenda to crush what is left of our anemic democracy. And those who continue to participate in the vaudeville of a two-party process, who refuse to confront in every way possible the structures of corporate power, assure our mutual destruction.

I actually did vote for Stein (voting by absentee ballot in Maryland). But I have to admit that I did so knowing that Obama is almost certain to win my state, Maryland. I agree with Hedges that neither Obama nor Romney are addressing the real issues. But, that said, there is a chasm between what they mean for America, and that is a chasm that matters. But Hedges has a point, regardless.

2) Orangutan Agony: There is no more poignant, or tragic, example of the conflict between the human agenda and the conservation agenda than the ongoing eradication of orangutan habitat (and orangutans) resulting from the inexorable expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia. Palm oil is a popular cooking oil in many poor parts of the world. But much of the demand for palm oil also comes from food processors who turned to it as an alternative to switching from trans fat. Lesson: every action, every choice, has consequences. Our responsibility is to understand what those consequences are beyond our own lives.

3) Oh, The Humanity: Speaking of food choices that don’t wipe out orangutans or involve animal suffering, here’s a handy website from Humane Farm Animal Care that you can use to find stores near you that sell Certified Humane food products. Yes, is dominated by Whole Foods locations. But it’s nice to be able to find a few other stores that care to carry Certified Humane products.

4) Picture Storm: We can’t forget Hurricane Sandy, the force of nature that just altered the lives of millions of Americans and the daily business of a nation. And a great collection of 54 pictures is the best way to convey the drama, power, and destruction. Here are just three:

Nightly Reader: Oct. 25, 2012

Calling All Thinkers: We could definitely use some big ideas, some counter-conventional arguments, some original thinking. One way to get inspired is to read some bold thinking from the past.

Marine Mammal Protection
: Sure, it could use an update. But the Marine Mammal Protection Act has achieved a lot. Here are 40 facts for its 40 years of existence (plus: a pretty great marine mammal photo gallery).

Polar Bear Possibilities: It looks grim, but can we save polar bears? Yes, says the world’s greatest polar bear researcher (and we need to if we want to save ourselves).

BONUS VIDEO: Watch Earthlings, a documentary about human dependence on–and abuse of–animals.

Nightly Reader: Oct. 24, 2012

Cost Of Coal: Searing look at the impact coal mining and coal power has on the environment and communities, from the Sierra Club.

California Cap & Trade
: If Washington, DC won’t act to reduce carbon emissions, California isn’t going to sit around and do nothing.

Right(s) Whales
: Why whales are like people, and why they should have rights like people.


Planet Ocean: Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson explains what his work is all about.

Nightly Reader: Oct. 22, 2012

Links to to ponder (or sleep on)…

Counterintuitive: Are electric cars worse for the environment than gas cars?

Two-Fer: I unburden myself of interesting links by handing you off to Mark Bittman unburdening himself of interesting links.

Mark Bittman Links

Alternate Reality: Planet Money assembles a spectrum of economists to craft a bipartisan tax reform plan that makes economic sense. They do. It’s really good. And almost none of it will ever get passed. But here is how it would be pitched:

Nightly Reader

Chart-palooza: Well, since we were infographic heavy today, we might as well keep the chart train going. So here are ten charts which prove the planet is warming.

Seeing Is Important: It’s become one of my most deeply held beliefs, and this National Geographic photo gallery on dolphins and whales are they as being hunted today shows why. You see, you believe and care. So looking at images like this is brutal but necessary.

Lance Undone: I love cycling, so I’ve been following the doping crisis, and Lance Armstrong’s role in it, for quite some time. But even if you are not a cyclist, Lance’s story, in the form of this documentary, is worth listening to, because it is about more than cycling. It is about self-interest and money. It is about deceit. And it is about a win at all costs modern culture that does not take others, or community, into consideration.

Lance Armstrong

Nightly Reader

I see a lot of stories that I think are interesting, and thought provoking. But often I don’t have much to add, or time to go deeper. So I’m going to start posting links on a regular basis, so the stories don’t get lost.

Definition Of A Tragedy: Last wild Siamese crocodile found….strangled. She was estimate to be 100 years old.

Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Californian idiot, I mean businessman, dumps 100 tons of iron sulfate into Pacific, in illegal ocean geoengineering scheme to gain carbon credits.


Unhappy Happy: the sad story of the elephant who helped prove how intelligent and self-aware elephants are.

Happy The Elephant

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