If I Have The Energy

by Laura Mitic (Carmanah) featuring Mark Neufeld (Institute for Global Solutions)

Mark Neufeld, my Grade 9 English teacher has remained a mentor in my life eight years after I graduated from high school and, since then, he's also become a great friend.  In our discussions I have come to realize that the best teachers are those who are also willing to learn from their own students.

I welcomed his offer to do a guest write-up for The Jellyfish Project's blog since no one understands young minds better than someone who has dedicated their life to working with them.

Think all of your teachers are dinosaurs who don't understand you?  Hmmm... maybe not.  Check out his article, "If I Have The Energy."

I have taught, now, 22 years. Most recently I am a co-founding instructor at Claremont Secondary’s Institute for Global Solutions. Our teaching team strives to enable what we call “resilient problem-solvers”. Among the great examples of thinking I have seen have been among the teenagers I teach. My problem, and increasingly, is how adults think. So please, if you don’t mind, don’t try to convince me that developing Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is somehow a gift to our children and grandchildren. It is non-sensical. Just ask any one of the 120 students I teach. Put simply, it is building 21st century infrastructure for a 20th century fuel.

We teach our kids to look at evidence. We teach them to do the research. Consider the source. And perhaps most importantly: to think critically. In a masters’ thesis I’m finishing, I’ve suggested that this current generation of learners is the “research generation”. A very impressive community leader in Portland recently reminded my grade 12 students that they have as much computer power in their phones as the young people who landed the Apollo on the moon had in their entire command centre. These kids will not easily be fooled and I am no longer amused. 

It seems to me that 20th century problems belong to 20th century minds. I know some excellent young 21st century minds who are more than ready to think clearly and critically. My guess is, if you’re reading this post, you are one of them.

And more to the point, these young people will live the consequences of poor policy decisions. This is not to be tolerated. While the thinking, visionary, pragmatic leaders of the world increasing turn to clean energy, including, sub-Saharan African countries, are you really going to tell me the further reducing corporate taxes and changing green house gas emissions laws for only ONE of the many energy options with significant stake in the economic future of this province and this country is somehow a decision for our “grandchildren”? Please. I don’t have the energy. Fortunately, I know hundreds, if not thousands of visionary students who do (and at least five clean energies who do too if given a fair chance). And that’s energy I’m willing to share.

-Mark Neufeld, Institute for Global Solutions, Victoria, BC

14 Ocean Conservation Wins of 2014

BAyana Elizabeth Johnson
Published on Friday, December 26, 2014 for Common Dreams

Chances are you’ve come across some ocean news lately. And it may even have been positive! Yes, the ocean is still in serious trouble due to overfishing, pollution, climate change, and habitat destruction, but there are more and more success stories to point to, and point I shall.

#1. Big year for big marine reserves. Kiribati, Palau, and the Cook Islands each closed over 50% of their waters to commercial fishing, and the U.S. quintupled the size of the Pacific Remote Island National Monument. This is not happening because conservation gives political leaders warm fuzzy feelings, and not just because (as Enric Sala explains) it makes good economic sense for fisheries, but because it’s good PR for tourism and for nations’ international reputations.

#2. World leaders gathered to focus on ocean issues. The U.S. Department of State’s Our Ocean conference felt like a turning point in ocean policy. The focus was on success stories, solutions, and government commitments to conservation (see #1, above). Leonardo DiCaprio gave an impassioned keynote speech that became a cover story (“Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio Vow Efforts to Protect the Ocean”), and the conference is slated to become an annual event. There was also a Global Ocean Action Summit in The Hague,focused on the ocean economy.

#3. We know what needs to be done to repair Caribbean coral reefs. A report co-authored by 90+ scientists, and analyzing data from 35,000 surveys of Caribbean reefs conducted over 42 years showed that coral has declined 50% since 1970. Yikes! But it also showed that if we protect key herbivores (like parrotfish and urchins) so they can eat the algae off reefs, and if we control coastal pollution and construction, then we may be able put Caribbean reefs on the mend. (See New York Times Op Ed I co-authored with Jeremy Jackson, “We Can Save the Caribbean’s Coral Reefs.”)

The Chagos anemone fish is found only in the Chagos Archipelago. Located in the central Indian Ocean 1,000 miles south of India, the isolated Chagos Archipelago is a chain of more than 50 islands with a remarkable diversity of 220 coral species and 750 species of fish. (Photo Credit: Alasdair Harris, Blue Ventures Conservation)

The Chagos anemone fish is found only in the Chagos Archipelago. Located in the central Indian Ocean 1,000 miles south of India, the isolated Chagos Archipelago is a chain of more than 50 islands with a remarkable diversity of 220 coral species and 750 species of fish. (Photo Credit: Alasdair Harris, Blue Ventures Conservation)

#4. Shark week viewers turned their focus toward conservation. The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is the ocean conservation equivalent of the Super Bowl – it’s the most attention the ocean gets from the media all year. Most of the content is designed to make sharks seem like ravenous, terrifying man-eaters, and a shocking amount of it is fabricated. Viewers took to social media to say they’d had enough of this vilification and prevarication, and this year most shark week media coverage was critical. Sharks also got love from the public when Western Australia’s bizarre and horrible “shark culling” policy was met with widespread protests.

#5. Ocean zoning is gaining traction as a management approach. Over 30 countries have embraced ocean zoning as a management tool. The latest is the Blue Halo Initiative inBarbuda, where the Waitt Institute partnered with the local government to develop comprehensive management plans for their waters. After 17 months of community consultations, this resulted in a zoning map that includes protection of 33% of the coastal waters in marine reserves.

#6. There is a new wave of scrappy, effective ocean conservation groups. The old guard of large NGOs is holding steady, but it’s exciting to see some new kids on the block. Special shout-outs to The Black Fish (combatting illegal overfishing), SeaSketch(technology for participatory mapping), SoarOcean (drones for ocean enforcement),SkyTruth (remote sensing for fisheries enforcement), Smart Fish (improving value chains for communities), Future of Fish (business solutions for sustainable seafood), and Parley for Oceans (leveraging fashion for conservation).

#7. A big commercial fishery recovered from overfishing. In 2000, the U.S. West Coast groundfish fishery was so overfished that it was declared a federal disaster. This year, after years of hard work and collaboration amongst the federal government, fishers, and NGOs like the Environmental Defense Fund, the stocks were rebuilt enough that the fishery was certified as sustainable. Sound management works!

#8. The Clinton Global Initiative is focusing on oceans. CGI (an initiative of the Clinton Foundation) has a strong history of fostering cross-sectoral action on important issues, via its promotion of concrete commitments from member organizations. CGI’s burgeoning Ocean Action Network will convene in 2015 to co-create solutions amongst industry, governments, NGOs, and philanthropists.

#9. Seafood traceability is being tackled by policymakers and technologists. The trade in illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) catches is difficult to eradicate because the seafood supply chain is largely opaque. In the U.S., up to 32% of imported, wild-caught seafood was caught illegally, and about 33% of seafood is mislabeled. A White House task force is addressing this issue, and a bunch of small organizations (like This Fish) are working to solve hook-to-plate tracking. Eating locally-caught seafood also addresses this problem, and that is gaining traction via community supported fisheries.

#10. Plastic pollution in the ocean is getting sustained attention. A new scientific study estimates there are at least 5.25 trillion plastic particles in the ocean. As the world watched, the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane was complicated by the amount of debris on the ocean’s surface. But the invention that can supposedly collect tons of plastic out of the ocean? – sorry, not gonna work (though see these proven ways to reduce ocean plastic pollution). Meanwhile, in fashion, Pharrell, Bionic Yarn, and Parley for Oceans partnered with G-Star to make quite nice clothing out of ocean plastics.

#11. Local efforts to combat ocean acidification are increasing. A large portion of global CO2 emissions are absorbed by the ocean, making it more acidic. This threatens ocean life in many ways, from melting corals and eating away the shells of shellfish, to making fish behave oddly and become more vulnerable to predators. But since ~1/3 ofocean acidification is caused by land-based pollution, Washington State (to protect the waters where many delicious oysters are grown) developed an action plan to address local pollution, and Maryland and Maine are following suit.

#12. Bristol Bay in Alaska was protected from oil and gas drilling. 40% of the U.S.’s wild seafood comes from Bristol Bay. The area has one of the world’s largest salmon runs, and is teaming with whales, seals, and birds. Local and national activists have been fighting for this area’s protection, and succeeded in having the area closed to oil and gas drilling by presidential decree. Next step is to protect the headwaters from the proposed Pebble Mine.

#13. A feature documentary was released about ocean hero Sylvia Earle. Marine biologist and ocean activist Dr. Sylvia Earle has dedicated her life to raising awareness about ocean issues and lobbying for conservation. The film Mission Blue captures her story, which is also a story of the ocean conservation movement, and an inspiring story of women in science. Check it out on Netflix. (Dr. Earle was also named one of Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year!)

#14. Communication on ocean issues is getting better and better. We are (finally! yay!) building critical mass for good communications on ocean issues. Complex issues are being distilled in ways that people get and can relate to. Special shout-outs to the perennial efforts by UpwellSmithsonian Ocean PortalNational Geographic Ocean Views blog,Marine Affairs Research and Education, and TerraMar that are helping all this news bubble to the top. And for more on what’s working in ocean conservation, stay tuned to#OceanOptimism….

Yes, this year there were also rampant illegal fishing, endangered species going unprotected, tons and tons of trash is being bumped in our ocean, coastlines are being bulldozed, and the water is warming and getting more acidic each minute we don’t deal with climate change, yet…

Here we are. And I’m somewhat optimistic, hoping that this string of ocean wins is a trend and not a blip. Here’s to a continued focus on ocean solutions in 2015, and may it be the year of the parrotfish!

Would You Want Your Family To Live In A Community Where Fracking Was Taking Place?

by Laura Mitic (Carmanah) for The Jellyfish Project

New York just became the second state in the United States to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within it's borders.  Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the ban after the "significant public health risks'' of fracking were identified by Commissioner Howard Zucker.
According to Dr. Zucker, his review came down to one question: "Would he want his family to live in a community where fracking was taking place?"

Fracking is the act of drilling into the earth and injecting a high-pressure water mixture, composed of water, sand and chemicals, into shale rock.  This allows the natural gas inside to be released and flow out of the well.  It takes 1-8 millions gallons of fresh water and approximately 40,000 gallons of chemicals to complete each fracturing job.  Many of the chemicals used are toxins and carcinogens, and nearby communities have felt their effects after drinking contaminated water, leading to sensory, respiratory and neurological disorders.

Governor Cuomo claims that this has been the most emotionally charged issue he's had to deal with so far, including discussions about gay marriage and the death penalty.  The decision has been met with much support by the community, environmentalists and liberals, but also with a great deal of resistance from the oil and gas companies who claim that fracking in NY would create many jobs and millions in revenue.

Check out more here on NY here
To learn more about the controversies surrounding fracking, click here
Here is an amazing interactive site on fracking

Green Energy Creates Green Jobs

Taken from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions Website
Published Dec 4, 2014

According to Clean Energy Canada, green energy is putting lie to the belief that it is fossil fuels, and not renewables, that bring prosperity and jobs. According to a new report out Tuesdaydirect jobs in the country’s green energy sector in 2013 number 23,700 (including clean energy, clean transport, services and equipment manufacturing) while direct oil sands jobs are just 22,300. $25 billion has been invested in the fast emerging Canadian cleantech sector during the past five years, and its employment numbers have risen 37 per cent. Revenues from oil certainly provide riches, around $3.5 billion to the Alberta treasury alone each year, and the report doesn’t tally indirect jobs, which Alberta claims are well over 100,000 for oil sands. Yet creating direct employment is one of the most impactful things any industry can do to create value, and the green energy sector is clearly doing this.

So is it possible that the oil sands aren’t the only route to energy riches in Canada? Capital Economics, a London firm, said that the $40-dollar-a-barrel price plummet for oil may cut government revenues from the industry and hurt the companies’ bottom line - but it also translates into something like $1.3 trillion in energy savings for Canadian consumers. This is about 1.7 per cent of Canada’s GDP. One example is fuel costs: a litre of gas in Victoria, BC, has dropped from about $1.30 / L three months ago to around $1.14 / L this week, which means losses for industry and government but fuel savings of about 12 per cent in the pockets of every Victoria driver. But there is one dubious symbol of the decline of the price at the pump: an uptick in SUV sales. That hasn’t affected sales of ‘green’ cars however, at least not yet: electric vehicle sales in Canada are increasing. But there can be no doubt that cheaper gasoline, should it persist, will make such purchases less attractive in coming months. Canada’s cleantech industry includes manufacture of fully electric vehicles like New Flyer’s electric buses that went into service in Winnipeg last week, as well as widely distributed manufacture of smaller vehicles and components. Continuing growth of this sector depends at least in part on the incentive that an accelerating price of liquid fossil-fuels presents; the current decline jeopardizes what has been a welcome switch toward adoption of cleaner transportation technologies.