13 News for the 31st
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
By Daniel de la Calle

Three years ago you really needed to scrape at the bottom of the barrel to come up with news on the web about Ocean Acidification.  Today I am "only" posting 13 items and have to leave at least 10 more out:
≈≈≈≈64% of the waters existing outside national jurisdiction, the "high seas", are yours.  And mine. As John Platt rightly writes in a recent Mother Nature Network article, "according to the United National Law of the Sea Convention, these unregulated bodies of water — and the fish and minerals they contain — belong to all of mankind and should be used to serve the common good."
The new TerraMar Project wants to protect those high seas.  If you visit their site you can claim a parcel of the ocean, take a virtual dive with Google, friend a marine species or find interesting educational projects. Although the main purpose of the website is to celebrate the oceans, the website does address the various threats to life inside those waters, from plastic pollution to illegal dumping, from overfishing and whaling to Ocean Acidification.
VISIT THEIR WEBSITE and BECOME A CITIZEN
SOURCE

≈≈≈≈Sweden wants trash and wants it badly.  The Scandinavian nation is facing an unusual problem since their waste-to-energy program began running out of source material.  20% of Sweden's district heating comes from garbage incinerators, but they are not producing enough waste to feed it on their own, so 800,000 tons of trash are being imported every year from neighboring European countries (mainly for those new rich, the Norwegians) to power plants.  That is how Norway has ended paying Sweden to take their trash and then receives the residue polluted ashes, filled with heavy metals, back to bury in home soil.
You can read or listen to the original PRI information HERE.

≈≈≈≈A CBS news piece about Ocean Acidification and oyster farming in Washington State.


≈≈≈≈The Smithsonian announced this week the launching of a $10 million project to study coastal marine biodiversity and ecosystems around the world over a long period of time.
"The Tennenbaum Marine Observatories will be the first worldwide network of coastal ecological field sites, standardizing measurements of biological change. By studying sites with Smithsonian experts in biology, ecology and anthropology, and using technologies like DNA sequencing, the project will provide an unprecedented understanding of how marine biodiversity is affected by local human activities and global change, such as ocean warming, acidification and rising sea levels."
"The project will have five field sites: the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md., on the Chesapeake Bay, the Institution’s marine station at Fort Pierce, Fla., Carrie Bow Cay in Belize and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s two locations in Panama—Bocas Del Toro on the Caribbean and Naos station on the Pacific. As the project grows, the Smithsonian will establish additional research sites with collaborators around the globe to monitor coastal ocean health, with the goal of at least 10 new sites within the next decade."

SOURCE at ARTDAILY.ORG

≈≈≈≈Mussels could lose their anchor with Ocean Acidification: FHL's Emily Carrington's lab presented a study at the Third International Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World last month that showed how the silky threats (byssus fibers) glueing mussels to one another and to rocks become significantly weaker in water with a pH lower than 7.6.  Water temperature seems to also be a major factor, "with threads about 60 percent weaker in 77 degree Fahrenheit water than in cooler 65 degree water. READ MORE about mussels’ sticky substance and why researchers think it can offer important insights for developing new adhesives."
Nice NPR audio piece on byssal threats HERE.

PHOTO CREDIT: EMILY CARRINGTON FOR INSIDESCIENCE.ORG
SOURCE

≈≈≈≈Interdisciplinary symposium on Ocean Acidification in Hong Kong from 11-14th of December, 2012.
SYMPOSIUM SCHEDULE
Tuesday (Dec. 11th 2012)
 Opening ceremony and mixing party (starts at 4.30 pm)
Wednesday (Dec. 12th 2012) 
Climate change: coastal warming, acidification and hypoxia
Coastal aquaculture and fisheries in a changing climate
Coastal climate change: a physiological perspective
Larval life in the changing coastal oceans
Thursday (Dec. 13th 2012) 
Biomineralization: a materials engineering perspective
“OMICS”: a powerful tool in modern ecology research
The forum for collaborative coastal acidification research
Symposium Banquet
Friday (Dec. 14th 2012) 
Graduate students perspectives on multidisciplinary OA research
How to write and publish brilliant research papers—tips from experts
More information and registration HERE

≈≈≈≈Interesting Op-Ed piece on the NY Times a couple weeks ago about "How to Catch Fish and Save Fisheries".  Environmental ministers from numerous countries met last week to, for a second time, try to reach an agreement that protects 10% of the world's oceans.  As Carl Safina and Brett Jenks point out, the situation around the world is dire, but there is still hope because we have not reached a point of no return yet. The biggest challenge, but also a big portion of the solution is in the hands of small-scale fisheries and the expansion of TURF (Territorial User Rights Fisheries) reserves.
THE PIECE

PHOTO: STATE LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES OF FLORIDA

≈≈≈≈To study and be able to predict the effects of Ocean Acidification on commercial fisheries NOAA announced last September grants for a total $1.6 million over the next three years for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, The State University of New York at Stony Brook and the University of Washington.
Read more details on the NOAA site

≈≈≈≈The University of Southern Mississippi and Liquid Robotics are carrying out an Ocean Acidification study in the Gulf of Mexico.  Physical oceanographer Dr. Stephan Howden, of the University of Southern Mississippi is using the Liquid Robotics Wave Glider to measure CO2 and dissolved oxygen levels, pH, water temperature, conductivity, air temperature, barometric pressure and wind speed and direction on a route around the Mississippi River Delta.  Data is being reported in near-real time and is available on the GCOOS Data Portal so you, from your home, can follow its course and see the results right now. Just a click away.

≈≈≈≈In early October "National Science Foundation’s research team successfully retrieved data from a sensor (SeaFET) they had deployed in Antarctic waters at the end of previous research season. It will provide critical baseline data on the changes in chemistry or acidification in those remote seas and will also be first of its kind about the relative acidity–expressed as pH–of the waters in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica."
"Deployed by divers under the sea ice and left in place at the end of the 2011-2012 Antarctic research season, the sensor gathered data through the month of June, which is the height of winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Data gathering ended when the instrument’s battery failed in the frigid waters. Having a pH baseline will provide an important benchmark for scientists to begin to test whether certain species have the physiological and genetic characteristics to adapt to projected change."

SOURCE at BEFOREITSNEWS.COM

PHOTO CREDIT: NSF/UCSD

≈≈≈≈Two scientists at Western Washington University's Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes have received a $543,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the impacts of Ocean Acidification on organisms that form the base of the oceanic food web. The "new project will examine how the production and storage of fats in phytoplankton exposed to acidic conditions affect the reproduction of one of its principal predators, the copepod. Copepods are an important component in the oceanic food web, since they are fed upon by finfish, shellfish larvae and other marine animals such as herring, Dungeoness crab, and filter feeders such as baleen whales and whale sharks. Copepods are prevalent both locally in the Salish Sea and in global oceans."
SOURCE

≈≈≈≈It's not for everyone, that's true, but if you wished to listen to a part or the whole five and a half hour "webinar of the seventh and final meeting of the Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification" you will be overjoyed to find it HERE.

≈≈≈≈"A postdoctoral position is available in the Geology and Geophysics Department at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution starting in February 2013. The position is part of an NSF-funded project to determine the compounded impacts of ocean acidification, warming, and oxygen depletion on the health, survival and growth of benthic foraminifera. The successful candidate will work with the PI to set up the experimental system, conduct a long-term experiment, process samples, analyze data, and write a manuscript(s). The material to be studied will be bathyal foraminifera to be collected on a research cruise in May or June 2013; the successful applicant will join this approximately one-week cruise."
APPLY (Postdoctoral Investigator Ocean Acidification, job 12-10-04
SOURCE
Make a comment

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Friday, May 04, 2012
By Daniel de la Calle

Two news, one good and one bad. Then the ugly:

THE GOOD: NASA claims to have developed an innovative method called OMEGA (Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae), that grows algae, cleans waste-water, captures carbon dioxide and ultimately generates biofuel without competing with agriculture for water, fertilizer or land.  Wow.
The system is made up of large flexible plastic tubes called photobioreactors. They float in seawater and contain freshwater algae growing in waste-water. These algae are among the fastest growing plants on Earth.  They use energy from the sun, carbon dioxide and nutrients from the waste-water to produce biomass that can be turned into biofuel and other valuable products such as fertilizer and animal food. In the process, the algae clean the waste-water by removing nutrients that would otherwise contribute to forming marine deadzones.Photo: NASA
The objective of this project is to investigate the technical feasibility of a unique floating algae cultivation system that could lead to commercial uses. Research by scientists and engineers has so far shown that OMEGA is an effective way to grow microalgae and treat waste-water on a small scale.
NASA is analyzing the OMEGA system as an alternative way to generate aviation fuels. Potential implications of replacing fossil fuels include reducing the release of green house gases, decreasing ocean acidification and enhancing national security.
Photo: NASA
OMEGA Project Accomplishments:
(NASA OMEGA project: Jan 2010 – May 2012)
    •    Demonstrated controlled microalgae growth on waste-water in floating PBRs.
    •    Operated 100, 200, 1,600, and 3,200-liter PBR systems for repeated algal growth cycles.
    •    Showed that forward osmosis could be potentially coupled with OMEGA to enhance both biomass production and waste-water treatment.
    •    Showed efficient uptake of CO2 using gas exchange column.
    •    Developed protocols for harvesting algae and controlling grazers.
    •    Determined impact of biofouling.
SOURCE
SOURCE 2

THE BAD: A team of researchers from the University of Queensland has studied how Ocean Acidification affects the settlement of baby corals onto a reef.  This important study found that the increase in acidity in the oceans has a dramatic effect on their ability to survive.  Christopher Doropoulos, lead author of the study, commented that “baby corals are initially found as swimming larvae before they choose their place to attach to the reef and settle for life, a critical step to their survival and the maintenance of coral reefs. […] The coral larvae normally have this amazing ability to settle on one particular type of rock-like seaweed called Titanoderma. This stony seaweed is a safe haven for young corals, yet we found that, as levels of ocean acidification increased, the coral larvae avoided this seaweed and started to settle absolutely anywhere.”
Photo: A male stony coral releases sperm into the water
“Ocean acidification also changed the types of seaweeds available to the corals and had a damaging effect on their preferred species of Titanoderma,” said Mr Doropoulos.
“Our study identifies three major negative impacts of ocean acidification on baby corals. It reduces the number of corals settling, it disrupts their behavior so that they make unwise decisions, and reduces the availability of the most desirable substrate for their survival. This may have severe consequences for how coral reefs function and how they recover from major disturbances.”
SOURCE

THE UGLY:

EXPLANATION
Make a comment

News, Some Good
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
By Daniel de la Calle        

»Washington State became last month the first in the USA to create an expert panel on Ocean Acidification. The panel, convened by Gov. Chris Gregoire, is made up of scientists, seafood industry representatives and local and tribal officials.  It has set up three tasks:
1    Survey the latest science to find out what we know, and don’t know.
2    Set priorities for additional investment in research and monitoring.
3    Craft a set of practical, affordable policy recommendations to address the root causes of acidification or help businesses and natural communities adapt.  
SOURCE

»The Ocean Ark Alliance in collaboration with Melbourne Aquarium will be hosting the largest environmental art show in Australia this coming October.  There will be $50,000 in prize money to School Environmental Project Grants and Student Study Grants to any 9-12 year student in Victoria. OAA hopes in time this will become a national and international initiative.
Full entry details will be released before the end of the month HERE.


»The UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Department of Energy and Climate Change is launching a £13 million center for carbon capture and storage research that will be coordinated at the University of Edinburgh and bring together in a virtual network over 100 of the best UK carbon capture and storage academics.
"The new state-of-the-art capture research facilities will allow UK scientists and engineers to uncover the complexities of carbon capture and work with industrial partners and SMEs to develop improved capture technologies. They include:
1    Pilot scale advanced testing facilities in Yorkshire, with a 1 ton CO2 per day amine capture facility
2    A mobile testing unit to allow a range of tests to be conducted on real power station flue gases
3    Advanced oxy-fuel fluidized bed and chemical looping pilot facilities."
"The UK has a target to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, a significant task that requires systemic changes to every sector of energy generation and use, including in industrial applications."
SOURCE

»A fungi capable of degrading and utilizing common plastic polyurethane has been discovered in the Amazon rainforest.  The Yale University team responsible for the discovery has published its findings in the article "Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Endophytic Fungi" for the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal.
SOURCE

»If you live in California you might want to download Why Ocean Acidification Matters To California.

»Not many prominent political leaders include the environment and the state of the world's oceans in their speeches and agenda.  That is why we want to mention in this blog the work and words of Australia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr, who recently visited the UN headquarters in New York to meet with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a group of UN ambassadors to discuss a plan to protect and manage the oceans.  During a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald he had no difficulty mixing the discussion on problems in Afghanistan and between the West and Islamist countries together with over-fishing, the danger of Acidification and "the emergence of huge dead seas".  ''I'm just nagged by the worry that we might be with the oceans where we were in 1975 or 1980 with awareness of what we were doing to the Earth's atmosphere,'' he said. ''We don't know how quickly a tipping point might be reached."
SOURCE

»NOAA's Ocean Acidification Program Office, the University of Washington and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Regional Association are preparing an invitational workshop on defining a global network for Ocean Acidification monitoring.  It will be held June 26-28, 2012 in Seattle, WA, and will include representatives from around the world.  The principal goals of this international workshop are:
1    To design the components and locations of an international ocean acidification observing network that includes repeat hydrographic surveys, underway measurements on volunteer observing ships, moorings, floats, and gliders, leveraging existing networks and programs wherever possible.
2    To identify measurement parameters and performance metrics for each major component of the observing system.
3    To develop a strategy for data quality assurance and distribution.
SOURCE

»World map time lapse about the history of human global CO2 emissions.
Make a comment

Information & Communication
Thursday, March 15, 2012
By Daniel de la Calle

Information and communication, going hand in hand as should be:
»Lecture near Lake Tahoe: Dr. Howard Spero, UC Davis, will deliver a lecture titled Changing Seas about the earth's climate, climate change throughout history and ocean (and Lake Tahoe) acidification. The date is March 22nd at 5:30PM and the location the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences, 291 Country Club Drive, Incline Village.
SOURCE

»Four wave glider robots made by Liquid Robotics have broken the world distance traveled by unmanned wave power vehicles record by covering over 3,200 nautical miles from San Francisco to Hawaii.  The drones consist of an underwater glider that is attached by a cable to a floating section.  They convert the endless motion of the oceans into forward thrust, allowing them to travel thousands of miles with no fuel consumption.  These new generation of robots are capable of monitoring everything from shrinking fisheries or natural disasters to Ocean Acidification.
Photo credit: Liquid Robotics
SOURCE

»Audio story on Ocean Acidification along the shores of the West Coast by APRN's Steve Heimel. Heimel looks at the circulation patterns that may already be acidifying fish habitat in the Arctic.
AUDIO and SOURCE

»"In order to develop consistent messaging and education and communication tools for ocean acidification, the West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries are partnering with the Monterrey Bay Sanctuary Foundation and Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to host an Effective Practices for Ocean Acidification (OA) Communication and Education workshop.  This workshop is planned to take place in conjunction with and immediately following the International Science Symposium, The Ocean in a High CO2 World: Ocean Acidification, in Monterrey in September 2012.
[…]
Following the workshop, the NOAA OA Education working group will develop a National NOAA OA Education Action Plan, which will incorporate some of the results and outcomes from the Effective Practices Workshop.
Topics to be covered during the workshop will include the following:

•    Development and implementation of effective messaging

•    How to frame messaging for varying audiences


•    Linkage of science to education and outreach

•    Creation of a resource inventory to bring together scientific information with educational tools


•    The scope of the problem and its relation to west coast sanctuary and estuary sites and regional as well as national issues


•    Research linkages and regionally relevant case studies including how tangible resource impacts may affect local economies."

SOURCE

»The Darwin Center for Biogeosciences will have a Summer School Program in Utrecht and Texel, the Netherlands, July 1st-12th, 2012.  "Main subjects will be Ocean Acidification, the carbon cycle, microbial ecology, biomarkers, terrestrial carbon cycling and climate reconstructions in the past, present and future."
More INFO and SOURCE

»The British Oceanographic Data Centre has announced the launch of the data management area for the UK Ocean Acidification (UKOA) research program.  UKOA is a five-year, £12 million research program that started in 2010 and involves 27 institutes in the UK and has close links to other similar programs around the world.
How to gain access UKOA data HERE
SOURCE
Make a comment

Videos Of Present & Future Inventions
Saturday, February 04, 2012
By Daniel de la Calle

This weekend I wanted to take a look at inventions, some that look like science fiction but are in fact here with us now, other technologies that still need years or decades in development to be functional but that look promising, ingenious, and cheap simple ideas that are changing the lives of people around the world right now.
Our grandparents were forced to be thrifty, to recycle out of scarcity and high costs.  During the last hundred and some years we had the tremendous luck of living during the age of oil, industrial production and microchips.  Comfort, luxury and leisure time reached the majority of the population in richer countries and energy and manufacture were cheaper than ever.  But as we start to understand the environmental impact of our modern lifestyle and the finiteness of natural resources modern day inventors, engineers and businesspeople are looking at life, at the world we have created, in a more critical and ingenious way, not taking certain things for granted.  This is so exciting, probably the most hopeful news in these times of not many optimistic prospects.  Like a beginner athlete, the room for improvement is so vast that we should expect huge leaps forward in every area where energy use and product reuse comes into play.
Ok, without further ado, here are some fun videos to lighten up the weekend:

»Spray on solar cell technology could turn every window around the world into a solar panel.  In fact, every painted surface could capture energy, and if the technology was sensitive to infrared light, even overcast days would produce power:

 

»Way further out there: what if all our roadways were a source of energy.

 

»Something a bit less expensive than resurfacing all existing roads with solar panels: The Isang Litrong Liwanag, or "liter of light", or "bottle bulb". Invented by a mechanic in the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Thousands are being installed Philippine roofs and around the globe. So simple and effective: water, a touch of bleach, an empty plastic bottle… and a catchy song.

 

»The Prius, the Volt, now the Nissan Leaf, maybe delivered in the "City of St. Petersburg", the new cargo ship with a semispherical prow that cuts wind resistance and is expected to save 800 tons of fuel consumption per year (I just read that each the largest cargo ships emit the same air pollution as 50 million cars!).

 

»A Danish hotel offers a free meal to any guest that produces 10 watt hours on their electricity generating bicycles. A number of times I went to spinning classes and felt like an extra in some 1920s futuristic film about enslaved societies, sweating buckets in semi darkness, surrounded by maddening music.  The energy there was just turning into heat, but why not tap into it? If nothing else, to make us all more aware of how much you need to perspire to maintain 400 watts of energy with our legs.  At the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers you can earn a $40 meal in roughly 15 minutes because they are very nice and pay top dollar for each little watt, but if you wanted to save those same $40 from your next electricity bill you would find yourself pedaling nonstop for a year.

 

»Continuing with bicycles and for pure absurd weekend fun: a way to expand the use of your power drills at home:


To wrap these two last videos up with some serious information, what Wikipedia says about energy efficiency on one of the greatest inventions of humankind:
"The bicycle is extraordinarily efficient in both biological and mechanical terms. The bicycle is the most efficient human-powered means of transportation in terms of energy a person must expend to travel a given distance. From a mechanical viewpoint, up to 99% of the energy delivered by the rider into the pedals is transmitted to the wheels, although the use of gearing mechanisms may reduce this by 10–15%. In terms of the ratio of cargo weight a bicycle can carry to total weight, it is also an efficient means of cargo transportation.
A human traveling on a bicycle at low to medium speeds of around 10–15 mph (15–25 km/h) uses only the energy required to walk. Air drag, which is proportional to the square of speed, requires dramatically higher power outputs as speeds increase. If the rider is sitting upright, the rider's body creates about 75% of the total drag of the bicycle/rider combination. Drag can be reduced by seating the rider in a more aerodynamically streamlined position. Drag can also be reduced by covering the bicycle with an aerodynamic fairing.
In addition, the carbon dioxide generated in the production and transportation of the food required by the bicyclist, per mile traveled, is less than 1/10 that generated by energy efficient cars.
When the average speed of a US car commute is expanded to include the time required to deal with all associated costs of driving, cycling is 2.7 times faster, assuming an average cycling commute speed of 10 mph (15 km/h), according to calculations done by Ivan Illich in the 1970s."

Make a comment

To Save Corals
Friday, October 28, 2011

By Daniel de la Calle

 

Right where you read these words now many others have stood, layer upon layer, in a frustrated attempt to write about corals and my dives at the Tayrona National Park back in June.  They were not the problem, the source of trouble was the confusing mixture of sensations and thoughts I had while being underwater in that awe inspiring underworld of the Northern Colombian Coast.  Remembering this morning the time I last visited my grandmother in Germany, soon before she died, I came to understand:  I was very happy to get one more chance to see her again, to introduce her to my little daughter, but felt profoundly sad as well, overwhelmed with that "last time" feeling, with the apparent absurdity and purposelessness of a whole lifetime of acquired knowledge and experiences disappearing forever.

When I went down the wild cliffs and coves in Tayrona, while diving inside a giant cave or during the night immersions that revealed the true magic of polyp colonies, I went through the exact same emotions: immense gratitude to be there, to get to witness such an explosion of life, that display of shapes, of colors, such frenzy of activity, invisible and impossible to guess from the surface, but also abysmal sadness at the thought that the days of this whole ecosystem as it once was, even as it is now, are numbered; all this evolved primeval wisdom, this giant bank of results from trial and error over millions of years, this sophisticated network of lifeforms that carries on, unaware of their doomed future.  I felt mostly guilty, but also greedy and dirty, knowing nothing other than the apparent needs of our generation is condemning our grandchildren to a world where tropical reefs will be talked about in the style of fairy tales, as a dream or a possible past. Swimming in Tayrona I was both the witness and perpetrator, the murderer staring amongst the crowd at the fallen body, hidden behind the safety and innocence of the masses.  The thought of this disaster in slow motion tainted what would have otherwise been a marvelous diving experience; it was all too tragic, too surreal and beautiful to be enjoyed.
The group I dove with does very innovative work "farming" corals in a nursery.  It is just the second or third location worldwide where such techniques are tried.  They initially break off little pieces with polyps and glue them to small submerged farms that consist of buoys, ropes and plastic tubes. 

A reduced group of specialists and scientists survey and clean on a weekly basis as they grow, hoping that after a year they will be ready to be implanted with epoxy glue back on the reef rocks.  I was offered to trade a regular dive for a cleaning day at the farm and took the opportunity to appease the guilt and feel useful.  It is always better to visit a place in the disguise of a worker rather than a plain tourist, to lend a hand in a project.  The platform is in the middle of a small bay, levitating some 30 feet above the sand bottom and another 30 from the surface. 

The only extra gear we wore were gloves, spatulas and some brushes to swipe the tubes clean from all the algae and barnacles that relentlessly menace with taking over.  Barnacles are sharp as micro scalpels: you end up with dozens of invisible stinging cuts in fingers and palms no matter how careful you are.  The whole place is in fact a testament to how fierce competition is underwater.  To make things worse our poor corals are not exactly set with the best weapons and defense equipment.  Algae, barnacles, muscles and other small crustaceans have the winning hand, and as temperatures go up and pH goes down corals become more and more brittle and defenseless.  We, the untrained volunteers, focused exclusively on the cleaning of the tubes that conform the skeleton of the structure, while the scientists and initiated divers carefully brushed the fragile baby corals themselves. 

Word that we were at work spread quickly throughout the bay; in a matter of minutes all kinds of fish swam around us to snack on the algae and barnacle dinner.  Those fish became the only company as visibility progressively worsened.  It is a strange sensation to focus on a task underwater, floating like an astronaut outside the space station; at a certain point you become totally disoriented, cannot quite discern what is up or down and begin to work as blind painter, reading the braille of detritus with the tips of your fingers, scrubbing away inside a dark green cloud.  My mind spun around Cousteau, sushi, Gagarin, extraterrestrial life and also Penelope and Sisyphus, pondering on the futility of life, of repeated ant labor and the inventions of mankind.  But it was knowing that these efforts take place while a bigger problem is bound to swallow all well meant smaller attempts that really sucked all the air from my soul.  This was indeed a beautiful try, the portions of coral surprisingly looked like true baby life, very cute, the size of my daughter's Calico Critters. I never thought something so small and rock-like looking could be so endearing.

The times I have delivered speeches, given interviews on behalf of Niijii Films or shown the film to groups a question tends to come out: "What have you accomplished so far? Has the film had any results in terms of policy changes, on people's awareness and commitment?" Every single time I pause for a second in the hope of getting a lightning of inspiration that will put a better answer in my mouth, a more optimistic take on the whole matter.  I begin to tell them about those few steps forward there have been so far, mention the Clean Water Act, all the research scientists are doing, the numerous screenings and festivals everywhere, the press, radio and tv, a meeting with the Minister for the Environment in some country, the handing of copies to decision makers worldwide, the increase of internet hits…  Then I pause again and say: "Are you asking me if I believe there is hope?  It depends on what you see as hope; not very much.  But I do know that this that I am doing here is exactly what I should be doing."
I am just scrubbing those tubes too.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A LINK about redemption.


Make a comment

Little Red Dots
Monday, May 23, 2011
By Daniel de la Calle


  Don't be afraid to scratch if they itch:

    Anyone who has been to the Pacific Northeast in general and to Puget Sound in particular can bear witness to its beauty and uniqueness.  An invisible contributor to this distinctiveness lies in the origin of its waters: strong currents bring cold ocean bottom waters up to the coast and consequently make them some of the most "corrosive" around the globe.  Scientists studying this phenomenon last year determined that while the average global pH in the oceans is 8.1, in the Pacific coast the figure drops to 7.7; on some places in Hood Canal it even reaches 7.4.  This obviously poses interesting questions about the future of its creatures: will it make them better prepared for lower pH levels?  Or will the opposite happen?  Are they already in such a precarious state that they could be the first ones to go?
Paul McElhany, research ecologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle, confirms what we have heard so many times: "The ocean-chemistry changes we're seeing are happening faster than we've ever seen in history.  They can really alter the ecology of the ocean and lead to fundamental shifts in the structure of the marine food web."  These scientists are currently testing various levels of acidity on different marine organisms, like geoduck clams (the largest biomass in Puget Sound), but the next crucial stage will be to study genetic changes with University of Washington experts and to build a miniature replica of the marine environment with a San Juan Island laboratory to see what happens to the food web when multiple changes take place simultaneously.

A mighty endeavor, since the network of interdependency between organisms is extremely intricate and tends to shift in a natural manner.  Plus, we do not know how a cocktail of Ocean Acidification, pollutants and higher water temperatures will transform things either.  To exemplify this complexity, computer models at Seattle's Northwest Fisheries Science Center predict a decrease in herring population if Ocean Acidification was to reduce one type of plankton eaten by these fish, but if Acidification were to have a larger effect on another type of plankton the number of herring could actually come up.


(A Documentary on Geoduck Clams)

   NOAA has selected Dr. Elizabeth Jewett as its first first director for the new Ocean Acidification Program.  Established by Congress in 2009, the Ocean Acidification Program will plan and oversee a long-term coastal and open ocean monitoring program, lead research on the impacts of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and the socioeconomic implications of these impacts. It will also provide educational opportunities to learn about this threat through national public outreach and coordinate activities with other agencies, nongovernmental groups and the international community. 
Elizabeth Jewett will coordinate the ocean acidification work of 70 scientists from across NOAA, as well as extramural efforts led by NOAA’s academic partners. She will also represent NOAA on the interagency working group of the Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology of the National Science and Technology Council, coordinating federal activities on ocean acidification to better understand and address how a more acidic ocean will affect life on the planet.

"I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to be the first to lead and coordinate NOAA's dynamic ocean acidification research and monitoring work,” Jewett said. “We now need to expand NOAA’s capacity and efforts to better understand and respond to this very serious threat to the world's ocean, estuaries and Great Lakes."
(Source and Credit: NOAA)

   The United Kingdom is developing along its coasts a network of Marine Protected Areas and Reference Areas.  While the first will only stop the most damaging activities, still allowing commercial and recreational fishing, the much smaller in size Reference Areas will play a key role in the success of the whole program.  These Reference Area waters will be completely protected and will allow marine life inside them a return to an almost natural state.  A study on various European reserves showed an average of over 2 1/2 times more marine life within such waters after a short period of time.  Reference Areas eventually spill out fish population into the surrounding sea and have the added benefit of being more resilient to environmental threats like pollution, warming and Ocean Acidification. 

    We can unfortunately include another negative consequence of the increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere.  Studies in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences have discovered that higher atmospheric CO2 over the past 150 years has reduced plant's stomata by 34%.  Stomata are the spores in charge of transpiration: taking oxygen and carbon dioxide in and releasing water vapor.
"The increase in carbon dioxide by about 100 parts per million has had a profound effect on the number of stomata and, to a lesser extent, the size of the stomata," confirms David Dilcher of Indiana University Bloomington.  "Our analysis of that structural change shows there's been a huge reduction in the release of water to the atmosphere.  The carbon cycle is important, but so is the water cycle. If transpiration decreases, there may be more moisture in the ground at first, but if there's less rainfall that may mean there's less moisture in ground eventually."  Keep this crucial factor in mind: water vapor released from plants makes up 10% of humidity in the atmosphere.
Above, stomata on pre-industrial age Florida plants and nowadays.
Photo by E. Lamertsma

    Spanish and French researchers have begun making bio-oil from captured CO2 and algae.  The project, developed by a company called Bio Fuel Systems over the past five years, is trying to combine CO2 captured from a nearby cement factory in the city of Alicante (transported through a pipeline to the Bio Fuel Systems facility), where it is combined in 26 foot tubes (400 of them, see below) with millions of microscopic algae to replicate in an ultra accelerated speed the natural millions-of-years-long process of fossil fuel production. 

  It is currently in an experimental phase, but engineers believe that in ten years time, a possible unit covering 50 square kilometers in the barren regions of Southern Spain would produce 1.25 million barrels per day.  They promote the system as "ecological oil", a de-pollutant, since the process absorbs CO2 that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.
Companies, especially several in the aviation sector, have shown interest in this bio-fuel as a replacement for classic oil and kerosene.




Make a comment

Screening at the Oil Company
Sunday, January 30, 2011
By Daniel de la Calle
from Ipanema Beach, Brazil


This past Friday the 28th A Sea Change screened at the CENPES center in Rio de Janeiro.  It is a massive 25 acre complex that employs over 1,500 biologists, chemists, marine ecologists and engineers working in interdisciplinary groups at the Petrobras headquarters, one of the leading research centers of its kind in the world. Here »

they are studying all renewable energy sources, from wind to geothermal, from cell batteries to biodiesel (Brazil is arguably the leading nation on sugarcane biodiesel tech).
Heading up Guanabara Bay from downtown Ipanema Beach I had two reasons for concern about the morning ahead:
first, I wondered how many of these scientists would show up for a 9AM screening made public via internal emails in these empty and distracted weeks before Carnival, and second, what their response to a film so openly opposed to the use of fossil fuels would be.  Fortunately, my friend Suzana Sattamini had once again done a fantastic job and the results were simply outstanding.  We had an almost full house watching our documentary and half the audience stayed throughout the 40 minutes of fruitful Q&A (see picture).

My overall impression is that everyone devoting time and attention into the current environmental situation is more or less under a similar frame of mind: our impact on nature is too obvious to go unnoticed; we are all concerned and looking for answers, for ways of improving and moving away from a technology that has been fruitful in uncountable ways, but that is finite and has had tremendous impact on the planet. During most of the XXth century we were not aware of just how serious that poisoning was, partly thanks to the natural CO2 sequestration the oceans were doing for the atmosphere, but out of knowledge comes responsibility and to continue following the same path is simply unacceptable.  I am not stating that this is the way Petrobras as a stately run company sees the industry it is a part of, but, putting aside possible twisted interpretations of PR work, the fact that companies like Petrobras are investing so heavily on clean tech, on research and into other sources of power is a clear indicator that they are aware and looking ahead.

After the screening we went to visit a sculpture Suzana and other Brazilian artists have created and that was recently inaugurated inside Cenpes last year. It is a spiral of life that chronologically shows all eras of life in this planet. Each one is represented by an animal that at some point inhabited the land that we now call Brazil:

from Precambrian, through Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous (with the only life sized creature, a 5 ft wing spanned dragonfly), Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary all the way to "our" Quaternary with some human footprints (Suzana's husband Paulo's).
Let's aim for a "Quinternary" that does not have a shameful human footprint.

Make a comment

Some News, Some Information
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
By Daniel de la Calle

Our poor blog has remained silent for over two weeks.  I do not know how to make excuses sound like explanations, so my excuses are that I was busy showing Barbara Ettinger (our director) and Sven Huseby (our protagonist) my side of the world and after their departure I suffered a week long case of "Cancun Blues".  As a consequence, some of the news I had for you has turned into plain information, but I hope it is still of some value:

¤ By now you must all know that the Environmental Protection Agency has released a memo on Ocean Acidification.  This memo is part of settling a lawsuit that challenges the EPA's failure to address the issue in the context of the Clean Water Act.
A PBS video about the news:


¤ Ambivalent news from the UK.
I read a Reuters article that talked about Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond's hopes to produce by the year 2025 100% of their energy needs from renewable resources (wind, wave and tidal).  In a world of ever shrinking and pathetically distant in time environmental aspirations, the talk of becoming a clean self sufficient nation in less than 15 years deserves a pinch in the arm to make sure we are not dreaming.
On the other hand, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has noted that a possible economic recovery of the UK poses a serious threat to the environment.  This potential emergence might erode a shift towards more sustainable lifestyles that has began to take place the last few years.  In a report released last month, the EEA also points to the trend of increased "off-shoring of greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts through the consumption of products and services produced outside the UK".  They believe that another cause for alarm is the risk that younger generations and people living in towns and cities and that have no "experience of the natural world" might be less [even less, I would say] interested in green issues.

¤ China is installing the world's largest electricity generating system that uses methane gas coming from fermenting cow manure.  This source of power has a double positive effect: it does not come from the stored fossil energy sources in the planet and it uses up methane, a product 23 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2.
The GE engine:


¤ Highly amusing and fascinating video of a scientist from the Royal Society, currently celebrating its 350th anniversary (the Royal Society, that is), talking about terrestrial and extraterrestrial life.


¤ OCEANA, in conjunction with Google Earth, has created a useful tour that illustrates how CO2 in the atmosphere changes the pH in the oceans.  Jeffrey Short gives voice to this video that was released in Cancún's COP 16 a few days back.


¤ Two ways of facing the future.
I stumbled upon two separate Youtube videos about the house of the future and the contrast was so stark, the picture painted so fascinating, that I could not resist sharing them on this post.  Unfortunately, it was impossible to embed them, so, click on this text if you want to see the FRENCH eco friendly homes of the present and future and click on this text if you are curious about the COREAN house of the future.
Oh well, since we are at it, in case you feel like having nightmares about Armageddon, read about this house, part of the abominable present in INDIA.
Make a comment

Anthropocentric Geoengineering!
Saturday, September 25, 2010
By Daniel de la Calle

If there is one possible scenario that frightens me more than our current lack of action to stop the countless maladies we are inflicting upon the planet it is this very tempting flight forward casino gamble of geoengineering.
Just two unoriginal thoughts I want to throw out there:
No scientist would claim to know a tenth of the millions of factors that determine what life in the planet is and how it finds its dynamic equilibrium amongst the myriad of species, ecosystems and climates. Every single time we have played doctors or gods in the backyard it has been an absolute disaster, resulting in the loss of species or worse scenarios. I always remember the tragicomic story of the introduction of the mongoose in the Hawaiian archipelago as a means to get rid of rats (that delightful Norwegian Rat possibly brought along by Captain Cook together with the first batch of mosquitoes). I will not go into details, you can read about it here.
But what really fires me up is how we are like wasted heroin junkies who know exactly the origin of their addiction and future decay, but pathetically, helplessly admit that we just can't give up the habit, it is beyond us, surpasses us, the world would have to blow up in pieces before we thought of moving on to new sources of energy. We are going to drink, burn and cook it ALL up, yum yum, and then we will see where we stand, how things look the morning after.
Thinking about all this I can more easily understand all the Iron Hypothesis and assorted megalomaniac geoengineering ideas out there, brought forward for our consideration, without blushing.
Make a comment