Salt Water Videos
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle

Great salty videos in today's menu.  Why?: Why not?

Fish with transparent head:

Encounter with whale:

Bizarre Japanese fish:

Ocean's Oases:

Might not be fair to take sides, but we all like it when the little one gets away:

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"The Death of the Oceans?"
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle

Same day the Census For Marine Life made public the results of those ten years of research (read October 16th blog post) the BBC broadcast a new documentary narrated by David Attenborough and titled "The Death of the Oceans?".
The hour long film shows the outstanding marine footage we have come to expect from BBC documentaries, but the tone this time is more bleak and apocalyptic.  Never before has David Attenborough shown his concerns and doubts about the future.

Right from the start a scientist warns us that "we are talking now about an unnatural ocean", while another immediately adds that "there is no question that humans are ecosystem engineers right now", "there are no places on earth where humans are not impacting the ocean environment".  Some seconds later Professor Jeffrey Bolster, of the University of New Hampshire, vehemently tells the camera: "the living ocean is very fragile and don't for a minute believe that we can't screw it up much more than it is today".

The documentary centers around the two direst threats to the oceans and the life within them:
1   Overfishing.  Historic numbers show a considerable worldwide decline in captures.  Mr. Attenborough's voice over laments that "in 2003 researchers from the census published a paper in the science journal Nature comparing fish numbers of those of 1950.  What they concluded was that in a little over 50 years 90% of top predators such as tuna, shark and marlin had been fished from the sea."  Another interviewed scientist explains how, even though we have learned to think of food chains, the truth is that most marine ecosystems are more like a food web, with complex and yet unknown interconnections amongst the different animals, if we take one or several players out the consequences are uncertain.

This section of the film ends with with David Attenborough's words: "In one of the most disturbing pieces of research commissioned by the Census, the question was asked 'how much longer can our oceans tolerate the present level of commercial fishing?'  The answer was simple and stark: If present trends continue, commercial fishing as we know it will have collapsed by the year 2050".

  Mr. Attenborough again: "There are habitats that are facing a threat the implications of which scientists are only just beginning to work out. The cause of this concern is an environmental impact with the potential to be every bit as disastrous for reefs as rising sea temperatures: Ocean Acidification."
Right after we are shown some fascinating research Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, of the University of Queensland, and his team are carrying out in Australia, monitoring corals living in the wild, but artificially placed under different and precise levels of CO2 in the water.  Over the past years he has been witnessing how these marine animals are already under much stress: "We are seeing very large responses from coral reefs, we are seeing large scale mortality events and scientists are now recording the decline in the calcification that's going on reefs.  And this is not seen in hundreds and hundreds of years of records."  He believes "there's really two things we have got to do: the first is we have to limit further increases in CO2, because we know those futures don't have corals in them, we'll rapidly exceed the known conditions for coral reefs.  But the second thing we gotta do is treat reefs better on a local scale, we gotta reduce the overfishing, reduce the pollution, sedimentation and so on and if we do that, we will have corals survive the century."

Overall, it was a strange sensation to hear about ocean acidification from Mr. Attenborough's voice, not that it didn't make complete sense for him to talk about it. When the venerable wise man finished with the words "to my mind acidification is the biggest threat to oceans today. Even if we stopped our carbon emissions now it will be many centuries before the oceans return to full health" I felt deeply touched, legitimated and absurdly proud.

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Sao Paulo de Janeiro
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle

It is 60 degrees, cloudy and windy at times and I am listening to the National's new record surrounded by maple, oak and pine tress in my office.  No more Tim Maia, Marisa Monte, funky carioca or forró.  No more Os Mutantes.  I will need to close my eyes really tight to remember what it was and felt like 5,000 miles further South, over in Brazil.  Right now Barbara and Sven are on the West Coast receiving their Environmental Hero Award from NOAA and visiting Elias and his family while back here in NY we received this past week news of three broadcasts on Norwegian national television, NRK (which made Sven particularly happy), and of the screening at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver.  The Vancouver Observer did a nice little piece about it that you can read here.

The penultimate screening was at the Cineclube Socioambiental Crisantempo in Vila Madalena.  Vila Madalena fools you into thinking that the gigantic city that envelops it does not exist.  It is a beautiful neighborhood with posh restaurants, bars with terraces, boutiques, artists' studios, bakeries.  If you are rich in Sao Paulo, you want to hang out around Vila Madalena and forget about the traffic jams, the hectic Avenida Paulista, the putrid Pinheiros River, the more than 20 million people around. Crisantempo offers a fantastic space in which to host film, theatre, dance and music performances.  It is all very well organized and cared for, all extremely professional.  Everybody talks about the city being the engine of South America, more cosmopolitan, faster paced and wealthier than anywhere else in the continent and I guess it is true.  For me it was a relief to have the last screenings being a little less stressful and unpredictable.  In preparation for our night the organizers had contacted Leandra Gonçalves from Greenpeace Brasil to be present during the Q&A.  That gave me the opportunity to not have to listen so much to myself again and learn some very interesting things about the attempts (or lack thereof) in Brazil to preserve coastal waters and marine ecosystems.  Although I had already noticed how much meat is eaten everywhere, I was surprised to know that the average consumption per capita of fish in Brazil barely reaches 8 kilograms (it is 58 kilograms over in Spain, but we might only be beat by Japan in our dependency and love for fish).  It is a bit of a paradox that a country so associated with sandy beaches and coconut groves, surfing, water and nature can literally have its back turned in another direction if we just look at their national policies and their diet.  Ms Gonçalves was very keen to talk about whales (a symbol for Greenpeace), so took the opportunity to tell the audience that one of the possible future lines of research in regards to ocean acidification and marine life could be  the impact a more acidic ocean will have on animals that communicate through sound underwater.  One of the lesser known facts about acidification is that a decrease of 0.3 in the PH equals a 40% decrease in the sound absorption coefficient.  Yes, there could be acoustic contamination in the oceans as well.

100 different types of fruit at the Municipal Market in Sao Paulo.

In a city like Sao Paulo some of the favelas are vertical. Outside the Municipal Market.

Then it was time to go back to Río, catch a few more waves on Ipanema beach, watch the city at sunset from Sugar Loaf, buy a kilo of powdered guaraná and go to the final screening, at the Solar da Imperatriz in the Jardim Botanico;  no less!

 The place was also known as Facenda dos Macacos, after the river that passes through it, but either macaques really liked the name or I want to believe their profusion had something to do with it as well.  They run up and down electric wires, roll on roofs, feed along the fences, curious and nervous, mothers carrying several offspring on the backs. With those curled up tails, hanging at different heights, they looked like musical notes on a score to the Mata Atlântica.

The somewhat long drive up to this lush location in the outskirts of Rio did not prevent the screening form going really well.  Cecilia Herzog from Inverde and her husband Alex (Amigos do Parque) were in charge of the whole thing and through their hard work, devotion and energy made sure that it all run smoothly, in a brilliant manner.  The most positive thing about this trip has certainly been meeting people like them and like Fabiana Duarte de Paula, Eudaldo Guimaraes, Ana Arruda, Suzana Sattamini, Pedro Cavalcanti, Natalia Ribeiro, Andrea Palatnik, Luciano Mariz, Gina Boemer or so many other amazing folks that I am surely forgetting now and have shown to me such conviction and hope in change, such great generosity and will to help, sharing their energy and intelligence for this project.  They have restored my at times damaged faith in human kind.

This time at the end we had a panel discussion with journalist Amélia Gonzales from O Globo and oceanographer David Zee from the University Veiga de Almeida and the collaboration from members of the audience, like Trajano Paiva, who runs a website devoted to the oceans called
What a great aftertaste to six fantastic weeks in Brazil.  And now for something completely different.

This post is dedicated to my good friend Miguel Gil, who helped me throughout the whole trip, shared the laughter, joys and miseries that come from traveling and just yesterday experienced the tragedy of his half of the cupuaçu cracking in the dry Granada air.  We will go and get some more, Miguel.

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Interview on Martha Stewart
Saturday, June 10, 2017
A big thanks to Martha Stewart for providing her support in helping us to get the word out on ocean acidification.

Here's a lovely photo of Martha with Barbara Ettinger and Sven Huseby, on the show:

And below you can see the interview:

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