Archive for the ‘Ocean’ Category

There was an interesting article in the New York Times today about a plan by the Netherlands to build a tulip-shaped island off-shore to help protect its coast from sea level rise.  Here is the photo that appeared:

From the article:

The idea, Mr. de Boer went on, would be not only to gain land and protect the coast, but also to showcase Dutch engineering skills. At the same time, an island could be an energy powerhouse, shaped like a ring to create so-called blue energy by using the contrast of fresh and salt water to generate electricity, or the ebb and flow of the tides. Wind turbines could also produce even more energy, he said.

A green project all-around? I’m skeptical, but the concept is quite interesting on many levels.


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I’ve been following the work of Margaret and Christine Wertheim, founders of the Institute for Figuring, for a few years now. I tried my own hand at hyperbolic crochet, and was invited by Margaret to contribute to her coral reef project. At one point, I had intended to make something of the collection of blue New York Times bags I’ve been collecting, but I have not had enough time to put into crafting in quite a while.

In any case, the hyperbolic crochet coral reef and toxic reef projects have continued without my participation and is now a wonderful exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center. Exhibition dates: October 13 -Dec 16, 2007. See more photos here (Chicago Exhibition) and here (toxic reef).

Finally, read more about the project on the Institute for Figuring‘s website. Excerpt:

…this collective celebration is motivated also by an ecological urgency, for coral is being devastated by global warming, agricultural run-off, urban effluent and marine pollutants. 3000 square kilometers of living reef are lost every year, nearly five times the rate of rainforest elimination. Ironically, as reefs disappear a sinister substitute is growing beneath the waves: In the north Pacific ocean the world’s plastic garbage is accumulating, fifty years of plastic trash building into a vortex twice the size of Texas and 30 meters deep. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as it is known, is a ghastly analog to the Great Barrier Reef, an aquatic “wonder” of appalling dimensions that continues to accrete. To highlight this monstrosity and our own role in its making, the latest spawn of the IFF is a toxic reef called Bikini Atoll – a hybrid assemblage made from yarn and plastic garbage. Our challenge for the future – and the reason we have chosen to exhibit this work– is to help raise awareness of this plastic problem, an ecological cancer whose stain will mar our planet’s face for geological time.

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Kyle Van Houten Shrimp Trawl Image
Satellite image of shrimp trawlers in China – Kyle Van Houtan

Yesterday, the Science section of the New York Times featured an article on the visible impact of shrimp trawling wordwide: Satellites Show Harvest of Mud That Trawlers Leave Behind. This is an interesting use of Google Earth for research and presentation purposes. Although I think Google Earth has a long way to go before it will be adopted by “the masses” it is simple enough to install and use that it is a viable way to get information across to those who are motivated enough to seek it out.

The gist of this research project is that when shrimp trawlers drag their gear along the bottom of the ocean, not only do they damage the ocean floor and kill many non-target species (aka bycatch or discards and can constitute as much as 98% of the total catch), they stir up so much mud that they actually affect water quality in a large area – large enough to be visible from space. Of course, image resolution is so fabulous now that almost everything is visible from space. But the point is that the previously unseen impact of one type of fishing is now clearly visible to anyone who chooses to look, from the comfort of their own computer.

If you want to take the “tour”, Kyle Van Houtan and Daniel Pauly have posted a web site with trawler mudtrail images in Google Earth with full instructions and more information about their project.

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Review of Dominant Wave Theory

In this month’s Seed Magazine, I found a mention of an art book on ocean debris, Dominant Wave Theory with photographs by Andy Hughes.

According to Amazon:

Andrew Hughes’s work explores the detritus and garbage washed up on the shores where he surfs. Despite their ominous presence, these mass-produced items become aesthetic forms within the open theater of the beach. By photographing everyday products in such an environment, Hughes attempts to draw attention to the small scale, the unseen, and the pollutants of modern industrial consumerist society.

A portion of the proceeds from this book, which was designed by well-know American designer David Carson, will be donated to three charities: Surfrider Foundation, Surfers Against Sewage, and the Marine Conservation Society.

Andrew Hughes studied fine art at Cardiff University in Wales and photography at the Royal College of Art, London. He has been awarded various commissions and residencies including the Millennium Fund, South West Arts, and the Tate Gallery St. Ives. He is an avid surfer.

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Leatherback Sea Turtles: They’re Going Faster Than You Think

I found a link to a great site about Leatherback Sea Turtles in Science Magazine this week The site, The Great Turtle Race sponsored by Leatherback Trust, is actually quite fun for adults and kids alike. According to Science:

Close to 95% of leatherback turtles in the Pacific have disappeared in the past 2 decades. The Costa Rica population has decreased to fewer than 100.

To raise support for the critically endangered beasts, several conservation organizations have created The Great Turtle Race. From 16 through 29 April, 11 turtles will be tracked as they migrate from their nesting areas in Costa Rica to south of the Galápagos Islands off Ecuador. The racers are equipped with satellite tags so their locations can be tracked online. The data will provide a nearly real-time, turtle’s-eye perspective on the ocean, including measurements of water temperature and depth.

Definitely take the time to check out the site, follow the progress of the turtles, learn a few facts about turtles and how scientists are studying their movements, and cheer on your favorite tortuga.

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In today’s New York Times, there was a nicely written criticism of the role of the aquarium industry in education and conservation:

Can Man Improve on Nature’s Fishbowl?

Published: April 8, 2007


AQUARIUMS, like zoos, are weird places. We are uncertain they should exist at all, yet if they are there, we want to see them — a fact well known to cities that hope to attract tourists and revitalize commercial districts, and that have built some two dozen aquariums in the last quarter century.

Already more than 4.5 million people have visited the latest and most spectacular example, the Georgia Aquarium, which opened here in November 2005 to a boosterish chorus of oohs and ahhs over the number of gallons, the number of species, the catering by Wolfgang Puck and the IMAX-size tank windows.

The more popular and entertaining aquariums become, the more supporters insist that they educate and inspire conservation. And the more critics worry that aquariums are actually acting as enticing, crystal-clear substitutes for dying oceans.

A couple of other great quotes from this article:

Critics argue that aquariums have the opposite effect: as exhibits grow more technologically sophisticated, they implicitly suggest that oceans are disposable.


If aquariums are hard on fish, they provide a nurturing home for the rosy notion that humans can not only control nature, but improve on it.


sociologists have learned that moral indignation is not the only motivator to action: there must also be emotional and cognitive connections. If institutions give those too little attention, he said, the result is something the educational theorist David Sobel called ecophobia, a state in which the monumentality of the problem immobilizes the viewer.

An encounter with a living being, on the other hand, is a catalyst for action. “This,” Mr. Fraser said, “is the place where the love starts.”


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Beach Walking for the Waterkeeper Alliance

I just found out about the Beach Walk Project, in which Stein Kretsinger and Robert Weinman are walking and kayaking 1,600 miles along the coast from Miami to Manhattan to raise awareness about water quality and coastal issues. They will also hold a series of meetings with children and community members along the way (there are two meetings this weekend in my area) to encourage them to become involved in responsible stewardship of their watersheds. The walk is being sponsored by the Waterkeeper Alliance.

The project has a blog where you can track their progress and read their amusing and not-so-salty sea tales. I hope they get some more media attention, because their cause is certainly worthy.

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