Last month, “Yale Environment 360” announced the winners of a
video contest with a focus on environmental themes. I found the
videos fascinating and very well done, although they may not fit my
normal definition of “amusing.” I think you’ll enjoy them.
“Yale Environment 360,” or
“E360” for short, is a thoughtful online publication published by
the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental studies. It is filled
with reports and opinions on many environmental issues.
Clicking the image on this page will take you to the
second-place winner in the contest, titled “A Red Dirt Town: An
Enduring Legacy Of Toxic Pollution in Southern Waters.” Producer
Spenser Gabin tells how the community of Anniston, Alabama, has
been forced to cope with a legacy of PCB pollution from a Monsanto
plant located upstream.
Gabin focuses on two main characters, Frank Chitwood, the Coosa
Riverkeeper, who is attempting to get the rivers and lakes posted
with warnings, and David Baker, a community activist who was one of
the first to begin cleanup at the Monsanto site. Baker’s brother,
who played in a PCB-contaminated area as a child, died at age 16
from cancer of the brain and lungs.
The winning video in the contest is
“Badru’s Story: Inside Africa’s Impenetrable Forest,” an
account of Badru Mugerwa, who manages a network of cameras to
document the loss of biodiversity and effects of climate change on
Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The film was produced
by Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.
The contest rules prevent the entrants from showing their videos
anywhere but on “E360” for at least 60 days, So I’m not able to
embed the videos at this time.
Contest judges included “E360″ editor Roger Cohn, “New Yorker”
writer and “E360″ contributor Elizabeth Kolbert, and documentary
filmmaker Thomas Lennon.
Another fascinating video produced for “E360″ is
“The Colorado River: Running Near Empty,” which takes
award-winning photographer Pete McBride back to his home area in
Colorado. From there, he follows the Colorado River until it runs
dry short of its historic delta in the Sea of Cortez.
“Raise the River or Move the Ocean” blog from earlier this
year? It featured Robert Redford and Will Ferrell feigning a debate
about the future of the Colorado River. I still get a laugh from
those videos, which manage to help educate us about the issue.
Rolfes was praised for her deft legislative work in this year’s
session and “for being one of the state’s strongest environmental
leaders,” according to a statement from the political
“In the Senate, Sen. Rolfes fought for real action to protect
Puget Sound and the public from the threat of dangerous and
increasing oil traffic in our state,” said Joan Crooks, CEO of
Washington Conservation Voters, in the news release. “She proved
time and again that she is an effective champion who isn’t afraid
to take on industry and the Big Oil lobby to protect our
environment and communities.”
Rolfes was recognized for submitting and promoting legislation
designed to improve the safety of oil transport in and around Puget
Senate Bill 6262, the “Oil Transportation Safety Act” — one of
only two priorities put forth this year from the Environmental
The bill was blocked by legislative leaders in the Senate in
favor of a bill proposed by the oil industry, Crooks said.
“In the 2014 Senate’s most dramatic moment on the floor, Sen.
Rolfes skillfully used a rare procedural motion to set the industry
bill aside,” stated the news release. “Her leadership resulted in
the bill’s eventual demise; it was a deft and dramatic maneuver for
this environmental champion.”
Rolfes’ predecessor in the Senate from the 23th District, Phil
Rockefeller, also from Bainbridge Island, was named
Legislator of the Year by WCV in 2007. That’s the year he
served as chief architect of the bill to create the Puget Sound
Partnership and pushed through the legislation. The partnership has
since taken on the role of coordinating the restoration of Puget
Sound. Rockefeller left the Senate when he was appointed to the
& Conservation Council in July 2011.
Old Spice, maker of aftershave, deodorant and so much more, has
gone wild with its television commercials the past few years.
I started out, as usual, to produce this “Amusing Monday” by
looking for videos with a water-related theme. I located the first
video on this page, which depicts a guy who cannot escape a fresh
shower no matter where he goes.
After that, I started looking at other Old Spice ads. The
company has produced so many weird videos it is hard to know where
to begin and end. Should we talk about the Old Spice “prank ads”?
Click here on “The
Flattering Man” and then hang on.
These prank ads, as Greg Kumparak of
Tech Crunch calls them, have been placed all over the Internet
as part of the Old Spice campaign. He includes links to eight
others in a story he posted in January.
Some people loved the ad that Old Spice calls “Momsong,” but
others were seriously weirded out or offended. It’s a bit more than
a mother’s lament that her son is coming of age with the help of
Old Spice: “Now he smells like a man and they treat him like one.”
At the end of the video, the screen includes links to two related
I’m more annoyed than amused by a shouting Terry Crews, who was
featured in a series of Old Spice commercials a couple years ago
and was called back this year to hock an Old Spice shaver. See this
video. In the commercial, he is both the person shaving and the
hair about to be shaved.
I could go on like this all day, but someone named Chris John
has compiled 21 Old Spice commercials in a single nine-minute video
on YouTube. Check out the second video player on this page.
Hunter Whitworth of
Paste magazine analyzes the Old Spice campaign, which is
engineered by the advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy of Portland,
“As fewer and fewer people watch live television—and as the
audience that does is spread over an increasing number of
channels—commercials are engineered with an eye towards their life
on the Internet; they are designed to go viral as much as they are
designed to sell you something.”
In his analysis, Whitworth makes an essential point: Unlike so
many funny commercials being created today, these Old Spice ads
actually place the product in the spotlight. As I once learned in
an advertising class, you can’t forget to mention what it is you
Japanese whalers who hunt whales in the Antarctic can no longer
justify their actions as “scientific research” and must stop their
annual whale roundup, according to a ruling by the International
Court of Justice.
The court ruled today that Japan’s so-called “research” does not
meet ordinary scientific standards. The court ordered Japan to stop
killing whales under the guise of its research program, called
JARPA II. As stated in a 73-page finding
(PDF 649 kb) supported by 12 of the 16 judges:
“Taken as a whole, the Court considers that JARPA II involves
activities that can broadly be characterized as scientific
research, but that the evidence does not establish that the
programme’s design and implementation are reasonable in relation to
achieving its stated objectives.
“The Court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan
for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with
JARPA II are not ‘for purposes of scientific research’ pursuant to
Article VIII, paragraph 1, of the Convention (the International
Convention for the Regulation of Whaling).”
In the legal action brought before the United Nations court by
Australia, the judges carefully scrutinized the JARPA II methods
and procedures. They found that the sampling procedure and lethal
take of minke, fin and humpback whales falls short of legitimate
scientific study in many regards:
“The fact that the actual take of fin and humpback whales is
largely, if not entirely, a function of political and logistical
considerations, further weakens the purported relationship between
JARPA II’s research objectives and the specific sample size targets
for each species — in particular, the decision to engage in the
lethal sampling of minke whales on a relatively large scale.”
“Examining Japan’s decisions regarding the use of lethal
methods, the court finds no evidence of any studies of the
feasibility of or the practicability of non-lethal methods, either
in setting the JARPA II sample sizes or in later years in which the
programme has maintained the same sample size targets. The court
also finds no evidence that Japan examined whether it would be
feasible to combine a smaller lethal take and an increase in
non-lethal sampling as a means to achieve JARPA II’s research
After the ruling, Koji Tsuruoka, Japan’s representative at the
court, addressed reporters at the Peace Palace in The Hague.
According to a report by
Australian Associated Press, Tsuruoka stated:
“Japan regrets and is deeply disappointed that JARPA II … has
been ruled by the court as not falling within the provisions of
Article 8. However, as a state that respects the rule of law, the
order of international law and as a responsible member of the
global community, Japan will abide by the decision of the
He said Japanese officials would need to digest the judgment
before considering a future course of action. He refused to discuss
whether a new research program could be crafted to allow whaling to
Australian officials were careful not to gloat over the victory
as they emphasized the need to maintain favorable relations with
Japan. Bill Campbell, Australia’s general counsel in the case, was
quoted by the AAP:
“The decision of the court today, important as it is, has given
us the opportunity to draw a line under the legal dispute and move
The ruling was welcomed by environmental groups, including Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society, which has sent ships to the
Antarctic to directly confront the whaling ships and interfere with
their whaling activities, as seen on the television show “Whale
Wars.” Capt. Alex Cornelissen of Sea Shepherd Global had this to
say in a
“With today’s ruling, the ICJ has taken a fair and just stance
on the right side of history by protecting the whales of the
Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and the vital marine ecosystem of
Antarctica, a decision that impacts the international community and
future generations. Though Japan’s unrelenting harpoons have
continued to drive many species of whales toward extinction, Sea
Shepherd is hopeful that in the wake of the ICJ’s ruling, it is
whaling that will be driven into the pages of the history
I admit it seems kind of quaint, but I look forward to turning
out all the lights in my house once a year and sitting in the dark.
It’s a time to contemplate all our marvels of technology while
considering the needs of many people around the world.
Earth Hour is coming up on Saturday beginning at 8:30 p.m. The
question of the hour: What can we each do to make things
If you get the chance, bring your family and/or friends
together. You can go out to dinner or do other things before or
after the designated hour, but for 60 minutes let your thoughts
wander to other places in the world.
For me, that kind of reflection is enough for the moment, but
the Earth Hour
website talks about inspiring people to join environmental
projects across the globe. By reviewing the website, Earth Hour can
become a time of learning about worthwhile causes. Listen to Jason
Priestly and others in the video player on this page.
If you want to make a difference, check out the five-step
program for creating an Earth Hour event. Maybe think about
doing something over the next year and sharing it on the Earth Hour
website in 2015.
What I like about Earth Hour is that it unites people from
around the world, if only for an hour. For those who wish to take a
leadership role, Earth Hour is one place to start. As founder Andy
Ridley says in a
“What makes Earth Hour different is that it empowers people to
take charge and use their power to make a difference. The movement
inspires a mixture of collective and individual action, so anyone
can do their part.”
Earth Hour begins each year in New Zealand, the first place the
clock strikes 8:30 on the designated Saturday night.
Famous landmarks involved in the lights-out event include the
Empire State Building, New York; Tower Bridge, London; Edinburgh
Castle, Scotland; Brandenburg Gate, Berlin; the Eiffel Tower,
Paris; the Kremlin, Moscow; and the Bosphorus Bridge connecting
Europe to Asia.
A multi-million-dollar tidal energy project in Admiralty Inlet,
north of the Kitsap Peninsula, has been approved by the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission.
The Snohomish County Public Utility District, which was granted
a license for the double-tidal-turbine pilot project, says it will
be the first “grid-connected array of large-scale tidal energy
turbines in the world.” The twin turbines are designed to produce
600 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power several hundred
“Anyone who has spent time on the waters of Puget Sound
understands the power inherent in the tides,” PUD General Manager
Steve Klein said in a news
release. “In granting this license, the FERC acknowledges the
vigilant efforts of the PUD and its partners to test the viability
of a new reliable source of clean energy while at the same time
ensuring the protection of the environment and existing uses.”
The federal commission acknowledged concerns for fish and
wildlife brought forth by area tribes, whale-watch operators and
environmental groups. But the pilot project has precautionary
measures built in, according to the commission’s
order (PDF 503 kb) issued yesterday:
“For these new technologies, where the environmental effects are
not well understood, the risks of adverse environmental impacts can
be minimized through monitoring and safeguard plans that ensure the
protection of the public and the environment.
“The goal of the pilot project approach is to allow developers
to test new hydrokinetic technologies, determine appropriate sites
for these technologies, and study a technology’s environmental and
other effects without compromising the commission’s oversight of a
project or limiting agency and stakeholder input…
“A pilot project should be: (1) small; (2) short term; (3)
located in non-sensitive areas based on the commission’s review of
the record; (4) removable and able to be shut down on short notice;
(5) removed, with the site restored, before the end of the license
term (unless a new license is granted); and (6) initiated by a
draft application in a form sufficient to support environmental
Among tribes that fish in the area, the Suquamish Tribe raised
concerns about the likelihood of underwater turbines violating
tribal treaty rights to fish. The turbines have the potential for
killing or injuring fish, according to the tribes, and they could
become a point of entanglement for fishing nets and anchor
“Though we respect the tribes’ perspective and concerns, we
disagree that licensing this project will adversely affect their
treaty rights,” the commission stated in its order. The license
contains no restrictions on fishing, and it requires measures to
protect the fish.
Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman said tribal officials
have not had time to review the license conditions in detail but
will do so over the coming days. He said he would consult with
legal and technical advisers before laying out possible actions for
consideration by the tribal council.
Michael Harris, executive director of the Pacific Whale Watch
Association and a board member for Orca Conservancy, said he was
disappointed that more people have not recognized the problems that
can be created by these turbines — especially in Admiralty Inlet, a
primary route for killer whales and many other species.
The turbines will create unusually loud and potentially painful
underwater noise, Harris said. This installation is being developed
at a time when researchers are coming to understand that noise can
disrupt the behavior of killer whales and other marine mammals.
The turbines themselves have open blades that can injure any
curious animal getting too close, he noted. And if the turbines
become a serious threat, someone must swim down and mechanically
stop the blades from turning, something that could take four
“I’m not against green energy,” Harris said when I talked to him
this morning. “But let’s not put blinders on. I would like to see
these turbines located in another spot. Why not Deception
Harris said it is critical for people to pay close attention to
the pilot project if it goes forward. Everyone should be prepared
to stop the experiment if it proves costly to sea life.
The order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission maintains
that conditions of approval will protect killer whales and other
“The Near Turbine Monitoring and Mitigation Plan requires
detection of fish and should provide observation of nearby killer
whales. Those observations combined with the hydrophone monitoring
required under the Marine Mammal Protection and Mitigation Plan
will allow detection and observation of killer whales if they come
near the turbines.
“The adaptive management provisions of the Marine Mammal
Protection and Mitigation Plan will also allow adjustments to
project operation if potential harm to killer whales is detected
or, in the very unlikely event, a whale is injured….
“This license also contains noise-related requirements that will
ensure the project does not have detrimental effects on killer
whale behavior. The Acoustic Monitoring and Mitigation Plan of this
license requires that if the sound level from turbine operation
exceeds 120 dB at a distance greater than 750 meters from the
turbine … the licensee shall engage the turbine brake until
modifications to turbine operations or configuration can be made to
reduce the sound level.”
According to several Internet sources, 120 dB is what someone
might hear standing near a chainsaw or jack hammer. That level is
considered close to the human threshold for pain.
In the Admiralty Inlet area, at least 13 local species are
listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species
One plant: golden paintbrush, threatened
One bird: marbled murrelet, threatened
Two marine mammals: Southern Resident killer whales,
endangered, and North Pacific humpback whale, endangered
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries
Service have concluded that none of the species would be in
jeopardy of extinction because of the pilot project.
Experts have concluded that marine mammals, including killer
whales, could be subjected to Level B harassment (behavioral
shifts) as a result of noise from the turbines. That would be in
violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act without incidental
take authorization. That means the Snohomish PUD must undergo
consultations with the National Marine Fisheries Service and
possibly change its plans before moving forward.
The PUD chose Admiralty Inlet for its swift currents, easy
access and rocky seabed with little sediment or vegetation. A
cable-control building for connecting to the power grid will be
located on Whidbey Island near Fort Casey State Park. The turbines
will be located in about 150 feet of water about a half-mile from
The turbines are manufactured by OpenHydro of Dublin, Ireland.
Each turbine measures about 18 feet in diameter, with a 414-ton
According to the PUD, these turbines have been used in
ecologically sensitive areas in other parts of the world. One
location is Scotland’s Orkney Islands, which features a diverse and
productive ecosystem that is home to numerous species of fish,
dolphins, seals, porpoises, whales and migrating turtles.
The pilot project has been supported with about $13 million in
grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and Bonneville Power
Administration along with federal appropriations.
Partners in various aspects of the project include the
University of Washington, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory,
Sound & Sea Technology and the National Renewable Energy
Washington Department of Ecology is pushing ahead with its plan
to create a “no-discharge zone” for Puget Sound, which would
prohibit the discharge of sewage from boats, even those with a Type
II marine sanitation device. Check out my story last week in the
Kitsap Sun, Feb. 19 (subscription).
For many people, it is disconcerting to think about mobile
toilets traveling everywhere in Puget Sound and discharging their
waste anywhere and at any time.
Kitsap Public Health District has gained a reputation for
tracking down sources of pollution and getting them cleaned up. If
you have a failing septic system, for example, you are expected to
get it fixed. Many of the Dyes Inlet beaches between Bremerton and
Silverdale were reopened to commercial shellfish harvesting, thanks
in no small part to these persistent efforts to clean up bacterial
Sewage-treatment plants still discharge some bacteria, despite
advanced treatment processes. Consequently, shellfish beds are
permanently closed around treatment plant outfalls, with the
closure zone dependent on the level of sewage treatment. And when
there are sewage spills, long stretches of beach may be closed to
shellfish harvesting for 10 days or longer.
When they are working properly, Type II marine sanitation
devices aboard boats are fairly good at killing bacteria, although
levels are still above state water-quality standards. Less certain
is what happens to human viruses, including hepatitis, that may not
be killed. In addition, marine toilets release chemicals — such as
chlorine, quaternary ammonia and formaldehyde — into the water.
It’s not hard to see why the goal would be to eliminate
discharges of boater waste into Puget Sound, assuming that
sufficient pumpout stations exist for people to offload their
waste. Pumpout stations are connected to sewage-treatment systems,
which do a better job of disinfection and remove most solids that
can contribute to algae blooms and low-oxygen conditions.
“We want to reach out and invite comments, questions and
suggestions over this draft proposal. We’re working with boating,
shipping and fishing leaders, and now is the time for broader
perspective and feedback. Everyone who lives here has a vested
interest in a healthy Puget Sound.”
Her approach leaves the door open to some creative solutions for
getting everyone in compliance with the no-discharge zone. As I
last week’s story, the no-discharge zone could be a hardship
for some tugboat and fishing boat operators. One estimate for
converting a tugboat is $125,000.
Ecology’s solution so far has been simple: Give those without
holding tanks three years to install the tanks and plug up theirs
Other solutions may be possible, although they could create
administrative burdens for Ecology. What about the idea of creating
an exemption for boats that have no holding tanks? Boat owners
could pay an annual fee for the exemption, and the money could go
into a fund to assist owners with the cost of conversion. Maybe a
conversion should be required, if necessary, at the time a boat is
sold. It’s just an idea.
When applying for an exemption from the no-discharge zone, boat
owners should agree to discharge treated wastes at a safe distance
from the beach. Maybe they should be required to know where
certified shellfish beds are located and stay even farther
I realize these ideas would complicate a simple plan, and maybe
there are better ideas. In general, I believe that a reasonable
solution should be proportional to the problem. We should not kill
a rat with heavy explosives, while ignoring the cost of
In sorting through the Super Bowl commercials that never made it
to the television screen, I came to realize that these so-called
“banned Super Bowl ads” fall into three categories.
There are those banned because they fall short of network and
NFL standards in the eyes of the censors. There are those BANNED
because they jump well over the line of acceptable family viewing.
Finally, there are commercials that were never banned but are
gaining attention on the Internet by just claiming to be.
In most cases, excess sexual innuendo or too much bare skin will
result in a rejection notice, but there are lots of other reasons
for banning commercials, as we shall see.
Under our water-related theme, a banned commercial for Dream
Water (video player) is creative, but it should come with a warning
for young viewers.
The original Super Bowl commercial for Soda Stream,
featuring Scarlett Johansson, included the line “Sorry, Coke and
Pepsi,” which Fox network officials required to be dropped.
USA Today has the story.
Newcastle, a beer company, took a unique approach by outlining
the epic beer commercial the company would have produced if it had
money for ads. Instead, Newcastle presents a video about the
story that could have been. Actress Anna
Kendrick talks about how she wishes she could have been in the
commercial and how she can’t even use the words “Super Bowl.”
HLG Studios, an advertising agency, made satirical would-be
Super Bowl ads for
Monsanto, “Picking up God’s slack;”
NSA, “Smile; we know when you’re not;” and
Swiffle, “Inequality sucks!”
The market for geoducks harvested in Washington state has
shifted from China to other Asian countries, primarily Hong Kong
and Vietnam, according to certificates issued by the Washington
State Department of Health.
We learned a week ago that the Chinese ban on imports from the
U.S. West Coast will continue until Chinese health authorities
better understand the U.S. system of protecting public health. See
Water Ways, Feb. 4, with links to other sources of
The ban caused exporters to find new markets. I reported these
numbers in a story published in
yesterday’s Kitsap Sun (subscription):
“Health certificates issued by the Washington State Department
of Health totaled 757 in January — more than double the 373
certificates issued in January 2013, when shipments were still
going into China. These certificates are required to identify the
shellfish-growing area and ensure that a given shipment of seafood
is safe to eat.
“Of the 757 certificates issued in January, 409 designated
shipments into Hong Kong, while 243 designated shipments into
Vietnam. Other shipments were to Malaysia, 38; Thailand, 24;
Indonesia, 8; and a number of countries with smaller shipments.
Because shipments were closed off to China in January, no
certificates were issued for that country.”
Wild geoduck harvesting is a multi-million industry, bringing
significant revenues to businesses, tribes and state
Yesterday’s story, which was picked up by the Associated Press,
describes how state and tribal geoduck divers appear to be on track
to take their allocations of deep-water geoducks.
How many of these giant clams are getting into China illicitly
and by what routes has been hard to track down. I have collected
many rumors and comments on background, but I’ve been unable to
verify the most provocative stories.
A new harvest year begins in April with new allocations of
geoducks for the state and tribes. Meanwhile, the Department of
Natural Resources has scheduled a bid opening for state geoduck
tracts later this month.
It will be interesting to see how the Chinese ban on imports
from the U.S. West Coast affects the price of geoducks over the
coming year. So far, after a short closure when the ban was
imposed, prices for wild geoducks have been holding fairly stable,
according to officials involved in the market.
Business and government officials involved in the lucrative
geoduck export market got some bad news on Friday, when federal
authorities released a letter they had received from the Chinese
The letter raises many questions — at least from a Chinese
perspective — about how the U.S. regulatory system protects public
health. The message from Chinese health authorities dashes the
hopes of industry officials for a quick lifting of the Chinese ban
on shellfish imports from the U.S. West Coast.
Washington state has a proud reputation for protecting public
health when it comes to shellfish, and the letter from China does
little to dispel suspicions among those who think that China may
have ulterior motives. After all, Chinese authorities have done
nothing to limit the geographic scope of the import ban or even
limit the ban to geoducks only.
statement (PDF 114 kb) from the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration concludes that the letter contains about
20 separate requests for information about testing and safety.
“We don’t not have a full understanding of the US regulatory
system including the definition of sea region and management, the
official monitoring on PSP and heavy metals and the responsibility
among the relevant government agencies, and we have not conducted
an on-site evaluation neither.”
The letter says the suspension of imports may be reduced to a
specific area after certain questions are answered. It calls on the
U.S. to develop an action plan for evaluation and outlines a review
process, including a visit by an “expert team” from China to
evaluate the geoduck inspection programs.
Officials at all levels in the U.S. say they are evaluating the
questions posed in the letter and preparing a coordinated