On this Earth Day, I would like to share some “environmental
victories” at the national level, take note of advancements in
environmental education at the state and local levels, recognize a
global climate accomplishment at the international level and
celebrate the birthday of John Muir, a giant in the conservation
Sometimes, amid the environmental battles of today, it is good
to step back and look at the changes that our country has gone
through since the first Earth Day in 1970. Brian Clark Howard does
just that for
National Geographic by calling out 46 milestones in
The events he describes include various environmental laws,
starting off with the National Environmental Policy Act in 1970;
international agreements, such at the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species in 1975; corporate responsibility, such
as McDonald’s move to biodegradable packaging; community outrage,
such as in Love Canal; and books and movies, including Al Gore’s
call to climate action in “An Inconvenient Truth.”
This is not a comprehensive history of the environmental
movement, but it is a strong reminder about how advancements come
about in the efforts to improve our environment.
Six years ago on Earth Day, I wrote a story titled
The Evolution of Environmental Education (Kitsap Sun, April 17,
2010) about how environmental education became ingrained in
learning through the primary grades — in contrast to the very
limited discussions outside of college up until the 1980s.
In 1990, the Legislature mandated that environmental education
be part of public instruction at all grade levels, then in 2009 new
statewide standards brought a focus to not only ecology but also
social and economic systems.
My story describes the struggle to integrate these additional
studies into overall classroom learning, rather than teaching
separate units on each topic. That effort at integration has
continued, as teachers work together to share information about
what works in the classroom. See
Education for Environment and Sustainability at the Office of
Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Climate change agreement
More than 150 world leaders gathered at United Nations
Headquarters in New York City today to sign an agreement designed
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the globe. This is the
formal signing of an accord reached in Paris by more than 170
countries four months ago.
“Today is a day to mark and celebrate the hard work done by so
many to win the battle in securing the Paris agreement,” Secretary
of State John Kerry said this morning, as quoted in a
Newsweek article. “Knowing what we know, this is also a day to
recommit ourselves to actually win this war… Nature is changing at
an increasingly rapid pace due to our own choices.”
Hannah Hickey of
University of Washington News and Information rounded up
comments from UW experts on the topic. Some were hopeful that the
international pact will mean substantial reductions in greenhouse
gases before ever more drastic climate change comes about. Others
seemed to be saying that the agreement is too little too late.
John Muir, whose name is synonymous with the conservation
movement in the U.S., had much to say about the need to protect
special places. Muir’s birthday was yesterday, and I appreciated
10 inspirational quotes about the outdoors that was pulled
together by the Department of Interior.
One of my favorites: “Between every two pine trees there is a
door leading to a new way of life.”
John Muir has been called “the father of the national parks,”
and I think it is fitting that we take time to recognize his
contributions this year, on the 100th anniversary of the National
Park Service. I’ve posted the first of two videos produced for the
park service. Both can be found on YouTube:
Capt. Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society,
has condemned the Humane Society of the U.S. for forming an
alliance with SeaWorld, saying SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby “has found
his Judas,” and HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle “single-handedly put the
brakes on the movement inspired by Blackfish.” Read the full
Sea Shepherd’s website.
SeaWorld and the Humane Society of the U.S. are urging President
Obama to take a stronger stand against whaling by the Japanese
harpoon fleet, which recently returned to Japan with 333 dead minke
whales, all killed in the Antarctic.
“The United States is well-positioned to lead a comprehensive
effort to persuade Japan to abandon commercial whaling as an
anachronism that is imprudent, unnecessary for food security, cruel
and economically unsound,” states the
letter to Obama (PDF 464 kb), signed by Joel Manby, president
and CEO of SeaWorld, and Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of
Combining forces to oppose commercial hunting of marine mammals
throughout the world is one element of a negotiated agreement
between SeaWorld and HSUS. Of course, the most notable parts of
that agreement specified that SeaWorld would discontinue its
breeding program for killer whales and halt all theatrical
Water Ways, March 17.
This year’s whale hunt in the Antarctic was endorsed by the
Japanese government, which considers dead whales to be lethal
samples of tissue collected during an annual “research” trip, which
ultimately puts whale meat on the commercial market.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that the whale
hunt, as carried out at that time, failed to meet scientific
standards. As a result, the Japanese government took a year off
from whaling, altered its plan and continued the whale hunt at the
end of last year going into this year. This time, Japanese
officials declared that they would no longer be subject to
international law on this issue, so a new lawsuit would be
Meanwhile, an expert panel of the International Whaling
Commission took a look at the new “research” plan and concluded
that Japan still had not shown how killing whales conforms to the
requirements of research, given options for nonlethal research. See
of the Expert Panel …”
Last week’s report by the Japanese Institute of Cetacean
Research said the whalers were able to obtain all 333 minke whales
proposed in the plan. It was the first time in seven years that the
full sampling was completed, because Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society was not there to interfere, according to the report on the New
Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean.
Of the 333 whales, males numbered 103 and females 230. Of the
females, 76 percent were sexually mature, and 90 percent of the
mature females were pregnant, suggesting a healthy population of
minke whales, according to the report.
The letter from Manby and Pacelle acknowledged that the U.S.
government had joined with 30 nations in December to write a letter
voicing concerns about Japan’s decision to resume whaling. But the
Manby-Pacelle letter also complains that the U.S. has given up its
leadership role on the issue, ceding to New Zealand and Australia
for the legal battles.
“In the United Kingdom, in Latin America, and elsewhere, whale
welfare is high on the diplomatic agenda with Japan and other
whaling nations,” the letter states. “We believe that it is time
for the United States to re-assert itself as a champion for whales,
and to take a stronger hand in pressing Japan to relinquish
Among the steps that should be considered, according to the
The U.S. delegation to the International Whaling Commission
should be empowered to threaten Japan with sanctions, though
details were not specified in the letter.
The U.S. government should include provisions against whaling
in international trade agreements.
Japan’s potential assets should be surveyed as a prelude to
invoking the Pelly Amendment to the Fisherman’s Protective Act of
1967. The amendment allows a ban on imports of fishing products
from a country that violates international fishery conservation
rules — including those of the IWC.
Meanwhile, the successful Japanese whale hunt has motivated
environmental groups throughout the world to call on their national
governments to confront Japan directly, at least in diplomatic
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has confronted the
Japanese whaling ships on the high seas in years past, is
rethinking its plans for the future, according to Capt. Peter
Hammarstedt, chairman of Sea Shepherd Australia’s Board of
“Sea Shepherd was handicapped by the new ICR strategy of
expanding their area of operations and reducing their quota,
meaning that the time to locate them within the expanded zone made
intervention extremely difficult with the ships that Sea Shepherd
is able to deploy,” Hammarstedt said in a
This past season was an opportunity for world governments to
find the resolve to uphold international conservation law, he said.
The Australian and New Zealand governments could have sent patrols
to protect declared sanctuaries, but they failed to do so, “and
this has served to illustrate that the only thing that has proven
effective against the illegal Japanese whaling fleet has been the
interventions by Sea Shepherd,” he added.
Jeff Hansen, Sea Shepherd Australia’s managing director, said
the Australian and New Zealand governments have offered false
“The majority of Australians wanted the Australian government to
send a vessel to oppose the slaughter,” Hansen said. “They did not.
Sea Shepherd requested that the Australian government release the
location of the whalers. They refused. Instead, the governments
responsible for protecting these magnificent creatures stood by, in
the complete knowledge that both federal and international crimes
were taking place. This empty response from authorities in the wake
of the ICJ ruling is a disgrace.”
Hammarstedt hinted that Sea Shepherd might be back later this
year when the Japanese ships take off for another season of
“Sea Shepherd will soon have a fast long-range ship,” he said.
“More importantly, Sea Shepherd has something that the Australian
and New Zealand governments lack — and that is the courage, the
passion and the resolve to uphold the law.”
Naomi Rose, a marine mammal biologist who worked for the Humane
Society of the U.S. for more than 20 years, posted a blog saying
that it is alright for animals rights activists to celebrate a
victory, even though SeaWorld remains in operation. Naomi now
serves as an advocate for the Animal Welfare Institute. Her blog
and Facebook page is called From a Dolphin’s
Point of View:
“To anyone in an activist community with a clear adversary — a
corporation, a commercial industry, a societal norm… — sometimes
the battles become more important than the reason for them. It
becomes less about changing how things are and more about winning.
But I have to wonder sometimes: What does winning look like to
these activists? Is it only a victory when the adversary is utterly
crushed, with no survivors left on the battlefield? Do they win
only when the war is utterly over, with no more battles, even a
small skirmish, left to fight?
“For myself, as a marine mammal protection advocate who has been
actively working to end the captive display of cetaceans for over
20 years, I have never been interested in vanquishing my opponent
(the captive cetacean industry, of which SeaWorld is one of the
I was still half asleep this morning when a news report about
SeaWorld broke through my slumber. The voice on the radio beside my
bed was saying that SeaWorld would no longer breed killer whales
and that the company would follow through on its commitment to end
the arena shows that have attracted audiences for decades.
It was hard to believe this news after covering many years of
battle between SeaWorld and marine mammal advocates.
As I soon learned, SeaWorld and the Humane Society of the U.S.
had suddenly become unlikely partners in a planned campaign to:
End commercial whaling and the killing of seals, sharks and
other marine animals;
Protect coral reefs and end commercial collection of ornamental
Promote sustainable seafood and naturally grown foods.
SeaWorld also plans to redouble its efforts to rescue and
rehabilitate marine creatures in distress, spending $50 million
over the next five years.
“Times have changed,” says a statement on
SeaWorld’s website, “and we are changing with them. The killer
whales currently in our care will be the last generation of killer
whales at SeaWorld. The company will end all orca breeding as of
It was such a major move by SeaWorld that nobody could ignore
it, although many animal-rights advocates could not forget that
SeaWorld is still holding captive animals and has made no promises
about dolphins and other marine mammals.
The SeaWorld statement includes this quote from Joel Manby,
SeaWorld’s new chief executive officer:
“SeaWorld has introduced more than 400 million guests to orcas,
and we are proud of our part in contributing to the human
understanding of these animals. We’ve helped make orcas among the
most beloved marine mammals on the planet. As society’s
understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing
with it. By making this the last generation of orcas in our care
and reimagining how guests will experience these beautiful animals,
we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks
with experiences that matter.”
“The world is waking up to the needs of all animals, and the
smartest CEOs don’t resist the change. They hitch a ride on it and
harness the momentum.
“Joel Manby, SeaWorld’s CEO, is banking on the premise that the
American public will come to SeaWorld’s parks in larger numbers if
he joins our cause instead of resisting it, and if SeaWorld is a
change agent for the good of animals. He’s exactly right, and I
give him tremendous credit for his foresight….
“SeaWorld and The HSUS still have some disagreements. But we’ve
found an important set of issues to agree upon. The sunsetting of
orcas in captivity is a game changer for our movement, one that’s
been a long time coming, and one that is only possible because of
your advocacy and participation. I am immensely excited about this
announcement and I hope you are too.”
It may be a good step, but many advocacy groups say it is not
“This win is big … really big. SeaWorld has announced that it
will no longer breed orcas. This means that this generation of
orcas will be the last to suffer in SeaWorld’s tanks.
“PETA and caring people around the world have campaigned hard to
see this day. PETA’s celebrity supporters—including Kate del
Castillo, Jason Biggs, Jessica Biel, Bob Barker, Marisa Miller, and
Joanna Krupa—have all worked to expose the unnatural conditions and
untimely deaths of animals at SeaWorld. And actor Edie Falco voiced
our cutting-edge “I, Orca” project. People everywhere were outraged
after watching Blackfish, which exposed the miserable living
conditions for orcas at the theme park.
“Today comes the payoff. For decades, orcas, beluga whales,
seals, and many other animals have suffered in confinement at
SeaWorld. And while this decision is a step in the right direction,
to do right by the orcas now, SeaWorld must move these
long-suffering animals to ocean sanctuaries so that they may have
some semblance of a natural life outside their prison tanks. And we
must remember the other animals who will remain in captivity until
SeaWorld does right by all of them.”
“There has been a dramatic change in public attitudes about
capturing and holding whales and dolphins for captive
entertainment. Movies like Free Willy, The Cove, and Blackfish have
all had a tremendous impact. They have helped educate a generation
of people about how scientifically and ethically wrong it is for
whales and dolphin to be confined in captivity doing circus tricks.
People around the world are rightfully demanding change.
“SeaWorld’s attendance has dropped precipitously and
shareholders have pounded the stock price. Legislation and lawsuits
call for SeaWorld to reform. CEO Manby failed to mention two
lawsuits Earth Island has been supporting against SeaWorld’s
captive program. These lawsuits include our intervention to support
the California Coastal Commission ban on trade and breeding of
captive orcas, and a lawsuit contending that SeaWorld uses false
and deceptive advertising and unfair business practices by making
untrue claims about orcas in captivity.
“The company’s decision to stop orca breeding isn’t enough. More
change is needed. Their announcement does not end the threat that
SeaWorld and other captive facilities pose to dolphins and whales.
Dolphins, belugas, and orcas continue to be captured around the
world and are suffering in captivity.”
“It’s a long time coming but a fabulous announcement. It’s a
huge step in the right direction. It’s a responsible step into the
21st century; hopefully, it’s just the beginning of the pendulum
swinging that way.
“Survive and adapt to what the public wants and demands in the
21st century, or this business model no longer works and you are
out of business. They did not do this because it was the altruistic
thing to do. This was forced upon them by dedicated activists
raising the issue to where it became a global concern [that]
affected their bottom line, and they have to react.”
Orca Network, in a story by Evan Bush, the Seattle Times:
“It’s very gratifying. It’s been 20 years we’ve been asking them
to do this, to phase out their captive killer-whale
circus-entertainment-business model. Finally they are. It makes me
feel like we’re on the right track, even when it looked
“We would like to see them actively investigate how to return
their captives on a case-by-case basis to a sea-pen rehabilitation
center where they can feel the ocean and regenerate their
“Though it is long overdue in the face of overwhelming evidence
of harm to orcas in captivity and evolving public opinion, the
Animal Legal Defense Fund applauds SeaWorld for its historic
decision to phase out its inhumane captive orca program.
“Thanks to our hundreds of thousands of supporters, the Animal
Legal Defense Fund has been able to maintain immense legal pressure
on SeaWorld and other ‘entertainment’ providers, including circuses
and roadside zoos, who inhumanely confine animals and deprive them
of everything that is natural and important to them.
“SeaWorld’s historic announcement comes mere weeks before
Ringling’s final use of elephants in its traveling circus, and mere
weeks after Animal Legal Defense Fund intervened to ensure the
California Coastal Commission’s permit conditions are upheld, that
allow SeaWorld San Diego to expand only if it ends its captive
“In my opinion, SeaWorld is not ending their breeding program;
the impending death of Tilikum is forcing them ending it. Tilikum
was their main supplier of sperm stock. We’re not taking SeaWorld
at face value, as historically they have proven they cannot be
trusted. Dolphin Project will continue to monitor and report on the
captive dolphins at their parks as we have been doing ever since
the day they opened.”
“This is a step forward but the present captive orcas will
continue to suffer for decades and they will continue to exploit
belugas and other dolphin species. They may well obtain other
cetaceans from the wild under the guise of ‘rescue’ and then claim
that they are unreleasable. That is how the aquarium and zoo
industry have gotten captives over the decades.
Further, there is a lot more to this cruel breeding issue. Sea
World must stop breeding belugas and other dolphin species.”
If you do an online search for “Earth Hour,” you’ll find lots of
people, organizations and businesses around the world participating
in this annual event on Saturday. But it appears that enthusiasm in
the U.S. and especially Washington state may be waning.
Earth Hour involves the simple act of uniting people throughout
the world by turning off the lights, television and other
electrical devices for an hour — from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Started in
2007 by the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Hour sends the message that
everyone can be involved in reducing the effects of climate
Through the years, I have enjoyed the quiet time, sometimes with
family and friends, sometimes with just my wife. Although it seems
like a good time to discuss the challenges of climate change, our
conversations don’t often go in that direction. Instead, we take a
moment to appreciate what we have, talk about things in general or
play some sort of game. Hide and Seek in a darkened house is what
the kids want to do.
I noticed in my online search that various restaurants around
the globe are offering candlelight dinners during Earth Hour this
year. I like that idea, although I’m not sure if it fits into the
pure spirit of Earth Hour. Still, to get out and be among a larger
group of people would be nice.
Restaurant & Bar in Toronto, Canada, has created a special
menu of locally grown foods for this Saturday’s Earth Hour. All 17
Brasserie Blanc restaurants in England will be celebrating the
DoubleTree Inn in Victoria to the north of here will be dimming
the lights throughout the hotel and encouraging people to recognize
“This year, we invite Finns to participate in the biggest candle
light dinner in the world to awake conversation about ecologically
responsible food. We ask people to turn off lights, light up
candles and spend an hour with their loved ones enjoying
“Food touches every single person, and about 20 percent of our
emissions are caused by what we eat. Approximately 60 percent of
the emissions are caused in the production and most of them are
related to producing meat, eggs and dairy.
“One of the most important things an individual can do to
protect climate is eating less meat and more vegetables and
sustainable seafood. Thinking about what we eat is a small act with
great impact. Organize your own candle light dinner and show your
support for action on climate change!”
These are just a few examples of how people are getting into
Earth Hour in other countries. However, I’m finding it harder each
year to find participants in Washington state, which has always
been a major part of the environmental movement. Check out the
The Space Needle and Pacific Science Center remain on the list
for going dark. (I’m not sure how the Space Needle restaurant is
involved.) Several other local groups on last year’s list have not
signed up so far this year.
The World Wildlife Fund boasts of support from 42,000 cities and
towns from 172 countries around the world. In Washington state,
Snoqualmie is the only city posted on the official participants
list, although Seattle is involved in the challenge to become
In addition to the Space Needle and Pacific Science Center,
landmarks going dark Saturday include the Golden Gate Bridge in San
Francisco, the Empire State Building in New York, Big Ben and
Buckingham Palace in London, the Forbidden City in Beijing, the
Eiffel Towel in Paris, the Borobudur and Prambanan temples in
Indonesia, and the Opera House in Sydney, where it all started.
Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, a Filipino Cardinal of the Roman
Catholic Church, urged his followers in Manila to be one with the
rest of the world, as part of Pope Francis’ call for “ecological
justice,” according to a story by reporter Leslie Ann Aquino in the
“Let’s turn off our appliances and other things that use
electricity to give our world a little rest,” Tagle was quoted as
This year, for the first time, St. James Cathedral in Seattle
will participate in Earth Day by darkening its exterior, thus
“bringing awareness to the issue of climate change in the spirit of
Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on environment and
poverty,” according to Earth
Perhaps before Saturday additional newcomers will become part of
Earth Hour, as others renew their participation in the annual
The Ballard Locks is a great place to visit, especially in the
late summer and fall when the salmon are migrating into Lake
Washington. I’ve been taking out-of-town friends and family there
for years to observe the multitude of boats using the locks and to
peer at salmon through windows of the fish ladder.
I never thought much about all the mechanical equipment that
keeps the locks functioning. But during a recent visit, I was taken
to a darker and more dangerous side of the facility. I walked down
a spiral iron staircase some 60 feet deep into an abandoned pumping
plant. Rusty iron pipes and pumps were still in place, having been
shut down three years ago out of concern that a pipe might burst
while someone was down in the well.
Growing concerns about the safety and maintenance problems
inspired me to write a story about the locks for the Encyclopedia
of Puget Sound, along with a sidebar about salmon
in the Lake Washington watershed that migrate along a treacherous
route through the locks.
The locks were completed in 1916, and much of the antique
equipment is still in operation — including gears, pulleys and
chains. The mechanical works and the big steel doors with their
neatly aligned rivets remind me of the art and aesthetic design of
(Wikipedia), a style with its own dedicated page on Pinterest.
A dam-safety study and growing awareness of the outmoded
equipment could help bring money for a major renovation, which
could cost $50 million or more. President Obama’s budget, recently
submitted to Congress, includes funding for replacing the pumping
plant I mentioned above but not much more. By the way, while I was
at the locks in early January, contractors were beginning to remove
the old pumping plant equipment — even though replacement is not
My trip to the locks and my follow-up reporting have given me a
new perspective on a place I thought I knew fairly well. In
reality, I knew very little about the inner workings of the Ballard
Locks, officially known as the Hiram S. Chittenden Locks. I hope
you can learn something about the facility by reading my story.
Meanwhile, officials at the locks are planning a major
centennial celebration. Although the first ship went through the
“Government Locks” in August of 1916, the opening celebration was
delayed until the Fourth of July in 1917. (Check out Friends
of the Ballard Locks.) At the time, it was a major event,
including fireworks and other festivities. More than 100,000 people
attended, according to reports.
I’m told that supporters will roll out various activities
throughout next year, in part because July 4 is now associated with
many other events. For information, see ballardlocks.org.
I will try to keep up with the various centennial plans and
report details of the events as information becomes available.
If you write about “all things water,” as I do, sooner or later
you must write about toilets. On the serious side, we’ve discussed
the issue of sanitation and the lack of clean water in many areas
of the world. On the humorous side, toilet jokes seem to have
claimed a spot on many television sitcoms — but we don’t need to
get into that.
The word “toilet,” by the way, originated not from the device
used to eliminate waste nor from the room where this device was
located. It came from the French toile, the word for “cloth,” which
was draped over a lady’s or gentleman’s shoulders when their hair
was being dressed, as explained by Wikipedia. Eventually, the
entire ensemble of the dressing table, mirror, powders and brushes
came to be known as the toilette, as I described in an
Amusing Monday post in October of 2013.
I’ve covered funny signs to direct people to the appropriate
restroom. Visit the Chive
gallery for 14 of these amusing signs.
I don’t believe I have ever taken a close look at toilet seats
and their lids, but it turns out that many are available for
purchase on the Internet. On a related note, my wife Sue and I have
a bathroom decorated in a Seahawks theme. The green-and-blue lid on
the toilet seat celebrates the Super Bowl victory two years ago. It
was a gift from her brother.
Here are some of the amusing toilet seats I found. Click on the
image to find at least one place where the item is sold.
Japanese whalers recently returned to the Antarctic with a new
plan to kill 333 minke whales for scientific research, defying
official positions of many countries throughout the world.
Japan called off the annual whaling program for one year after
the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s commercial
whaling operation failed to meet the basic requirements of
scientific research. Japan had been using an exemption for research
to get around a ban on whaling under international treaty.
Japan submitted a new “research” plan for this year’s whaling,
but the document has yet to receive any official sanction. In fact,
Japan’s return to the Southern Ocean has been condemned by at least
33 government leaders.
Russell F. Smith II, U.S. commissioner to the International
Whaling Commission, said the U.S. government does not believe it is
necessary to kill whales to carry out scientific research
consistent with objectives of the IWC. Two key IWC committees have
raised serious questions about Japan’s whaling program, he
“Japan has decided to proceed with the hunt without addressing
several significant issues raised in their reports,” Smith said in
statement. “One of the key issues raised during both the Expert
Panel and SC (Scientific Committee) meetings was that Japan had not
justified the need for lethal whaling to carry out its research.
Unfortunately, rather than giving itself time to modify its
research program to fully address these issues, Japan has decided
to restart its program now.”
Japan’s plan for whaling this winter (summer in the Southern
Hemisphere) is to kill 333 minke whales, down from 935 minkes in
plans for previous years. In this new plan, the Japanese government
has not sanctioned the killing of humpback or fin whales, for which
the previous goal was 50 of each.
Although the Japanese government has declared that an annual
harvest of 333 minke whales is sustainable, the International
Whaling Commission has not approved the whale hunt nor even begun
discussing possible quotas or how any harvest, if approved, would
be allocated among other countries.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government has informed the United
Nations that it will no longer submit to the jurisdiction of the
International Court of Justice for “any dispute arising out of,
concerning, or relating to research on, or conservation, management
or exploitation of, living resources of the sea.” See story,
Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 19, 2015.
Australia, which brought the international lawsuit against
Japan, is now considering another round in the legal battle. The
effort could put Japan back in the spotlight, even though success
would be unlikely if Japan spurns the court’s jurisdiction,
according to reports in the
Sydney Morning Herald on Dec. 8, 2015.
Australian courts also ruled against the Japanese whalers for
violating protection provisions within the Australian Whale
Sanctuary around Antarctica, although Japan does not recognize
Australia’s jurisdiction. The whaling company, Kyodo Senpaku
Kaisha, was fined $1 million (in Australian dollars) for contempt
of an injunction against killing Minke whales within the
Other countries have joined the overall opposition to Japanese
whaling. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said his country’s
ambassador to Tokyo delivered a “strong” formal message to Japan
from 33 countries. Read the statement on the
New Zealand Embassy’s webpage.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which directly interfered
with the movements of Japanese whaling ships in past years, may
take a more low-key role on whaling this year. The organization’s
ships have become involved in new campaigns to halt poaching of
other species, including the endangered toothfish in Antarctic
news release Oct. 13, 2015.
Sea Shepherd’s U.S. affiliate was enjoined by the U.S. courts
from interfering with the whaling operations, but Sea Shepherd
Australia continued the high-seas battles, as featured in the
television series “Whale Wars”
on Animal Planet.
Now, the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin, which was undergoing
repairs in Melbourne, Australia, is headed into the Southern Ocean
on its second campaign against toothfish poaching. Alex
Cornelissen, CEO of Sea Shepherd Global, says new battles against
the Japanese whalers are not out of the question.
“Sea Shepherd is an anti-poaching organization,” Cornelissen
said in a
news release. “We are ready to find, document, report on and
where possible intervene against poaching operations that threaten
the precious balance of life in the Southern Ocean; whatever form
those poachers might take, whatever life they threaten.
“If Sea Shepherd comes across criminal activity, then our
history speaks for itself,” he added. “We will, as always, directly
intervene to prevent that crime from taking place.”
Sea Shepherd U.S., which was thwarted in direct action by the
courts, has now filed a counterclaim in those same U.S. Courts,
hoping to get a legal injunction against the Japanese government
for its whaling activities. The legal campaign is called
“Operation Ultimate Justice.”
“For years, Sea Shepherd took direct action against the whalers
on the seas, saving one whale at a time from the Japanese
harpoons,” said Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson. “But if we are to
bring the illegal slaughter to an end once and for all, we cannot
simply defeat the Japanese whalers on the water; we need to defeat
them in the courts.”
For many years, Canadian Tire Corporation, Canada’s largest
retailer, has been providing amusing television commercials around
Christmas, as well as at other times of year. This Christmas season
is no exception, as the company has taken to the airwaves to
promote a variety of products on a Christmas theme.
Who wouldn’t like a pasta-maker? How you serve the finished
pasta is up to you, as you’ll see in the first video on this
Another Christmas series by Canadian Tire features the Eh Bee
family. Check out “Eh Bee Falcon Flight School” in the second video
player on this page. Other commercials can be launched from the
“The Eh Bee Family tackles Giftmas.”
Last Christmas, a commercial told the story of a young boy who
was worrying that Santa would not be able to find him after his
family moved to a new home. See the video in the third player on
Canadian Tire, a 90-year-old company, has been featuring
Christmas commercials since at least 1985, as you can see in the
final video featuring Santa Claus and Ebenezer Scrooge talking
together and pondering the price of a Commodore 128 or Commodore 64
Five years ago, I could not have predicted that Washington state
would end up in a serious conflict with the federal government over
water-quality standards to protect people’s health. But it has
happened, and there’s no clear resolution in sight.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency will hold a “virtual
hearing” on this issue in December. Read on for details, but let me
first provide some recent history.
In November 2010, I wrote about the Department of Ecology’s
newest undertaking, as the agency embarked on an effort to define
“how clean is clean” in protecting public health in state waters.
Water Ways Nov. 4, 2010, and also
Kitsap Sun Nov. 2, 2010.
It was obvious at the time that the state would need to increase
its existing fish-consumption rate of 6.5 grams per day — a key
factor in the formula used to calculate the allowable concentration
of toxic chemicals in the water. After much discussion and delay,
the state eventually proposed a rate of 175 grams per day — 27
times higher than the existing rate.
The controversy arrived when the state proposed a cancer risk
rate of one in 100,000 — a risk 10 times higher than the existing
rate of one in a million. The higher cancer risk rate would
somewhat offset the effect of the much higher fish-consumption
rate. Other factors were changed as well, as I described in the
second of a two-part series in the
Kitsap Sun, March 11, 2015.
When Gov. Jay Inslee announced the state’s newly proposed
standards, he also proposed new legislation to study and reduce the
sources of toxic chemicals of greatest concern. The Legislation
failed to gain enough support for passage during the past
The governor has since pulled back from the original proposal
and agreed to return to a cancer risk rate of one in a million. A
new proposal is expected to be announced after the first of the
year, Meanwhile, the EPA is moving forward with its own proposal,
probably more stringent than what we’ll see from the state. I
outlined the likely differences in
Water Ways on Oct. 8.
On Dec. 15 and 16, the EPA will hold what it’s calling a
“virtual hearing” on the proposed water-quality criteria that the
agency developed for Washington state. The web-based call-in format
is designed to save considerable money, according to Erica Slicy,
contact for the event. Given interest across the state, multiple
in-person hearings in numerous locations would be needed to
accomplish what two phone-in hearings can do, she said.
People will be able to watch the virtual hearing and/or testify
registering on EPA’s website. The event will be recorded and
transcribed so that people will be able to review the comments
later. Written comments will be taken until Dec. 28.
If the state comes up with proposed water-quality standards, as
expected, the EPA could put the federal proposal on hold while the
state’s proposal undergoes considerable scrutiny. Meanwhile, I’m
sure supporters of the more stringent standards — such as Indian
tribes and environmental groups — will continue to be frustrated by
I’ve been going through the new report about climate change in
the Puget Sound region, and I can tell you that the most optimistic
chapter is the one on farming. Check out the story I wrote for the
Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.
To be sure, farmers will have plenty of problems to contend
with. Rising sea levels and more intense rainstorms will probably
causing flooding and seawater intrusion where it has never been
seen before. Some of today’s farmland could become unsuitable for
agriculture, and drier summers will force much better management of
limited water supplies.
But as the climate undergoes change, farmers can change with the
climate, growing crops suitable for the conditions they face, said
Kelly McLain, senior natural resources scientist with the
Washington Department of Agriculture.
“Farmers are extremely adaptable,” Kelly told me. “I think water
is going to be the limiting factor for almost all decisions.”
My third and final story in the series, which will be published
next week, talks about coming changes in habitats — and thus
species — expected in Puget Sound as air temperatures increase, sea
levels rise, rainstorms grow more intense and oceans undergo
I took on this writing project as part of my work for the Puget
Sound Institute, which publishes the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.
PSI commissioned the climate report with funding from federal and
state governments. The Climate Impacts Group at the University of
Washington compiled the best scientific knowledge into a very
readable report, which can be found on the encyclopedia’s
website or on the website of the Climate
One interesting chapter of the report, called
“How is Puget Sound’s Climate Changing?” (3 mb) supports the
understanding that climate change is not something we need to wait
for. It’s something that scientists can measure now, although
climatologists expect the changes to come faster as atmospheric
carbon dioxide levels increase.
Here are a few of the changes that can be measured, along with a
bit of explanation about the uncertainty:
Average air temperatures have been increasing in the Puget
Sound lowlands and are currently about 1.3 degrees higher than in
1895. Higher temperatures have been found to be statistically
significant for all seasons except spring, with the overall
increase shown in a range between 0.7 to 1.9 degrees F.
Nighttime air temperatures have been rising faster than daytime
temperatures. Nighttime lows have been increasing by about 1.8
degrees since 1895, while daytime highs have been increasing by
about 0.8 degrees.
The frost-free season has lengthened by about 30 days (range
18-41 days) since 1920.
As in other areas, short-term trends can differ substantially
from long-term trends. Cooling observed from 2000-2011, for
example, has not altered the long-term temperature increase.
An ongoing debate questions how much, if any, of the long-term
warming trend is a result of natural climate variability. One study
says up to 80 percent may be natural, caused by atmospheric
circulation, not by greenhouse gas buildup. Other researchers have
been unable to replicate the findings for other data sets.
Total annual precipitation does not appear to be increasing or
decreasing over a long time scale. Spring precipitation has
increased at a statistically valid 27 percent for the months March
Most studies are finding modest increases in the frequency and
intensity of heavy precipitation compared to historical levels, but
results depend on the time period and methods of analysis.
Ongoing variability in weather patterns related to El Nino and
the Pacific decadal oscillation will continue to strongly influence
temperature and precipitation for relatively short periods. It is
not clear how long-term climate change will interact with these
more variable climate patterns.