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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Are Mother Nature's 15 Minutes Really Over?

I was aghast to encounter this snippet in a thought-provoking "Art in America" article about environmentally conscious artist Mary Miss, who has striven for decades to challenge viewers to look beyond the landscape or landmark they think they see at first glance.

The NSF is the National Science Foundation.
The grant for Miss’s “Broadway” hub was the first artist-initiated project to be supported by the NSF. The award suggests how far afield scientists feel they need to reach at a time when public interest in environmental issues (and many forms of biological research) is diminishing at an alarming rate.
This prompts questions. Chief among them is whether it's true. Is there really declining interest in environmental issues? This is an art publication we're talking about, and the next several sentences are indeed filled with left-wing rage against the conservative machine.

And if so, is this blowback from the blink of an eye that English-language media has granted to climate warming, greenhouse gases, ocean acidification, the Plastics Problem, and myriad other exigencies that no one seems interested in any longer? Have people really experienced a surfeit of frequently toothless headlines, links, and TV spots about the descent into ecocide?

Say it ain't so. Or say it is. It really makes no difference to most people, I suppose.

But the following excerpt from the concluding paragraph comforted me, for some reason:
As with any kind of activist art, the difficulty is engaging the unconvinced—or, even harder, the uninterested. Miss, who approaches that challenge armed above all with an unerring formal sense, says she favors informing over advocating. Like most worthy art, her projects make viewers both more alert and more self-conscious. During a lecture at the IMA, she referred to the famous Borges parable of a map the size of the territory it charts; FLOW, she noted, is similarly a point-by-point, real-size mapping of a water system. She also cited something said to her by one of her scientific collaborators: “All property is riverfront property—the river starts at your front door.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Video: Rescuing Baby Humpback, And Boy Is He Excited

[I just realized that I'd not reposted this entry from my previous blog. But it's too heart-warming to leave behind, so I'm reposting it here and now. Plus, vowing to get blogging again.]

I just came across great video posted by Gershon Cohen of fellow Great Whale Conservancy (Earth Island Institute) founder Michael Fishbach and friends saving a juvenile Humpback Whale caught in a drift net this past winter in the Gulf of California/Sea of Cortez.

It's an abject lesson in the perils of even the most local of fishing practices, if it's carried out recklessly. That's no more than a few kilograms of monofilament webbing bringing down an animal that weighs tens of tons and is among the largest that's ever inhabited the earth.

Bravo to Cohen and Fishbach, and to others like them.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


From a delightful photo gallery of sea stars I just came across, one image in particular that struck me was the sight of a Sun Star grasping at and feeding off of the carcass of a penguin.

Those mollusks nearby must have breathed a serious sigh of relief.

'Rare' Fin Whale Grouping Off U.K. Coast

The BBC reports that scientists off the Cornish coast of southwest England were awed by the sight of 21 Fin Whales lunge-feeding together.

In the photo above (taken by La Jolla's Southwest Fisheries Science Center), you can see the telltale markings that distinguish the Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) from the Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus): the animal's white lower-right jaw and the light chevron behind its head.

Fin Whales aren't the type to hang out in stable groups, according to what I've read of them, so this was likely to be an unassociated aggregation that was chasing krill or other smallish schooling fish. The scientists who spotted them were counting sardines at the time, according to BBC. One of them called it an "incredibly rare event."

Seeing so many of the world's second-largest creatures in one spot would be more exciting, however, if it weren't another possible sign of a distressing development:
Dr Colin MacLeod, Marinelife's chief scientific adviser, said the sighting could be part of a wider movement of sea creatures around Britain's coast as a result of climate change.

"These changes indicate the extent to which climate change is affecting our marine animals.

"If it is affecting these top predators to such an extent, it is likely that it is also affecting other marine life further down the food chain, including species which are commercially important for the fishing industry," he said.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

Bad news for one of the Western Hemisphere's best marine conservation success stories, Cabo Pulmo in the Gulf of California, says "National Geographic."

In the comments, the article's author, Enrico Sala, says he and a colleague have a paper due out soon that's full of the "hard data" tracking sea life in Cabo Pulmo between 1999 and 2009.

I didn't see any links to online petition efforts to convince Mexican authorities to abandon plans to sell off this coastline to the hotel industry, though.

Wish I Were Here

Lots of divers will have nothing to do with the small stuff; it's sharks and mantas and such that gets their blood racing. But there's something to be said for those dives that provide big thrills in small packages.

Marine biologist Richard Mooi is enjoying such an excursion, and he's sharing the experience on the "Scientist at Work" blog:
We are focusing our shallow-water survey on the Verde Island Passage, a marine region felt to be the “center of the center” of Indo-Pacific marine biodiversity. The passage is already home to more documented species than any other marine habitat on earth, and its diverse list of species grows by the day. For example, we are just short of 800 species of sea slugs alone (of which a large proportion are new to science). I am astonished by the number of sea urchin species, which reached 37 just today. Although that figure is not as grandiose as other tallies, even in this small region I have seen more echinoderm species than ever before. I learned today from the Philippine scientists working with us here in Mabini that they found more than 50 species of reef-building corals in a single dive just this morning.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mermaid Jumps Shark

The trailer is out for a film called "Great White Shark: Beyond the Cage of Fear."

There's nothing wrong with a cast of Chippendale's divers (and one "mermaid") trying to "destroy the myth of a mindless killing machine," mind you. But I can't stop laughing over the filmmaker's zany and misguided conceit: dressing a grown woman as a fish (OK, half-fish) so she can briefly get into the frame with a Great White and thus prove that "a shark knows the difference between Us and Dinner." But this picture doesn't tell a thousand words. In fact, it's just too unintentionally ridiculous for words.

Talk about "jumping the shark."

If the 3-meter Great White in that shot turns on that Daryl Hannah look-alike, does it disprove the hypothesis? Then again, how could it, because SHE'S DRESSED AS A FISH!? And if it doesn't, does that confirm the hypothesis -- or simply prove that sharks prefer beefcakes to blondes?