Thursday, October 27, 2011

Carl Safina’s Proposal For A Merger of Knowledge and Devotion

Peregrine Falcon (Teddy Llovet)
First of all, you have to read Carl Safina’s blog post, “Knowledge and Devotion; A Proposal For A Merger” because it’s classic Safina: articulate, touching and thought-provoking.

He recasts the dilemma C.P. Snow laid out in his 1950s essay, “The Two Cultures,” bemoaning the gulf between science and cultural humanism, or the gulf between facts and values.

Safina writes: “Jacques Cousteau said, “We protect only what we love.” But to protect effectively, we must fuse head and heart. Then, we can’t just watch, and we can’t just wait; we must also do. The falcon must search the waves, but it also must focus on a target and execute the dive.

“....The broader trick is to harness science’s ability to find out what is really happening, with religion’s tendency to ask, “What is right to do?” Both halves are necessary. Without understanding what is really happening, religious imperatives have barely budged since the Middle Ages. They focus on the Creator yet ignore the creation. And without asking, “What is the right thing to do with our knowledge?,” scientific knowledge counts for little.”

Safina is one of the best examples of meeting the challenge put forth by C.P. Snow in merging science and cultural humanism. In this blog, he manages to describe the flight of the peregrine falcon and quote W.B. Yeats.

In looking to Christianity, he is told by Dr. David P. Gushee, Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University in Georgia, “Science and religion may not succeed in saving the Creation because there are not enough human beings who actually love this distressed world.”

That’s probably the case with Christianity that has a teleological dogma leading to the End of Days. Perhaps Hinduism or Buddhism may serve us better.

In this case, Safina is looking for a religious-like devotion that can ask, in this merger with science, “What is the right thing to do with our knowledge?”

That devotion is not in the dogmas of religion; it is in our cultural humanism— the poetry, the stories, the dramas, the paintings, the sculptures, the dances— of our world’s civilizations. That’s where the merger with knowledge needs to take place, that’s where the key to saving our civilization lies.

Good stuff to think about as the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference winds down today.

--Mike Sato

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Saving the Salish Sea Part 3

(Mary Lynn Stephanson)
I love to say that the whales, salmon and eagles don’t know that on one side of a border people use dollars and cents and on the other they use loonies and toonies. The fact that there is a border in the water dividing what’s now called the Salish Sea makes all the difference to the critters’ health and future.

Native tribes and conservation groups have always thought of the shared waters of British Columbia and Washington as one ecosystem. The governments of Canada, British Columbia, the United States and Washington state came together as the Georgia Basin/Puget Sound Work Group in 1992 and, in 1994, the US/Canada Marine Science Panel issued its report and recommendations.

The scientists found that the most important things to do were to minimize habitat loss, to establish marine protected areas, to protect marine plants and animals, and to minimize the introduction of invasive species.

Now, 17 years later, what do the scientists say the governments’ track record has been in moving forward on these four most important recommendations?

Do we have as much critical habitat today as we did in 1994? If less, how much less?

Do we have more acres of marine protected areas established than we did in 1994? If so, how many more acres?

There certainly are more bald eagles, seals and sea lions but what about the populations of other marine mammals, birds, fish, shellfish and sea grasses? Are they more abundant than they were in 1994? If so, how much more abundant? If not, how much less?

Are there more or less invasive species in the Salish Sea today than in 1994? How much less or how much more?

I’m told that the science is much better now than it was in 1994 and that there is a much better scientific basis for doing the things that need to be done to protect the health of the Salish Sea.

But, to be honest, the whales, salmon and eagles don’t care about science and most people don’t either. Maybe it’s simplistic but what counts for whales, salmon and eagles— and for most people-- is results, not studies and plans.

Use those dollars and cents and loonies and toonies to protect and restore critical habitats, establish marine protected areas, protect marine plants and animals and stop the invasion of alien species. Put that money to erasing that border for the whales, salmon and eagles. That’s our legacy for the Salish Sea.

--Mike Sato

Monday, October 24, 2011

Warming Up For The Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference Part 2
The Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference kicks off tomorrow in Vancouver, BC, and we’ve taken a trip down memory lane in revisiting the substance of the Sound & Straits ‘92 “People’s Agreement” laying out what needed to be done to protect and restore the Salish Sea. Part 1 of this blog dealt with the ‘declaration of principles.’

Here’s the substance of what we thought in 1992 needed to be done in ‘holding the governments of Canada, the United States, British Columbia and the state of Washington accountable.”

• Timely, effective implementation of all environmental agreements.
• Restoration of salmon habitat, as required by treaty.
• Initiating an International Joint Commission investigation and actions to restore and maintain native salmon throughout the region.
• Applying the most stringent environmental protections on either side of the boarder as minimums throughout the region.
• Involving the public in all decisions which affect the Sound and Straits.
• Creating new jobs for military personnel and redirecting resources to more urgent social, economic and environmental problems.
• Protecting the ecological resources critical to all life in the region through creation of a biosphere/sanctuary regional framework.
• Protecting life and habitat through safe shipping and safe oil transport.

So, if you need something to say at the conference when asked what needs to be done to save the Sound and Straits, feel free to crib from the list. Things haven’t changed that much in 20 years.

By the way, the folks who signed the agreement represented a pretty broad range of interests that hasn’t been seen since. They included: Canadian Paperworkers Union, Reach For Unbleached, Sierra Club of Western Canada, Save Georgia Strait Alliance, Tin Wis Coalition, Sliammon Band, Friends of Cortes Island, United Fishermen & Allied Workers Union, SPEC/BC Environmental Network, Greater Victoria Disarmament, Islands Trust, Friends of the San Juans, American Oceans Campaign, People For Puget Sound, Washington Environmental Council, Friends of Boundary Bay, Puget Sounders, Center For Marine Conservation, Wildlife & Visual Enterprises, No Oil Pipeline Ever, No Oilport, Seattle Audubon Society.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Warming Up For The Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference Part 1

Turn Point (
The Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, formerly known as the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin Research Conference, convenes in Vancouver, BC, October 25-27.  I won’t be going this year but, like holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, the biennial conference occasions many memories.

Looking back 20 years at the time of the U.N. Rio Conference on the environment, I am struck by how doggedly correct — and presumptuous — we were in declaring that “WE, THE PEOPLE of the Sound and Straits, in pledging to work together to restore the ecological and economic health of our home, DECLARE THAT:

  1. The salmon shall be the symbol and indicator of the health of our waters, for in saving the salmon we shall save ourselves.
  2. The most protective environmental standards shall be applied as the minimal standards throughout the region.
  3. The Sound and Straits shall be a Pollution Free Zone by the year 2011.
  4. Bold and innovative solutions that protect our resources shall be recognized and rewarded.
  5. The people of the region shall be informed and involved in all aspects of governance of the region.

Go ahead, laugh at that delivery date for the Pollution Free Zone, but this was the declaration part of what was called the Sound & Straits ‘92 “People’s Agreement” developed by about 40 souls affiliated with U.S. and Canadian native, environmental, labor, peace and other organizations.

I don’t know what kind of silvery words will be used next week when the Ecosystem Conference is convened and no doubt there will be many, but there sure were some golden words in our proclamation:

“The Sound and Straits are a single region of common waters and resources, and strong ties exist among its peoples. The Canada-United States border is a boundary invisible to the region’s water, air and wildlife. As people of the region, we see no border in committing ourselves to the future environmental, social and economic health of the Sound and Straits. We seek to broaden our numbers through the power of individual and corporate responsibility and to include all peoples and organizations sharing the concern that our children inherit a just and sustainable future.

“In the context of global environmental deterioration, we call upon people everywhere to recognize our common global future, to cross boundaries and to work together toward solutions. We recognize that the most serious threat to international security is not military aggression but global environmental collapse.”

So what’s changed for the better, what’s changed for the worse, what’s been ignored in thinking ‘transboundary’ in the last 20 years? Good practice warm-up for next week’s conference.

--Mike Sato

New Whale Trail Signs on Washington State Ferries

Read the 10/18/11 news release about the signs here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

B.C.’s Bragging Rights in the Salish Sea

Orca Pass Stewardship Area
The British Columbia provincial government and the Canadian federal government will have good news to share with Americans when the 2011 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference convenes next week in Vancouver, B.C.

As reported in last Friday’s Vancouver Sun, the governments have announced that a Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area will be in place in a year.

The proposal to protect the habitats and species of the province’s waters and habitats adjoining the U.S. border began 15 years ago and will now move ahead after the province ceded jurisdiction over its seabed to the federal government.

The final management plan is yet to be developed in consultation with First Nations and local governments but the government will be expected to ensure that recreational and commercial activities will not further degrade water quality, habitats or species populations. B.C. conservation groups want no fishing in and around critical habitat areas in the larger conservation area.

It took a decade and more to place a rescue tug funded by the shipping industry at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to put all the pieces in place to restore the Nisqually Delta, and to take down the Elwha River dams. Damn, these things take time.

The Georgia Strait conservation area proposal was one of the key elements of working towards a transboundary stewardship area extending from the Southern Gulf Islands to the U.S. San Juans.

Ten years ago, conservation groups working on both sides of the boarder developed a GIS methodology to identify and map habitats of species diversity and richness. The stewardship area was call the Orca Pass International Stewardship Area.

Here’s a nice description of Orca Pass, “From Orcas to Oystercatchers: A Community-based Campaign to Protect Transboundary Marine Resources.“

In 2004, San Juan County passed a resolution designating all county waters as an educational stewardship area.

Pulling all the pieces together is hard work: How to bring the rules and regulations of two nations, Washington state and the Province of British Columbia, First Nations and Washington treaty tribes, and local governments together in the spirit of transboundary stewardship has no doubt inspired many a School of Marine Affairs paper and a few presentations to sessions of the BC/WA biennial ecosystem conference.

One strategy to move the transboundary process along was to work in parallel on each side of the border to establish protections and thereby raise the bar for the other side to rise to. Earning and using bragging rights, as it were.

In 2009, a research conference session examined the progress of transboundary efforts since the signing of the 1994 Washington British Columbia cooperation agreement. It inspired many who hadn’t been part of the painstaking process.

This year, the conversation continues in at least one session: “Marine Protected Areas in the Salish Sea – A transboundary exploration.”

Maybe by exercising their bragging rights, the Canadians will prompt tribal, federal and state governments on this side of the border to step up.

--Mike Sato

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What Is A "Constituency" For Puget Sound?

PHOTO: Doug Wilson
I was in a conversation earlier this week that brought up the finding from 2006 that three-quarters of survey respondents though Puget Sound was in good health. By 2008 things hadn't changed that much, and this year's series of focus groups found that most participants generally didn't think the Sound as a whole was that bad off.

Back in 2006, the survey results were interpreted to mean that there was not enough of a solid political constituency to support Puget Sound recovery, and that it was necessary to 'move the needle' above 25 percent and build that constituency to support funding and enhanced regulatory efforts.

I don't think that needle ever got moved nor the constituency built, and, if it were not for federal funding, there would not be what funding there is, no thanks to the recession and the state's budget crises.

Would it matter today if the needle had been moved and half or two-thirds of the people thought Puget Sound to be in not too good of a shape? Would it have been possible to move that needle? Would people be behaving differently today?

Maybe we were looking out of the wrong end of the telescope. People thought the Sound was generally in good shape and they still do. Michael Goldberg of Action Media who conducted focus groups this past summer points out that if you keep telling someone something they don't think is true ("Puget Sound is in bad shape"), they will shut your out and stop listening.

What people think is that Puget Sound is generally in good shape. Try looking at them as a pretty large constituency of like-minded people. Can they be organized to speak with one voice?-- "We've come a long way in improving the health of the Sound and there's still some important things that need to be done to keep the Sound a healthy place for us and for our children and their children."

Go ahead, tell me it isn't that simple.

--Mike Sato

Monday, October 10, 2011

Doing Easy Vs. Hard Stuff

I spent most of Sunday with a group of very savvy and passionate activists discussing, in part, the plight of Puget Sound's health and what's not being done to protect its health.

One emerging theme was the failure of the permitting system established to regulate projects big and small that alter the nearshore and shoreline environments, and the failure to enforce these regulations.

It was noted that there are the big projects by big corporations like gravel mining and coal export companies, but the real 'death of a thousand cuts' is the smaller dock and bulkheading projects, polluted runoff entering through a myriad of drainages, and malfunctioning onsite sewage systems.

It's almost as if the highly-visible, large scale projects done on behalf of the Sound in restoring the Nisqually Delta and un-damming the Elwha River are easier than cleaning up bays and inlets like Samish Bay and Quartermaster Harbor. As politically challenging as those large projects were, the number of interests involved were relatively fewer than the population and interests in a watershed.

"We, people, are the culprits," one activist observed. "And by 2020 we will have an increase in population equal to another Seattle."

"It's easy to be the David fighting the Goliath and making corporations the bad guy," another cautioned. "It's very hard when it gets down to neighbor vs. neighbor and I warn you, it isn't pleasant."

There wasn't a resolution to this discussion-- it's been one that's been confronted for the last 30 years. In larger terms, the discussion is about the proper role of government in exercising the public trust.  It was a good Sunday and a good discussion for any day of the week.

--Mike Sato

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Global Village In Time And Space

PHOTO: Laurie MacBride
This Internet business is something I've come to take for granted but this week I was struck, for a moment, by how it whooshed me up in time and space.

Maybe I'm easily enchanted but I received an email from Laurie MacBride who co-founded Georgia Strait Alliance and retired as its executive director a few years ago. Laurie was letting me know that she's 'gone public' with her photographs and writings in her new web site, Eye on Environment

We've known each other since 1992 when we worked on what we called the 'Sans Boundary Alliance' focusing on water quality and habitat issues affecting the transboundary region of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Haro, Rosario and Georgia.

The UN Rio Conference on the environment was being held in 1992 and one of the first things we did was get our non-governmental organizations together to hammer out a joint resolution proclaiming that the shared waters of the Salish Sea would be a toxic-free zone by the year 2000.

We were older then; we're younger than that now. Laurie with her note sent in a keystroke took me back 20 years. Her photographs and her notes are singular and illuminating.

The other whoosh was in space when I received an email notiing a new blog post from friend and former KPLU environment reporter Liam Moriarty now living in France and reporting on the European scene in his blog, Salmon Nation Euroblog:  Exploring the Connections Between Europe and the Pacific Northwest

Isn't that a great blog focus for a Pacific Northwest ex-pat in France? Today's piece by Liam is titled, How to Piss Off the Canadians

Laurie, meet Liam. Liam, meet Laurie. My global village in time and space.

--Mike Sato

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thank You, Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs
I've been busy today but every time I come back to the laptop, I find myself thinking about the passing of Steve Jobs. Online, there are many, many fine words being said.

Of course, I'm working on a Mac and this has been a Mac household since I bought a Mac in 1983, along with its MacWrite and MacDraw programs. There was even some kind of spreadsheet program, I recall.

At work, we were still fighting over using the IBM Selectric typewriter and being told not to do our own typing because that was a 'take-away' of jobs from represented (union) clerks.

At home on the Mac I wrote my poems and my short stories, my love letters and resumes, journal entries and letters home to parents. That Mac died along the way but it's still wrapped up and stored somewhere.

Changing jobs and changing times allowed use of the mainframe and desktop PCs. At home, with kids and family, it was always Macs, generations passing through the decades.

I followed the news about Apple, about Steve Jobs going-- then coming back. It was like family talk. After all, after old manual newsroom typewriters, I came to age on a MacIntosh. I would go to work on a PC; I expressed who I really was on a Mac.

Where I worked for the last 20 years started out as a Mac shop and until recently continued to be a Mac shop. I should have been more attuned to the winds of change when only a few of us Mac users were left-- and one day the ax just fell.

I'm not the early adopter today that I was in 1983. My laptap still works well enough to get my work done. I don't put my old Sony Ericsson cell phone out on the table with the Blackberries others have. I am still amazed  about the things I can do with my iPad Touch-- when I can connect up. I was supposed to stand in line for the iPhone5. I guess I will have to wait awhile longer.

I'll think about Steve Jobs when I get one.

--Mike Sato

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Would You Take A Donation From Wal-Mart?

I gave a talk yesterday about doing public relations for not-for-profit organizations to Taimi Gorman's communications class at Western Washington University. I asked students whether, as the PR professionals they were to become, would they recommend taking corporate contributions from Wal-Mart?

The answers ranged from "Yes" ('that's less money they will have') to "Depends" ('what will you have to do in return' and 'who will get upset').  Except for one categorical "NO" ('not as an anarchist organization'), no one chose to answer by drawing a bright line against it.

That surprised me because I've had that discussion and I've recommended drawing that bright line against taking money from Wal-Mart, period. I've argued that, while some people would be upset and some people wouldn't be, it wouldn't be worth it to create a situation of choosing one side instead of the other. And, honestly, is taking that money any different than how a corporate political contribution looks like it 'buys'?

I don't support the Wal-Mart business model and don't think Wal-Mart is good for our communities, period. Does what I personally believe make a difference? Should it? Live long enough and you should get to know the feeling of having to do something you personally don't believe in.

We never got to that part of the discussion in class. I remarked how young and fresh they all were. I hope they all do well.

--Mike Sato

Salish Sea Communications: Truth Well Told

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Working Animals, or, Do Animals Work (For Causes)?

The Environmental Priorities Coalition last week sent out an action alert asking activists to tell the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to approve the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. Kerry McHugh who sent out the alert said that the response was one of the best she’s seen. “Wolves are a lightening rod,” she said.

Jo Bailey sent a video link this morning showing a humpback whale rescue in the Sea of Cortez. The subject line said: Humpback Whale gives show after being freed. WATCH THIS!!! Of course, I watched it. It was awesome; made me thankful for the Earth Island Institute’s Great Whale Conservancy.

From past experience I’ve seen Facebook posts and Twitter feeds featuring whales, bears and wolves rack up the hits— while links to policy and politics issues languish. Animals, it seems, are no-brainer attention-getters when it comes to getting your advocacy message up front.

Does the polar bear on the Arctic ice floe ‘work’?

Atlantic senior editor Alexis Madrigal raises an thoughtful point in his blog Fighting Climate Change Is Not About Environmentalism   He contended earlier that President Obama should say that stopping global warming isn’t about nature or ‘saving the planet’ because some kinds of plants and animals will survive but it’s human infrastructure that’s at risk. “We’ve built cities predicated on one climate and now those places have a new one. Climactic chaos is expensive,” he wrote. Life survives because ecosystems, even those stressed by rising temperatures, are resilient.

But: “Human-built environments, on the other hand, are very efficient and very brittle. They function best in a very narrow set of temperature and precipitation conditions....Now start fiddling with the climate of the place. Most of the time things are fine, but when you hit an extreme that you don't normally (floods, snow, heat, etc), stuff starts to go haywire. The infrastructure you built is encountering conditions it wasn't designed to withstand. And so it breaks.

“Somehow polar bears became the charismatic emblem of what was wrong with global warming; I think we should have made it a mayor instead.”

-Mike Sato 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Salish Sea Communications ... Truth well told.

Salish Sea Communications
…Truth well told.
Effective and efficient communications made simple: the right message, the right audience, the right media at the right time… Truth well told. Your program, your product, your cause can stand out front and center. You can move your market, push your cause, influence policy makers with measureable results. Done right, your communications will make a difference in this world.
Salish Sea Communications
…Truth well told.
• Communicate • Educate • Activate
~Research   ~Writing ~Editing
~Campaign Development ~Media Relations
~Social Media/Social Marketing
~Public Relations ~Web Content ~Speech Writing
~Annual Reports ~Video Productions
~Interview and Presentation Coaching    ~Communication Audits
For the past 20 years I directed and carried out communication programs for People For Puget Sound, a preeminent conservation organization in the Pacific Northwest.
Today, as Salish Sea Communications, I bring my years of experience and skills to assist you in your communication and public relation needs—big or small—to raise your visibility and engage your audiences.

Salish Sea Communications
…Truth well told.
Mike Sato
Bellingham, Washington
(206) 229-2844

WA State UBI #601395482