Monday, September 21, 2015

UPDATE: Holy Father the Chemist

Pope Francis

Pope Francis and His Little Fiat - The New Yorker

Transcript: Pope Francis’s speech at the White House 

Transcript: Pope Francis's speech to Congress 

There have been some strange twists and turns in religiosity the past few weeks perhaps foreshadowing Pope Francis’ visit to our country this week. No doubt Kentucky county auditor Kim Davis is both deeply religious and an upstanding civil servant but not to choose one’s religious faith and resign from one’s sworn duties as a civil servant when it comes in conflict makes a mockery of both the faith she holds and the duties of the office she had sworn to perform.

The trouble with people like Kim Davis invoking their belief in God as the final argument is that it ends civil discourse. It’s like saying the spirit gods of the ancient forest say clear cutting is bad. You can say it and believe it but It’s awfully hard to have a discussion about the pros and cons of clear cutting with you.

Around the time the Kim Davis circus was in high gear, there was a report about a study that found that people who live in beautiful places are more likely to have lower rates of religious adherence. ( Live In A Beautiful Region? You're Less Likely To Be Religious ) A modest proposal would have been to invite Ms. Davis to this side of the Cascades and let her chill a bit. But that’s not the way religiosity works itself out.

You’d think a rich and smart man like Ben Carson who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination would have spent time in beautiful places with trees, lakes and mountains but it certainly didn’t affect his heart or his brain when he wears his Christian faith on his sleeve and declares that no one who believes in the Muslim faith should be president of the Unites States. Because being a Muslim is not consistent with the Constitution of the United States. Whereas Kim Davis who is a Christian is of a faith that is consistent with the constitution of the United States. But she will not, due to her Christian faith, uphold the laws under the constitution of the Unites States.

See how complicated it gets when folks get religiosity and civics mixed up?

Then, again, I still remember the national discussion when John F. Kennedy ran for president and whether a Catholic (presumably with a hotline to Rome) should be in the White House. Some folks even had qualms about Mitt Romney, a Morman, possibly becoming president but maybe that was because of the underwear thing.

At a dinner this past weekend, I said that, when Pope Francis comes to this country, he will be talking to politicians about climate change and social justice and probably invoking God the same way Kim Davis invokes God as the final authority. Makes talking about climate change hard when you invoke God, I said.

No, my dinner host said, Francis is a chemist.

(According to Thomas Reese, “Pope Francis studied chemistry and worked as a chemist prior to entering the seminary. But Jorge Bergoglio never graduated from university prior to entering the seminary. What he did do was graduate with a título in chemistry from the Escuela Técnica Industrial No. 12*, which is a state-run technical secondary school.” Does Pope Francis have a master's degree in chemistry? )

So, I said, as long as he speaks to climate change as a chemist and in terms of sciene, he won’t be like Kim Davis and those religious fanatics?

True, and that’s great. I look forward to hearing and cheering on the Holy Father the Chemist.

[See: Pope Francis’s Environmental Encyclical: 13 Things to Know and Share  (Catholic Answers)]

[If you’d like to taste an example of being spiritual in telling stories based on chemistry and not invoking God, check out Primo Levi’s book, The Periodic Table.]

--Mike Sato

Thursday, September 10, 2015

News Release: Killer Whale Expert and Author Erich Hoyt In October "Orca Tour 2015" Talks in BC, Puget Sound

News Release
September 10, 2015
Erich Hoyt


Internationally-renowned author and killer whale expert Erich Hoyt will speak in October along the Whale Trail at locations in British Columbia and Puget Sound.

“Orca Tour 2015” celebrates the seasonal return of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales to central Puget Sound and builds awareness of the whales throughout their range in the Salish Sea and along the Pacific Coast. This transboundary tour is especially timely with the birth of the fifth calf in the Southern Resident Killer Whale pods since December 2014.

"The birth of five new calves in J, K and L pods gives us five more reasons to recover this population. The collaborative nature of the Orca Tour demonstrates our shared commitment to restore salmon, reduce toxins and create quieter seas," said Donna Sandstrom, founder and director of The Whale Trail.

Organized by The Whale Trail and local sponsoring organizations, Hoyt’s talks are scheduled for:

·      Oct. 3- Saturna BC. “Creatures of the Deep” hosted by Saturna Island Marine Research & Education Society and sponsored by the Capital Regional District at the Saturna Community Hall;

·      Oct. 6- Sidney BC. “Adventures with Orcas in the North Pacific” hosted by Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre and Raincoast Conservation Foundation at the Centre;

·      Oct. 10- Olympia WA. “Adventures with Orcas in the North Pacific” hosted by The Whale Trail at the Olympia Friends Meeting Hall;

·      Oct. 11- Tacoma WA. “Adventures with Orcas in the North Pacific” hosted by Citizens for a Healthy Bay at the UW Carwein Hall; and

·      Oct. 13- Seattle WA. “Ants, Orcas and Creatures of the Deep” hosted by The Whale Trail at the Hall at Fauntleroy in West Seattle.

Tickets for the Washington talks are available through Brown Paper Tickets,  (search Erich Hoyt). Tickets for the Saturna talk are available at the door for $10; call the Centre (250.665.7511) for Sidney ticket information.

Erich Hoyt’s first killer whale expedition to Johnstone Strait sailed from Victoria, BC in June 1973. He proceeded to spend parts of the next 10 summers with orcas, culminating in his now classic book Orca: The Whale Called Killer. He is the author of 22 books including The Earth Dwellers and Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises. His most recent book is the greatly expanded Creatures of the Deep, with state-of-the-art photographs and stories of amazing species new to science.

In 1999 Hoyt, a Whale and Dolphin Conservation Research Fellow, co-founded the Far East Russia Orca Project (FEROP) to learn more about orca pods targeted for aquarium captures and to get Russian students involved in science and conservation of killer whales in Russian waters. Now in its 15th year, FEROP has recorded the Russian pods and photo-IDed some 1500 orcas off Kamchatka and in the Commander Islands — including three white orcas found so far in the study areas.

“We are living in an era and in a part of the world where whale research has exploded,” said Hoyt. “And we’ve got some amazing orca stories to tell here—mostly positive, some heartbreaking, but all compelling.”

“Orca Tour 2015” celebrates the growing transboundary success and collaboration between British Columbia organizations and The Whale Trail — a model for conservation everywhere. The Whale Trail is working closely with the BC Cetacean Sightings Network and other groups to add new Whale Trail sites from Victoria to Prince Rupert.

Interpretive panels will be installed at five locations this fall, and 30 sites in the southern Gulf Island will be marked with distinctive Whale Trail markers. East Point, Saturna Island was the first BC Whale Trail site, and the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney is the most recent.

"The Centre serves to inform people about the Salish Sea and our keystone mammal-- the orca," said Mark Loria, executive director of the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. "Erich is an important figure in the world of orca conservation and protection and he will have much to share with our members and the public. Our partnership with Raincoast Conservation Foundation serves to strengthen our efforts in public programs and initiatives."

"Erich is such a knowledgeable speaker about the sea. He clearly has a deep love for all that lives in there and it sparkles through in his talks,” said Maureen Welton of the Saturna Island Marine Research & Education Society. “He told us his exciting orca stories last year and we've brought him back to talk about the unusual, little known species in the sea. His book is fascinating and we know his talk will be, too."

In Tacoma, The Whale Trail is partnering with Citizens of the Bay. "We are so lucky to live in a place as beautiful as the Puget Sound with animals as fascinating as orcas,” said executive director Melissa Malott.  “Orca populations are a great representation of the health of the Puget Sound, which we at Citizens for a Healthy Bay are working to protect.  We are excited to have Erich Hoyt speak to learn more about these amazing creatures and our environment.”

“The Whale Trail and its partners in British Columbia and Washington State share a deep commitment to marine education, conservation and the recovery of the southern resident killer whales,” said Donna Sandstrom, founder and director of The Whale Trail. “Erich is a legend and an inspiration. We are thrilled to bring him back to the northwest, and provide our communities with the incredible opportunity to hear from him first-hand.”

Orca Tour 2015 marks an historic return to Olympia, where Erich gave his first presentation in the region almost 40 years ago. Erich spoke during the first Orca Symposium at Evergreen State College in 1976. The Symposium coincided with orca captures in nearby Budd Inlet that led to their banning in Washington State.

For more information on The Whale Trail and Orca Tour 2015, go to: and and

* To schedule an interview with Erich Hoyt, contact Mike Sato (206) 229.2844 *

Local event partners can be reached at:

Maureen Welton, SIMRES, (250) 539.3698
Mark Loria, Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, (250) 665.7511
Chris Genovali, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, (
250) 655.1229 x225
Melissa Malott, Citizens for a Healthy Bay, (253) 383.2429
Donna Sandstrom, The Whale Trail, (206) 919.5397