Dolphin-Safe Tuna – Anything But Safe

"You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t."

There never ceases to be good examples of just how true Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote is.

Via Jason Kottke’s blog, I discovered marine biology grad student Dave Shiffman’s interesting debate The Ecological Disaster That Is Dolphin-Safe Tuna that sheds some unique perspectives on the concept of "dolphin-safe" tuna, its effects on sustainable commercial tuna fishing, and the impacts of bycatch.

Dolphin-Safe logoThe gist of the article is that we’ve blindly allowed activists to recklessly prioritize the well-being of one group of aquatic animals at the expense of many others.   This is largely because it’s easier for our collective conscience to identify with smart, friendly dolphins than other species that aren’t as easily empathized with because they seem less cute or intelligent.   As a result, government-mandated dolphin-safe fishing practices have unintentionally had devastating effects for a much broader range of oceanic creatures.

For every 1 dolphin saved, 382 Mahi-Mahi, 188 Wahoo, 82 Yellowtail & other large fish, 27 sharks, nearly 1,200 smaller fish, and a number of sea turtles and various other sea-life.

(To make matters worse, dolphin-safe fishing methods result in far more young tuna being caught rather than the more mature tuna who have already been reproducing, thereby making food supplies even more scarce for the very dolphins we’re striving to save.)

So the thorny ethical dilemma is whether it’s worth saving dolphins at the expense of sea turtles, sharks, and many other endangered fish species.   Should we protect dolphins — who we have reason to believe are sentient mammals with intelligence that rivals our own — even if it means fishing some other sea-life right into extinction?

Celebrating Earth Day

Liam got gussied up for his 2nd Earth Day in a spiffy new t-shirt:

Liam on Earth Day 2009

It seemed sorta fitting that we did our first lawn mowing of the year on Earth Day.   Liam has been not-so-patiently waiting for the grass to green back up since last Fall.   The yard is still a bit brownish, but there was just enough growth to warrant a quick trim.   Little does Liam know that this is also in preparation for his big 3rd birthday party that’s coming up on Saturday…

This also gave me a chance to test out my new Creative Vado HD pocket video camcorder.   This thing rocks!   I put the following video together with little effort.

Click the HD button at the bottom after the video starts for best quality!
Click here if the embedded video above doesn’t play properly in your browser.


The Emerald Isle Gets Even Greener

compact fluorescent light bulb on green backgroundIn my Bag & Baggage post several months ago, I raved about how environmentally-progressive Ireland has become.   For nearly 7 years, they’ve imposed a tax on plastic shopping bags that’s encouraged the use of reusable bags and dramatically reduced litter nationwide.

Now they’re greening it up again!

On March 1st, the Republic of Ireland will become the first democratic country in the world to ban the traditional incandescent light bulb.   Stores there will no longer carry the century-old technology, instead stocking their shelves with more efficient compact fluorescent (CFL), halogen, & LED alternatives.

And the U.S. is making the switch too, albeit more slowly.   The EPA says that by 2014, most remaining incandescent light bulbs will have to meet far more stringent efficiency standards.

Coffee To Go

Java, Joe, Go Juice, Morning Mojo…   Whatever you call it, coffee is the stuff that millions of people worldwide rely on to kickstart their day and keep it buzzing along.   But coffee can fuel more than your body & brain — soon it could help rev your car too!

From Spent Coffee Grounds as a Versatile Source of Green Energy in the Journal of Agriculture & Food Chemistry, researchers at the University of Nevada revealed that they’ve found a simple means of extracting oil from waste coffee grounds to create a cheap, abundant, & very environmentally-friendly source of biodiesel.Latte with 2Dolphins logo

Although many different types of oils can be used to make biodiesel (including soybean, rapeseed, mustard, flax, sunflower, & palm oils) spent coffee grounds contain up to 20% of oil by weight, which is a comparable and sometimes higher yield than other feedstock.   Coffee-based fuel was found to be more stable than other biodiesels due to high antioxidant content and after oil extraction, the leftover grounds can still be converted to ethanol or used as garden compost.   It’s projected that 340 million gallons of biodiesel fuel can be extracted from the used grounds of the more than 16 billion pounds of coffee that’s produced globally per year.

I especially like how this closes the lifecycle loop on coffee beans:   First they’re used for brewing coffee; next as a source of oil for fuel; and finally as an organic fertilizer — which, in theory, could be used in growing more beans!

As if all that weren’t enough, this fuel reportedly even smells like…   brewed coffee!   So while visiting The Glass Knife for coffee in Winter Park – enjoy that latté — it may actually be good for the planet!

Related Trivia:
Ever wonder where the expression “cup of Joe” came from?   After Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels banned alcoholic beverages on bases & aboard ships in July 1914, disgruntled sailors began calling coffee (their next best substitute for booze) by the sarcastic nickname “Joe.”

America Recycles Day

glassy recycling logoToday is the 11th anniversary of America Recycles Day, the only nationally-recognized day dedicated to promoting the importance of recycling and buying products made from recycled materials.

Locally, the Keep Odessa Beautiful non-profit organization is sponsoring activities to celebrate the event at the Odessa Recycles Time Machine or you can visit The Recycling Center to find recycling locations, directions, & other info for any area in the U.S.

What Lies Beneath?

If Robert Ballard’s enthusiastic presentation Exploring the Ocean’s Hidden Worlds featured on TED doesn’t rev you up about the possibilities that lie beneath the surface of the world’s oceans, well, you may not have a pulse.   Or maybe you just never had an aquarium as a kid or marveled as Jacques Cousteau plumbed the depths of the amazing underwater world on TV.

Anyway, Ballard is an oceanographer, marine geologist, & shipwreck explorer (he led the teams that discovered the wrecks of the RMS Titanic in 1985, the battleship Bismarck in 1989, & the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in 1998).   In this talk, he passionately discusses oceanic exploration as a better, more sensible (and probably far more profitable) alternative to space exploration and brings up a lot of interesting questions about why we aren’t devoting more resources & energy to exploring some of the largest (and largely uncharted) features on our own planet.

Particularly interesting is the contrast between the budgets of the 2 U.S. exploration programs — NASA, tasked with exploring space, and NOAA, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration — and the striking remark that the funds from just one year of NASA’s annual budget would fund NOAA’s budget to explore the oceans for 1,600 years.   But the even more surprising comment made during this presentation is:

50% of America lies beneath the sea and we have better maps of Mars than that 50%.

At a time when the U.S. is up against greater international competition than ever, I think Ballard makes an especially compelling case for radically-increased exploration, mapping, & mining of our oceans.   Watch the video and please post a comment with your thoughts on this:

Happy Earth Day!

Liam got in on the Earth Day action in his spiffy new "Save My Planet" t-shirt.

Liam wearing a Save My Planet tee shirt

By the way, can you guess what film & TV actor Eddie Albert has to do with Earth Day?   Ben over at Environmental Graffiti notes that, due to the actor’s extraordinary work with environmental causes & groups, when International Earth Day was being organized in the early 70s, it was decided that the holiday must be held on April 22nd — Eddie Albert’s birthday.   Puts a whole new spin on Green Acres, doesn’t it?

HEB Saves the World

HEB reusable shopping bagTo encourage more people to switch to reusable products & recycle more, H-E-B Grocery stores in Texas are celebrating Earth Day (Tuesday, April 22nd) by giving out coupons for a free reusable shopping bag when you drop at least 5 plastic shopping bags into the recycling bins located at the front of their stores.

While I’m not 100% sure, these look to be H-E-B-branded versions of the 1 Bag at a Time reusable bags that Dede wrote about last year.   They’re made of non-woven polypropylene from yogurt cups, syrup bottles, straws, medicine bottles, etc. — typically one of the least recyclable plastics.   These shopping bags are sturdy, water resistant, allergy-free, & shaped like the paper sacks that used to be popular at grocery stores so they have a flat bottom to make ’em easy to fill & unload.

By the way, have you ever wondered about those little numbers with the arrows around them on the bottom of plastic containers?   They’re called and they indicate the type of plastic that an item is made from.   These codes are designed to help consumers know how to recycle various plastic products & packages.

So, mark your calendar to remember to drop by for a free bag next Tuesday, April 22nd so you can do your part to help H-E-B save the world!

Discover Green Deals Daily

Given the ever-increasing emphasis on environmental issues, you may have been inspired to start doing whatever you can to "green" up your life a little.   Problem is, until recently that’s been a bit of an expensive choice to make.   But now eco-friendly options don’t necessarily have to be more costly, thanks to…

GreenDeals Daily logo

GreenDeals Daily (which is sort of what you’d get if you mixed one part eco-blog with two parts Dealcatcher) helps you find bargains on environmentally-friendly products & services and provides information & tips for ways you can save both money and the environment at the same time.   What’s more, the site owner, Jean-Paul Davidson, donates 5% of the revenue from advertising & affiliate links to Carbonfund to help defray the global warming impact of their servers & web surfers.