Shell lost control of an Arctic offshore drilling rig


Ted Danson with Oceana via

Oil giant Shell’s efforts to drill in the Arctic Ocean have been plagued by mistakes and near disasters. The company even lost control of an offshore drilling rig – allowing it to run aground in Alaska. You saw the destruction that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused to the Gulf in 2010. Imagine that same devastation brought to the Arctic – one of the most unique and important places left on earth. 

Now, after years of failing to find safe ways to drill in the Arctic, Shell is asking the federal government to extend its leases by five years.

I’m calling on the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) to deny Shell’s request for five more years to explore for offshore oil drilling in the Arctic. Please click here to join me.

I remember walking down the beach in Santa Monica over twenty years ago with my young daughters. At the time I was starring on the show “Cheers,” and during our walk we came to a sign that read: “Water polluted, no swimming.” I didn’t know how to explain to them that we allowed pollution into our oceans and beaches – and I don’t want any parent to have to explain to their children how Shell destroyed the Arctic.

Shell is the only company still actively pushing to drill in the U.S. Arctic Ocean, as other companies have walked away from the unpredictable Arctic environment or put plans on hold. Chevron recently pulled its plans to drill in the Canadian Beaufort Sea after finding the process too risky and expensive. If BSEE denies Shell’s request, the company will suffer a major blow to its dangerous efforts.

The oil industry does not have proven means to contain or clean a spill in the Arctic Ocean. A single accident could lead to serious environmental degradation, threatening iconic marine wildlife and impacting the region’s coastal communities. If Shell is given five more years, the Arctic’s polar bears, ice seals, belugas and many other inhabitants will be pushed further into harm’s way.

We have an incredible opportunity to protect the Arctic from offshore drilling. In the mid-1980s, I helped lead a successful campaign to stop Occidental Petroleum from drilling 60 oil wells in the waters beside Santa Monica. Now, along with Oceana, I desperately need your support to protect the Arctic.

Please sign our petition calling on BSEE to deny Shell’s request for five more years to drill for oil in the U.S. Arctic Ocean.

Thank you,

Ted Danson with Oceana

…and the Grasshoppers Inherit the Earth


Those who are still harboring fantasies about a time of peace and harmony, sustainability, or inherent respect for nature in human kind’s pre-Columbian past should read, Constant Battles, by Steven A. LeBlanc, which explodes the myths about the peaceful, noble savage and the notion of early conservation ethics.

Here’s an excerpt from that book’s chapter, “Enter Conflict:”

“What sets humans apart from almost all other animals is their ability to take resources from other groups, by group action. A large male bear can chase other bears from the best fishing spot along the river, and a male lion can defend its pride’s territory from other lions, but humans developed this process much further. They can cooperatively take over the territory or resources of another group—either by killing them off or driving them from the resources. Such aggression is not without risk, but it is achievable. The ability to engage in social cooperation sets up a dynamic among population growth, carrying capacity, and the potential for conflict.

“Not only are human societies never alone, but regardless of how well they control their own population or act ecologically, they cannot control their neighbors’ behavior. Each society must confront the real possibility that its neighbors will not live in ecological balance but will grow its numbers and attempt to take the resources from nearby groups. Not only have societies always lived in a changing environment, but they always have neighbors. The best way to survive in such a milieu is not to live in ecological balance with slow growth, but to grow rapidly and be able to fend off competitors as well as to take resources from others.

“To see how this most human dynamic works, imagine an extremely simple world with only two societies and no unoccupied land. Under normal conditions, neither group would have much motivation to take resources from the other. People may be somewhat hungry, but not hungry enough to risk getting killed to eat a little better. A few members of either group may die indirectly from food shortages—via disease or infant mortality for example—but from an individual’s perspective, he or she is much more likely to be killed trying to take food from the neighbors than from the usual provisioning shortfalls. Such a constant world would never last for long. Populations would grow and human activity would degrade the land or resources, reducing their abundance. Even if, by sheer luck, all things remained equal, it must be remembered that the climate would never be constant: times of food stress occur because of changes in the weather, especially over the course of several generations. When a very bad year or series of years occurs, the willingness to risk a fight increases because the likelihood of starving goes up.      …

“Now comes the most important part of this overly simplified story: The group with the larger population always has the advantage in any competition over resources, whatever those resources may be. Over the course of human history, one side has rarely had better weapons or tactics for any length of time, and most such warfare between smaller societies is attritional. With equal skills and weapons, each side would be expected to kill an equal number of its opponents. Over time, the larger group will finally overwhelm the smaller one. This advantage of size is well recognized by humans all over the world, and they go to great lengths to keep their numbers comparable to their potential enemies. This is observed anthropologically by the universal desire to have many allies, and the common tactic of smaller groups inviting other societies to join them, even in times of food stress.

“Assume for a moment that by some miracle one of our two groups is full of farsighted, ecological geniuses. They are able to keep their population in check and, moreover, keep it far enough below the carrying capacity that minor changes in the weather, or even longer term changes in the climate, do not resort in food stress. If they need to consume only half of what is available each year, even if there is a terrible year, this group will probably come through the hardship just fine. More important, when a few good years come along, these masterfully ecological people will not grow rapidly, because to do so would mean that they would have trouble when the good times end. Think of them as the ecological equivalent of the industrious ants.

“The second group, on the other hand, is just the opposite—it consists of ecological dimwits. They have no wonderful process available to control their population. They are forever on the edge of carrying capacity, they reproduce with abandon, and they frequently suffer food shortages and the inevitable consequences. Think of this bunch as the ecological equivalent of the care-free grasshoppers. When the good years come, they have more children and grow their population rapidly. Twenty years later, they have doubled their numbers and quickly run out of food at the first minor change in the weather. Of course, had this been a group of “noble savages” who eschewed warfare, they would have starved to death and only a much smaller and more sustainable group survived. This is not a bunch of noble savages; these are ecological dimwits and they attack their good neighbors in order to save their own skins. Since they now outnumber their good neighbors two to one, the dimwits prevail after heavy attrition on both sides. The “good” ants turn out to be dead ants, and the “bad” grasshoppers inherit the earth.

“The moral of this fable is that if any group can get itself into ecological balance and stabilize its population even in the face of environmental change, it will be tremendously disadvantaged against societies that do not behave that way.” The long-term successful society, in a world with many different societies, will be the one that grows when it can and fights when it runs out of resources. It is useless to live an ecologically sustainable existence in the “Garden of Eden” unless the neighbors do so as well.”

Serial Killing for Shopping Malls

The Earth is being raped, strangled and left for dead by people who care only about themselves and what they can get in the short term. The suffering of others is inconsequential. Indeed, they pride themselves in their ability to disregard the cries and struggles of their targets, whom they objectify while denying their very sentience. Like psychopathic serial killers, they ignore the rights and welfare of their victims, intentional or incidental.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Florida isn’t the only state trying to shut down discussion of climate change

In a growing number of states, conservatives have been taking a rather novel approach to climate change — simply prevent people from talking about it.

Florida state employees say they were barred from using the term “climate change”

There’s a big uproar in Florida this week after an investigation alleged that the state has an unwritten policy barring environmental officials from using the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in their work. On Monday, Republican Governor Rick Scott denied any such policy was in place. But state employees and outside scientists insist there’s heavy pressure not to talk about the topic, despite the fact that Florida faces a serious threat from future sea-level rise.

If so, that wouldn’t be the first time state officials — Republicans, usually — have taken steps to prevent people from discussing global warming or climate science.

In 2012, North Carolina’s GOP-controlled state legislature passed a law to prevent the state from considering the most up-to-date climate science in formulating predictions of rising seas. In Pennsylvania in 2014, back when Republican Tom Corbett was governor, one former state employee alleged that she was ordered to remove references to “climate change” from the conservation agency’s website.

In a somewhat different vein, states like Tennessee and Louisiana have been passing laws making it easier to teachers in the classroom to present alternative theories to climate change — even though there’s a broad and firm consensus among climate scientists that human activity is responsible for the rise in global temperatures over the last 50 years.


Activists continue fight for prairie dogs

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

by Mike DiFerdinando  3/2/15

Group explores options to protect wildlife from future development

As protesters stood at Founders Parkway and Factory Shops Boulevard — waving signs and shouting at drivers to help save the prairie dogs — a few hundred yards behind them exterminators were already laying traps.

The grass-roots campaign, called Save the Castle Rock Prairie Dogs, wants to push back the construction of the Promenade at Castle Rock, at the north end of town between I-25 and U.S. Highway 85, near the Outlets at Castle Rock, until June.

That’s when the animals, many of them pregnant, could be moved. The prairie dogs are being trapped with baited cages. It is unknown how or if they are being killed at this time.

“Of course I was at the protest,” said Castle Rock resident Keith Lattimore-Walsh, one of about 40 protesters at the Feb. 24 rally. “My heart won’t allow me to do anything less than to fight for those who cannot speak.”

The controversy is part of the town’s continued conversation about growth and began when more than 20 residents spoke out against the Promenade at the Feb. 17 council meeting.

Activists said they hope snowy conditions and the slow pace of capture will give them time to find available land for relocation of the colony — about 1,000 prairie dogs.

“It’s slow, they aren’t capturing many at a time,” said Brian Ertz, board president of the activist organization the Wildlands Defense.

Alberta Development Partners, the developer behind the Promenade, could not be reached for comment about the removal of the prairie dogs, despite repeated attempts by the News-Press.

Town officials reiterated their stance that the situation is a matter of a private developer building on private land, therefore they have no jurisdiction to stop or delay construction.

This would be different if the prairie dogs were protected by state law, which they aren’t, because they are not an endangered species. [Not officially, buy they should be on the list–I challenge anyone who says prairie dogs are still common throughout the state.]


Urge Colorado Developer to Halt Prairie Dog Massacre!

Poisoning and fumigation—the most common methods of killing prairie dogs—cause convulsions, vomiting, internal bleeding, gradual pulmonary and cardiac collapse, and a variety of other reactions that cause animals immense suffering and a slow, agonizing death. Yet developers of The Promenade at Castle Rock, a 160-acre mall project underway in the town of Castle Rock, Colorado, reportedly want to massacre hundreds (possibly thousands) of these animals who call the site’s open spaces and wetland areas their home. And despite an outcry from compassionate citizens, the Castle Rock Town Council has green-lighted this slaughter, which is scheduled to occur in the coming weeks. Your voice is needed!

Using the form below, please politely urge Alberta Development Partners and Castle Rock officials to halt this cruel killing initiative and to employ humane prairie dog control methods instead. And please forward this message widely!

Please send polite comments to:

Peter Cudlip, Principal
Alberta Development Partners

Castle Rock Town Council

Please feel free to use our sample letter, but remember that using your own words is always more effective.

Pacific Plastic Threatening Wildlife

The massive amounts of plastic in the ocean are threatening to kill off Hawaii’s endangered seals and sea turtles on remote Pacific islands.The Great Pacific Plastic Patch is becoming an enormous threat to sea life, and the EPA is considering declaring the remote island of Tern Island an environment disaster area.
This crisis gives us an incredible opportunity — if the EPA designates the island a Superfund site, it could mean taking the first real steps to schedule clean-up of oceanic plastic. Not only would this protect the thousands of species — a fourth of which are found in no other place on Earth — it would also put significant resources into tackling one of the greatest threats to our oceans and could become a model for tackling plastic polluting our oceans worldwide.
A high concentration of plastics from global sources has accumulated in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, threatening many endangered species. Designated Papahanaumokuakea National Monument in 2006, this 1,200-mile chain of scattered islands and atolls is home to more than 7,000 incredible marine species, and is one of the first ecosystems being serious threatened by the Pacific Plastic Patch.
Tern Island and its surrounding atoll, French Frigate Shoals, are designated as critical habitat for Hawaiian monk seals, whose total population of 1,200 has been steadily declining in the northwestern islands. It’s also nesting habitat for 95 percent of threatened Hawaiian green sea turtles. Unless the problem with plastic pollution is addressed, these fragile seal and sea turtle populations may be destroyed altogether.
The Center for Biological Diversity: Historic Step Toward Superfund Designation Could Save Ocean Wildlife From Plastic Pollution in Hawaii, Septermber 9, 2014

Man’s Fleeting Supremacy


I recently learned about author John A. Livingston, whose pioneering 1970s era environmental works are steeped in a misanthropy that reflects my own feelings on the scourge of humanity. I just acquired a used hard-back copy of his book, One Cosmic Instant: Man’s Fleeting Supremacy, and found myself in agreement with his attitude from the get-go, starting with Chapter One:

“The non-human world is important to the bird watcher. Its relative importance grows, in inverse relationship with an inevitable misanthropy. One’s disillusionment with society’s treatment of non-human nature is built on a body of evidence which is conspicuous on every hand…

“…if for no other reason than his own survival, man must soon adopt an ethic toward the environment. ‘The environment’ encompasses all non-human elements in the one and only home we have on Earth. However, it will be some time before we are able to enunciate, much less promulgate, an environmental ethic because, fundamentally, the ethic runs contrary to our cultural tradition.

“Ethics have been associated with man-to-man or man-to-society. They have not been concerned with man’s relationships to the non-human. Most moral philosophers have not acknowledged that man might have at least some ethical responsibility to the non-human. Perhaps this is because we cannot conceive of having any ethical responsibility to that which is not capable of reciprocating. Ethics, morals, fitness and propriety of behavior—these are human attributes. They do not exist, so far as we’ve been able to determine, in the non-human world. (That this may be a mere problem in communication does not seem to have occurred to us.) Since ethics do not exist in the non-human world, there is no need to apply them to that world. Our attitude toward the non-human world is not immoral: it is amoral.”