W2O Whale Tales

By | Adventure on the Water, Events, Member Only Events, Past Events, Sustainable Living, W2O Blog

Being near or in the water brings wonderment and reminds us of why protecting the ocean is the mission of Women Working for Oceans. “Our members really want a deep understanding of what is below the water, and we want every member to be able to tell the story of why our ocean is vital to all of us,” says W2O Membership Co-Chair, Pat Chory.

In early October, with Boston Harbor Cruises and the staff of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, W2O members were treated to a unique whale watch experience witnessing humpback whales “bubble feeding,” a choreographed technique that forces fish in a circular motion to the surface of the ocean. Whales then lunge from below with open mouths for their feast of krill and small fish. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, right off the coast of Massachusetts, is described by the sanctuary as serving up “a sumptuous smorgasbord for marine mammals.”

Stellwagen supports a diverse and varied number of marine animals and seabird species. The tally of our sightings, according to the log from the boat Asteria, included 3 minke whales, 6 humpback whales, terns, jaegers, shearwaters, northern fulmars, gannets, and gulls. On most trips, the crew also records debris that makes it way to the ocean from beaches or is tossed overboard. The Asteria reported that debris from our outing included a plastic bag of trash and a balloon. Unfortunately, we know that more marine debris lurks under the water, breaking into smaller and smaller pieces. All of this debris is dangerous when ingested by marine animals.

On this recent trip, naturalist Laura Lilly’s narration of the action was equally as exciting as the events all around us. At one point Laura spotted an identifiable tail fluke of the juvenile humpback “London” that she had participating in naming (the pattern on the fluke resembles Big Ben.) Although she claims that naming whales does not make them pets, it was very clear from the tremor of her voice and the animation of her description that she is emotionally attached to these majestic creatures that she knows so well. Whales travel from where they were born off the coast of the Dominican Republic to Stellwagen Bank to feed May to November. Feeding on the rich variety at Stellwagen ensures that when they return to the Caribbean and begin their fast, they will have built up reserves of fat to last through the breeding season.

Whales, like sharks and other marine animals, help regulate the ocean food chain by ensuring that certain species do not overpopulate the ocean; they also contribute to the nutrient mixing necessary to a healthy sea. These enormous fascinating creatures belong to the cetacean species, along with dolphins and porpoises. All of these animals have become a part of a huge economic engine, drawing audiences and bringing in millions of tourism dollars across the globe. “Seeing these animals up close and personal is like seeing a national treasure,” commented W2O’s Anne Peacher.

Naturalist Laura Lilly (top) with NOAA’s Leila Hatch and staff from Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary

“Good for you; good for our ocean” is a saying here at Women Working for Ocean. We are linked, wholeheartedly to our most precious resource and its inhabitants.

Learn more about whales from the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium.

Heroes of the Oceans

By | Action today, Events, Featured Post, In the News, Past Events, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, W2O Blog | No Comments

W2O and the Massachusetts Sierra Club hosted Heroes of the Oceans at the MA State House last week, honoring those that have helped pass bills banning single use plastic pollution in their towns and cities.

Educating about refusing single use plastic is not enough. The real heroes are those that take up the challenge in their communities and enacting lasting change through legislation. Mindful change matters, but those changes that spark local, city and statewide initiatives, that is what its all about.

Plastic pollution clogs our drains, litters our parks, destroys our oceans and then ends up in us. The plastic ends up in us.

Our Heroes of the Oceans made endless phone calls, spent hours explaining the damage that single use plastic does to our environment, oceans and families, and convinced town chamber, town meeting members, selectman and legislators that now is the time to act and ban single use plastic in our communities. It is hard work getting that done.

 

Best Honorees

The “Heroes” with legislators on the grand staircase at the MA State House (photo: Gretchen Powers)

You must be in on it-Mayor Menino invites conversations about Sea Level Rise and the Future of Coastal Cities

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Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm and Climate Central

Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm and Climate Central

Though Mayor Menino is surely missed in Boston, his presence was felt strongly at the Sea Level Rise and the Future of Coastal Cities meeting at Boston University last week. Most speakers credited Mayor Menino for bringing them together to engage in the topic of how climate change and the resulting sea level rise will affect cites across the world.

City officials from Helsinki to Melbourne came to collaborate and learn about what cities are doing to increase their resilience to protect their communities with smart design choices involving government, urban planners, developers, the private business sector, academia and scientists. Erika Spanger-Siegfried from the Union of Concerned Scientists explains in a video shown shown at the event that extensive research shows that over the next 30 years, sea levels will increase up to a foot or more in some east coast locations and that when storms occur on top of already typical tidal flooding, higher tides will magnify the risk of severe coastal events.

The conference highlighted the importance of communication between those entities working in different domains, especially from scientist who are learning the language that will be crucial to delivering the message of climate change that causes sea level rise to governments, insurers and the public. “Inherit uncertainties make it harder to make the message clear,” said Bud Ris, past president of the New England Aquarium and a contributor to environmental education and policy around the topic of climate change. But Tony Janetos, director, Fredrick S. Pardee Center for the Studay of the Longer Range Future and co host of the event with the Initiative on Cities, reminded us that “we (scientists) were never trained to communicate this way.” It is an urgent message they are tasked with delivering- one that he says is not that climate change is “50 years out, like we thought” but here faster than we even imagined. “We do not have the luxury to ignore what the science or the experience of others tells us. We must manage the risks while learning more.”

Everyone wants to know, “What will the future hold?” According to Janetos, “it depends on what future we choose.”

*The computer enhanced photo on this page is from a prediction project of the collapse of the Western Antarctic glaciers from Climate Central. Yes, that is the Boston Harbor Hotel. Check out the rest of the photorealistic work depicting iconic places around the globe (and maybe where you live) by photographer Nickolay Lamm.

Take the Shark Pledge!

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Grey Reef Shark photo: marinebio.org

Grey Reef Shark
photo: marinebio.org

W2O’s event Sharks Matter highlighted the sharks essential contribution to our oceans health as the apex predator, serving a the critical role of keeping the balance of species in our oceans. Wendy Benchley and John Mandelman showed us powerful images of the majestic shark but also shared graphic pictures and a video of shark finning. Wendy and John educate people around the world about protecting sharks and our most precious resource, the ocean.  Take the Shark Pledge-its a simple way to show your support for protecting sharks, the oceans and ultimately yourself.

 

W2O emPowered and Searching for Hope in the Data

By | Action today, Events, Featured Post, In the News, Past Events, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, W2O Blog | No Comments

A collective sigh could be heard from W2O when the U.N. Climate Panel published their findings today. At first glance, it seems like the same old doom and gloom story. It might be easy to throw up our hands and feel helpless when the news is so dire about what is referred to in a New York Times summation of the findings as “the profound risks in coming decades.”  But the article also offers hope, “Not only is there still time to head off the worst, but the political will to do so seems to be rising around the world.”

At W2O’s recent event Women emPowered: Leading the Future of Clean and Efficient Energy at the New England Aquarium, our assembled experts echoed feeling hopeful about energy options and about how we can be a part of the growing moment to protect our planet, oceans and health by educating others about how to curb emissions.

“Think about how over air conditioned your office is, how cold your hotel room is when checking in on a hot day and lights your kids-or you-don’t bother turning off. Energy efficiency is about the supply we can avoid buying,” according to Massachusetts Dept. of Utilities Chair Ann Berwick.

And women are at the center of that hope. “Women are driving the choices. They are the decision makers,” Tom King, Executive Dir. and President of National Grid USA offered. Home energy usage is one of the leading contributors to climate change. “But if you don’t know how much energy you are using”, commented Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy, “how can you make a change?”  Signing up for an energy audit to find out your energy usage might be a good place to start because, according to This Old House’s Kevin O’Connor, “customers care about cost, comfort and convenience.”    Says Callahan, “Legislation for climate change may not be soon but the sweet spot on the hill is energy efficiency.”  Callahan recommends taking further action by writing in favor of the Shaheen-Portman energy bill which supports investment for innovative energy efficient solutions.

Ann Berwick wants us to take a closer, more analytical look at the data that tells us that hope lies in renewable energy sources. Her slide, included here, focuses on off shore wind because “although it comes with enormous challenges, and is expensive-no getting away from that- its nowhere near as expensive as the failure to address climate change. It is scalable to an extent that other renewable resources simply are not”. The Wall Street Journal quotes the Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, as saying “Analyzing the costs and benefits of mitigation is a “complicated question,” but warned against putting a dollar value on the loss of human lives, ecosystems, oceans and marine life threatened by climate change. “The affordability question has to be seen in what will happen if we don’t take these steps,” Mr. Pachauri said.

Ann Berwick concluded at our event; “Given the current state of technology, no renewable resource can match off shore wind in terms of the potential size of the suppy and accessibility-right off our coast. It’s expensive, but it’s pay now or pay a lot more later.”

Take Action!

Kevin O'Connor, Kateri Callahan, Tom King and Ann Berwick (photo: David Parnes)

Kevin O’Connor, Kateri Callahan, Tom King and Ann Berwick (photo: David Parnes)

 

 

Celine Cousteau “Action Begins with the Heart”

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At a W2O event last night Celine Cousteau presented “The World Beneath the Waves: Being Human in the Sea” to a packed house at the New England Aquarium. I kept toggling back and forth from this very professional speaker to the image of the person on the screen: cold, tired, exhilarated and most of the time, wet. (Many references were made to the fact that, because of her surname, she is often “thrown in the water” and not always comfortably.)  Exploring salt plains in Bolivia, copper mines in Chile, the coastline of Patagonia and what seems to be her most visited and impassioned site, the Amazon River region, Celine documents the intersection of communities and environmental issues. With powerful images of decimated, but beautiful landscapes, she reminds us that in poor rural communities, with no public resources, waste and garbage are left to make its way into lakes, streams and finally the ocean.

Photo: Capkin van Alphen-CauseCentric Productions

Photo: Capkin van Alphen-CauseCentric Productions

There are times when she is the first to explore a remote lake only to find that they are empty of life from the effects of pollution. Sitting on a hill in the midst of plastic pollution and waste, she is photographed looking out onto a magnificent ocean vista. The relationships and bonds that she has made with the people of these regions has inspired her to keep returning, filming, exploring and coming home to tell their stories.

The most dramatic moment of the night was the showing of her short film, “Scars of Freedom,” about a juvenile whale caught in 500 pounds of fishing net. In it, a film crew, which happened to be in the area and with no prior experience of rescuing marine mammals, struggle for hours to cut the net from the whale’s now infected tail.  When Celine talks about the film, you can see emotion welling up as she tells us, “Change only comes with action, and action begins with the heart.”

Linked here are the questions to Key Ocean Issues that were given to the audience at our event.

Celine with the children of GreenSchools courtesy of Robin Organ

Celine with the children of GreenSchools courtesy of Robin Organ

 

Opening our hearts and minds at BlueMind 3

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BlueMind3 in Block Island, RI (photo: David Pu'u)

BlueMind3 in Block Island, RI (photo: David Pu’u)

Last week, W2O members visited Block Island, RI for the BlueMind 3 conference hosted by Ocean activist and scientist, Wallace J. Nichols. The conference included a variety of interesting ocean passionate folks including artists, educators, ocean advocates, and neuroscientists.  Yes, neuroscientists!  And they were the stars of the show, explaining to us that the ocean effects the brain in specific calming ways and reminding us that the message of hope for saving our oceans comes from communicating that beautiful feeling that comes over us when we are near or in its precious, powerful, magical presence.

Some memorable quotes from speakers at the conference:

“We speak of saving the ocean and the earth. In reality, it is the other way around. The ocean and earth save us!  Engaging hearts and hands accesses the mind. The extent of labor leads to the love and success of a project”  Ocean Matter’s Laura Parker Roerden

“I am in awe of the tenderness at this conference.”  Artist Ran Ortner

“The rythm of the ocean is ominous, heavy yet delicate and transparent.”  Artist Ran Ortner

“Beauty is the great connector. We don’t need to impact everyone, we only need to impact the right person and sometimes that is the person right in front of you” Photographer David Pu’u

“We need to remember the architecture of what we are doing.”  Photographer David Pu’u

“The word “sustainability” means only what we can sustain and the status quo.  We need to search for abundance and restore the resources because if we are the problem, we are also the solution.”  Conservationist and Chef, Bart Seaver

“We don’t (do conservation and awareness) to speak louder, we do it because it might make a difference.”    RI Poet Lisa Starr talking about conservation and caring for the ocean

“Choosing Block Island is giving us a bird’s perspective. On and island, we can come together and take in Island wisdom.”  Wallace J. Nichols introducing Block Island resident Lisa Starr

“Truly stating facts does not result in people making change.”  Dr. Helen Riess

“You won’t surf like me, you will surf like yourself.”  Van Curaza-Operation Surf and Van Curaza Surf School

“Why do we call this Planet Earth? It should be called Planet Ocean!”  Cartoonist Jim Toomey

 

 

Thank you from W2O and The PIPA Trust

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Leave Only Footprints” transported us to a faraway, magical place where we were immersed in the beauty of an exotic under water world.

Speaking to a sold out audience, photographer Keith Ellenbogen, Randi Rotjan, Ph.D. (New England Aquarium’s Associate Research Scientist), and Heather Tausig ( VP of Conservation, New England Aquarium) provided an inspirational narrative about the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA).

These incredible story-tellers took us on an educational journey to the remote island nation of Kiribati and introduced us to the untouched and bountiful marine life of The Phoenix Islands. PIPA is one of the largest and most ambitious marine protected areas ever created by a developing country. It is also one of the largest marine protected areas (MPA) in the Pacific Ocean.

Bud Ris with Dr. Teura Toatu, Executive Dir. of The PIPA Trust

Bud Ris with Dr. Teura Toatu, Executive Dir. of The PIPA Trust

 

Thank you to all of you who took action and added ocean preservation to your philanthropic dance card!
More than $12,000 was raised!
Your support of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area
(PIPA) Trust is so very much appreciated!
Here is a wonderful photo of Bud Ris, President and Chief Executive Officer, New England Aquarium and Dr. Teuea Toatu (PIPA Trust Executive Director) acknowledging the gift W2o made possible.

Together we are making a difference!