Posted by: Mr. Austin | June 26, 2010

Whaling, Mustangs, Burros, 5 Ocean Gyres and Garbage Patches

ISPMB’s Gila herd

There are many things we’re doing right as humans learn their way ’round Earth. In this Monday’s Blue Planet Almanac, at 8:00 AM PDST, we’d like to devote some time to some positive things while still keeping our challenges in mind.

Karen Sussman of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros

Starting us off will be a fascinating interview with Karen Sussman of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB). Formed in 1960, IPSMB operates from the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Although today’s horses and donkeys were imports from America’s conquistador days, many United States laws and activities have been drafted over the years to help protect them. ISPMB is about trying to help feral horses and burros thrive.

Karen Sussman, ISPMB

Karen has 58 years as a successful advocate for horses and burros. Since she works for a nonprofit, Karen has no time for the PR common to women in her executive role. Her bio’s longer than could be given justice here, but she’s the sort with story upon story about her wonderful activities.

From ISPMB’s site is this: “What We Do – The International Society for the Protection of Mustang and Burros is an effective international leader in our field because we have earned the respect and credibility of the many diverse participants in the Wild Horse and Burro program. Our approach to problem solving is unique… Our main thrust is one of education and of becoming a model, a way of ‘being’ on this planet… One can make no greater impression than to lead by example. ISPMB honors the wild horse and burro and realizes the interdependence of all living things in this universe.”

ISPMB’s list of achievements is long. Be sure and be with us to hear about Karen’s experiences with these beautiful, wild creatures!

A friend near Sydney, Australia

Patrick Ramage of the International Fund for Animal Welfare

And, there’s more good news! Although the International Whaling Commission has recently been suggesting that the worldwide ban on commercial whaling be lifted, they just agreed not to – just last week. Many of us were worried about this, including President Obama’s support in lifting the ban. It’s not like the decades-old whaling ban is something many of us wouldn’t expand greatly. Most environmentalists would prefer that Norway, Japan and Iceland discontinue their controversial whaling practices. But a whole bunch of us are now wiping our brows in slight relief there won’t be a massive step backwards.

From the respected International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Blue Planet Almanac will talk about this new International Whaling Commission development with Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Global Whale Program Director. See IFAW’s specialized page about it’s anti-whaling programs.

Patrick Ramage (right) at the Agadir, Morocco IWC meeting with Australian Broadcast Corporation/ABC News.

Although they now have many active programs advocating for sustainable policies about animal populations, the International Fund for Animal Welfare was founded around 40 years back from a common interest in stopping the slaughter of white-coated harp seals and their pups. These days they have upwards of 1.2 million supporters worldwide, making (from IFAW’s Website), a “…broad base of support… to engage communities, government leaders, and like-minded organizations around the world and achieve lasting solutions to pressing animal welfare and conservation challenges-solutions that benefit both animals and people.”

IFAW’s Website says, “…the founders of the International Fund for Animal Welfare… rejected the notion that the interests of humans and animals were separate. Instead they embraced the understanding that the fate and future of harp seals – and all other animals on Earth – are inextricably linked to our own.”

This thought is directly related to what any biologist worth his salt would say, including Tom Lovejoy of the H. John Heinz, III Institute. Biodiversity depends directly upon us and is now in our hands.

In the spirit of protecting all animals, they declare at their Website: “IFAW continues to document and expose abuses of… commercial hunt(ing) and press for an end to this cruel, unsustainable slaughter. Over the years, the small team of committed campaigners… has grown to become the world’s leading international animal welfare organizations… with teams of experienced and dedicated campaigners, legal and political experts, and internationally acclaimed scientists working from offices in countries around the world.”

Anna Cummins & Dr. Marcus Ericksen, with their artful “logo.” Like a Buddhist sand mandala, no? Just with different materials.

Marcus Ericksen, Ph.D. and Anna Cummins of the 5 Gyres project

And, wrapping this Monday’s Blue Planet Almanac with us will be the adventurous and courageous Dr. Marcus Ericksen and Anna Cummins, both of the 5 Gyres project and the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

Anna and Marcus’ pictures are in every dictionary’s definition of peripatetic. When we were setting up this interview, these two marine scientists wrote that they were in Wyoming. On vacation. ??? Gathering dinosaur bones. !!! Anna told me that Marcus has done this every summer for the past 19.

Marcus, their friend Joel Paschal and Anna also staged the 13 week voyage of their Junk Raft project with Algalita, sailing from California to Hawaii on a raft of 15,000 plastic bottles. Try that in your spare time to publicize marine debris ;)

Anna and Marcus have been our guests before, but they have some important news to report about their research and education programs. Many of us know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, first brought to light by Anna and Marcus’ friend, Charles Moore of Algalita Research Foundation. The garbage patch is called by other, different names, too, including the Eastern Garbage Patch.

The characteristics of the plastic debris, toxic chemical sludge and trash in this patch usually makes individual particles small and diffuse, so the Pacific Garbage Patch’s scale is massive. Anna and Marcus say to think of a soup of debris instead of floating islands or patches. Here’s a good interview with Anna by Discovery News’ Jorge Rivas, showing you what a marine garbage patch really looks like.

Of course, these plastics and chemical sludge are now both in the marine food chain. The sludge and plastic eventually become small, and are ingested by the same animals we eat. The same animals other predators eat. Plastic is well-known to attract toxic organic compounds, concentrating them. Maybe the Pacific Toxic Soup would be a more memorable name? In this manner more effective bio-accumulation occurs in the organisms which eat the Toxic Soup.

Use your common sense and instincts and let that soak in for a moment.  I’d say seafood vendors won’t be putting toxic chemical sludge and plastic among the ingredients of what they sell you anytime soon. And it’s astonishingly safe to say that the United State’s particularly permissive chemical food ingredients programs and the E.P.A. won’t be saying there’s any problem with this. The E.P.A. just this year, for example, finally decided further study was needed on BPA (bisphenol-A), so they’ll be the opposite of shining examples of chemical safety. If you want someone with a big name to tell you this, see Sanjay Gupta’s excellent reports over CNN, “Toxic America.”

Dr. Marcus Ericksen does the backstroke in a microsea of junk.

Wikipedia writes that this one gyre’s patch could, “… range from 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) to more than 15,000,000 square kilometres (5,800,000 sq mi) (0.41% to 8.1% of the size of the Pacific Ocean), or, in some media reports, up to ‘twice the size of the continental United States.” This makes it much, much bigger than a Texas-sized garbage patch. Think of a massive cauldron at temperatures lower than a crockpot.

But – get this – there are at least five such patches of Toxic Soup in our oceans. There are five major ocean gyres collecting the stew efficiently, 24 hours of each and every day. Mother Earth is very predictable and reliable. The five major gyres are the North Atlantic Gyre, the South Atlantic Gyre, the Indian Ocean Gyre, the North Pacific Gyre and the South Pacific Gyre.

Bringing together the knowledge needed to assess and solve this problem are what Anna and Marcus are working on right now, in cooperation with the partners of their forward-thinking, creative 5 Gyres project.

Blue Planet Almanac radio airs live with host Mike Austin on on the 4th Monday of each month at 8:00 A.M. Pacific time. Blue Planet Almanac is also re-broadcast later in the week and shows are archived three days after airtime at that same site. is an all-positive talk station and has over 3 million listeners monthly in 104 countries and all 50 United States.

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