Posted by: Michael D. Austin | December 3, 2010

Number of Millionaires in Congress: 261 – Wrote CBS News

Congressman Darrell Issa, said to wealthiest at around $300M

Another of the many reasons why the American middle class has disappeared: about half of our members of Congress tend to be wealthy and would thus favor tax strategies and development goals for the wealthy. There are around 535 members between the House and Senate.

I’m not suggesting that wealth’s a bad thing. But in a context where everyone’s income should be appropriately taxed, rich congressmen and congresswomen will skew our priorities if left unmonitored.

We all need to be voting and paying attention, because if we don’t you can be sure your interests won’t be served. See CBS’ story about this here.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | November 16, 2010

‘Surprisingly Green’ Photoessay from Newsweek

The omnipresent Will Ferrell.

Newsweek’s photoessay, Surprisingly Green: Famous People (and Things) You Might Not Know Are Environmentally Friendly, is both interesting and funny. Interesting because it includes examples of people not well-known for their green tendencies. Funny because it includes worthy green activities of Pope Benedict XVI, Will Ferrell, and the ever-dubious Dubya.

George W. Bush was one of America’s poster-boys for Climate Denial, but no one can afford to deny him brownie points for anything positive he does. Just take what the man says with a diesel tractor-trailer load of salt and check with Natural Resources Defense Council or National Wildlife Federation about his record.

Activist and NASCAR racer Leilani Münter. For the record, she’s quite beautiful and the photo doesn’t do her justice.

Newsweek also includes the especially vocal Leilani Münter in their batch of 12. Blue Planet Almanac figures she absolutely deserves the attention. When was the last time any of us stood nose-to-nose with a national sports sanctioning body, asking them to change their fuel or recycling strategies?

Leilani has been our guest on a couple of Blue Planet Almanac’s shows. See “Jeremy Symons and Leilani Münter, Captain and Leader in the Cause,” or “The Gulf Oil Disaster” here at Blue Planet Almanac.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | November 15, 2010

Oceanfront Homes in Las Vegas and Pittsburgh ;)

Although a little of this excellent NY Times article by Justin Gillis, “As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas” will be remedial for some of us, it’s well worth the read.

Upon the first time I (recently) met a certain celebrity of household name, the first and only question she asked me was, “Do I need to be worried about sea level rise at my beachfront home?” My answer was, “Well it depends on how long you plan to keep it.” ;)

So, if you own oceanfront property and expect to bequeath it to your children, 1.) your business sense would suggest you sell it within an appropriate time frame to minimize your losses, or 2.) instead, your morals would compel you to keep it and absorb the loss. From his The Vanishing Face of Gaia, the often controversial James Lovelock believes that ocean levels are a more accurate indicator of climate change than atmospheric CO2 levels. Since ocean levels are rising faster than the best scientists predicted, I’d say he’s onto something.

For all of humankind’s artifice and ability, accurately predicting climate change is not one of our skills. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening, eh?

Oceanographer Fiammetta Straneo. Photo Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | November 11, 2010

Plug In America’s Latest PSA

This is one of several new PSAs unveiled at Plug In America’s recent fifth anniversary. The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are being released soon. Watch this and smile :)

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | November 1, 2010

National Geographic and American Le Mans

The track at over 170 M.P.H. Click to enlarge.

Blue Planet Almanac is especially pleased to announce these guests for our 11-22-10 show:

David and Doug will be talking with us about the first “green” racing series of which I know, the American Le Mans’ Michelin Green-X Challenge, as well as GM’s interests in green racing.

At Long Beach’s Toyota Grand Prix. Click to enlarge.

American Le Mans vice president Bob Dickenson told me that Doug was instrumental in General Motors’ adoption of its Michelin Green-X intentions a few years ago. Doug told me that American Le Mans began its green considerations because of David Brabham’s letter to them in 2004. These men and the American Le Mans series have made the first reasonable efforts in racing sustainability, well in advance of other series which include NASCAR and Formula One.

Jonathan will be talking with us about something that could be near and dear to all our hearts, sustainable tourism. Think of it this way… with all our emphasis on preserving the Earth, when was the last time you considered a vacation with a decent carbon footprint? This topic should keep you busy for a while.

St. Georges Harbor, Grenada. Click to enlarge slightly. Photo by Lidian Neeleman.

Vacationers are traveling to places in Europe, South America, Asia, North America and many other places while maintaining a decent carbon impact. You could be among them, today. Imagine where you’d like to go, and Jonathan and National Geographic can likely help you go there.

Join us! Air time will be 8:00 AM Pacific time on 11-22-10.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | October 26, 2010

No On California Proposition 23

Vote “No” on California Proposition 23 on November 2, 2010.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | October 24, 2010

Electric Cars and Sustainable Vacation Escapes

Two of the most fun and important things you can do to green your little section of our blue planet are save energy and take a sustainable vacation. Saving energy is the single most important thing you can do which will have an immediate impact on climate change. And taking a sustainable vacation to someplace beautiful and refreshing helps you appreciate why you’re saving the energy in the first place, and refreshes you.

So on the next Blue Planet Almanac we’ll have the pleasure of showing you the fun resources to do both things. We’ll talk with Mike Kane, co-founder and treasurer of the unique nonprofit advocacy group, Plug In America, which understands everything about electric cars. And from the renowned nonprofit Rainforest Alliance, we’ll talk with Ronald Sanabria, their vice president of sustainable tourism about some of the amazing places you can visit and Rainforest Alliance’s striking programs for sustainable destinations.

Electric Cars Reborn

Chevrolet’s Volt

After a long dry spell, electric consumer vehicles are returning to the U.S. this December. This is thus an exciting time for everyone interested in sustainability, because plug-in cars represent viable options to hybrids, biodiesel and infernal combustion. Two brand, spanking-new models, the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf are being released, and they’re real contenders to replace almost every function many people need in their cars.

Plug In America’s Website would tell you much of what you’ll need to know to begin chosing what type of transportation you’d like from models available. You can start with, “Where Can I Buy a Plug-In?,” and when you’re considering your choices remember to look at the astonishing tax rebates and incentives available on these.

Nissan’s Leaf

Among the attendees at their October 23rd fund raising event was Alexandra Paul, a comely regular on the popular Baywatch TV series who IMDB says has starred in 70 feature films and television programs. Plug In America is fortunate to have the friendship of documentarian Chris Paine from Who Killed the Electric Car? and the upcoming Revenge of the Electric Car, and Plug In America’s party was held at his beautiful Culver City hilltop home.

Mike Kane

Mike Kane will talk about these cars as examples of what Plug In America has brought us across its five years, and they just this past weekend celebrated their fifth anniversary. Plug In America was first born as a loose association of plug-in owners, and later incorporated as a nonprofit. Plug In America’s Website tell us this about the very knowledgeable Mike, who:

“…spent over 20 years as a marketing and business development professional in the high-tech industry, including stints at Emulex, the semiconductor division of Rockwell International and Motorola. Since leaving the industry in 2004 to pursue personal interests including environmental and alternative fuels advocacy, he has been involved with several non-profit organizations and campaigns in these areas. Mike is one of the founders of Plug In America, a non-profit advocacy group that promotes the use of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.”

Beautiful Vacation Escapes – Sustainably

It’s absolutely true a picture’s worth a thousand words. So before you read what’s below, you might enjoy seeing the short vid below about Rainforest Alliance’s sustainable tourism in Nicaragua from the Green Living Project. And, Rainforest Alliances services via offer a huge selection of destinations and tour operators. At I noted destinations which included Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Europe, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and United States, with every sort of vacation imaginable from eco-adventures to quiet hotel stays to hangs at a dude ranch.

Rainforest Alliance is one of the more experienced organizations in showing you sustainable destinations, and they’ve been developing their programs for at least 10 years. Because they were founded based on their concern for rainforest biomes, they’ve worked in over 12 Latin American countries to do this.

About these wonderful things we’ll be talking with Rainforest Alliance’s Ronald Sanabria, their gracious vice president of sustainable tourism. Ronald recently attended The International Ecotourism Society’s (TIES) 20th anniversary convention and accepted an award for Rainforest Alliance’s innovative, productive programs.

Ronald has: “… worked with the tourism industry on certification, productivity, quality assurance and sustainability since 1992. He joined the Rainforest Alliance’s Sustainable Agriculture program in 1998, and two years later began developing the organization’s tourism program.


… With support from the Multilateral Investment Fund, Sanabria led the creation of the Sustainable Tourism Certification Network of the Americas, which today has more than a hundred members representing 25 countries in the Americas. Internationally, he represents the Rainforest Alliance in the Tourism Sustainability Council (TSC) and the World Heritage Alliance.

Sanabria was the recipient of the 2008 EXPOTUR Friend of Nature Award in recognition of his efforts to promote sustainable tourism in Costa Rica.

Since 1992, he has taught at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Costa Rica. A Fulbright scholar from Costa Rica, Sanabria holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Costa Rica and an M.A. in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University.”

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, with some available through the links below. is an all-positive talk station and has over 3 million listeners monthly in 104 countries and all 50 United States.

Blue Planet Almanac offers thoughtful perspectives on conscious, green living on Earth. With fascinating interviews, breaking news and product reviews, caller participation about Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability are encouraged, including science and policy of importance to Earthlings. Listeners can have their say in an environment that matters or simply listen to leaders in their field.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | October 11, 2010

The Brooklyn Space Program ;)

This has to be seen to be believed. In their “Brooklyn Space Program” a dad and son launch a weather balloon, an HD camera and an iPhone to reach 19 miles above Earth. The camera and iPhone were housed in a take-out food container.

In general I believe that large-scale space programs – such as exploring other planets –  usually squander time and resources we need to solve problems we’ve created on Earth. Think what you could do about any of the problems we create on a daily basis – climate change, poverty, slavery, energy use or extinction of species – with even half the money spent on sending missions to other planets in our solar system.

But the Brooklyn Space Program is just too cool for mere words (T.C.f.M.W.) and everyone should see it. Sometimes you have to get out to get in. At this scale, where a dad, Luke Geissbühler, is teaching the skills and philosophies involved here to his son and his son’s friends, this is just too invaluable not to do. Wow.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | September 29, 2010

Scorecards on Polluters and Pollution

Founded by the renowned Environmental Defense Fund, and now operated by the Green Media Toolshed, publishes data on environmental polluters and pollution.

Their databases are searchable by Zip Code to find, for example, what Superfund sites are near your home or school. You can find out who’s polluting, where they are, who’s the worst polluter, and most importantly, who to contact and do something about it. Please go and take a look, and take a few minutes to see how you can help.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | September 28, 2010

“Dark English” by Artist Tim Shields

I’ve know Alaskan artist Tim Shields for a loooonnng time. Today, I’m in the mood so simply and eloquently expressed by him in this painting, “Dark English.” Some of Tim’s art is viewable at his art page, but it’s not all this pointed.

“Dark English” by artist and biologist Tim Shields

Tim’s a consulting field ecologist with the Bureau of Land Management, has done extensive work on our behalf in the California desert and is a graduate of California State University, San Diego. For some years he was Executive Director of the Takshanuk Watershed Council. Here’s an excerpt from his bio from at their site:

“I have lived in the Chilkoot and Chilkat watersheds for the last fifteen years and during that time have come to love this land that feeds both my body and my soul so richly. I am a lifelong field biologist and bring a deep scientific interest to my work… I am fascinated by the workings of nature and like sharing the knowledge I gain with others.”

For grins Tim also hosts a music show on Alaskan public radio station, KHNS.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | September 26, 2010

Ecotourism, Slavery and Sustainable Business

Alaska’s Inside Passage from

Blue Planet Almanac has evolved into a radio news magazine which provides interesting perspectives on many, many things.

This Monday’s show at 8 AM Los Angeles time will feature Kelly Bricker, chairwoman of the The International Ecotourism Society, Kevin Bales, co-founder of Free the Slaves and Mike Flynn, co-founder of Opportunity Green‘s innovative business conference. So in one show you can plan your next vacation, take action on slavery and get involved in a cutting-edge sustainable business activity.


Here’s a simple thought for you: with all your interest in preserving the Earth for your children, have you lately or actually gone someplace beautiful? Everyone needs regular, long vacations. And, one of the best ways to understand and appreciate what you’re doing is to go have some fun doing it. Sustainable tourism is already here, right now, and you can find gorgeous places which hadn’t occurred to you.

Kelly Bricker of The International Ecotourism Society

To tell us about how you can do this, we’ll be talking with Kelly Bricker, The International Ecotourism Society‘s chairwoman. Kelly is Associate Professor at the University of Utah in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, and has “worked as a river guide and program director for Sobek Expeditions, OARS and World Heritage Travel Group, visiting wild places in over 30 countries. With her husband Nathan, she developed an ecotourism operation called Rivers Fiji.”

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) is “the world’s oldest and largest international ecotourism association,” and “seeks to be the global source of knowledge and advocacy uniting communities, conservation, and sustainable travel.” It’s their 20th anniversary this year.

TIES’ mission promotes ecotourism, the “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”

For example, TIES has well-established programs like its ecoDestinations community, its ecoAuctions, and its Travel Green Guide which includes travel agencies who promote sustainability. They even have an Experts Bureau with pros in a variety of disciplines. Through its extensive advice and contacts TIES can help you plan something beautiful for yourself that you’ll always remember.

Slavery in the U.S. and Worldwide

So, now on a sobering note, how many of us know slavery is a concern these days? Even in North America. When I attended Free the Slaves 2009 Freedom Awards event, I didn’t. The idea seemed surreal and unbelievable. But Carla Gugino, Demi Moore, Camilla Belle, Ashton Kutcher and Isabel Allende knew, and they were there. I was stunned speechless. Real people with real stories of enslaved captivity spoke in person.

Freedom Award winner Sina Vann with Kutcher and Moore. Click to enlarge.

There’s even a National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline to report suspected slavery. At the Clinton Global Initiative’s 2009 event, Hilda Solis, Melanne Verveer, Mira Sorvino and Julia Ormond all appeared in support to end human trafficking.

Even before the 2009 Freedom Awards, for example, after seeing the 2006 movie Blood Diamond the idea of slavery as a modern economic force hadn’t soaked in, because I didn’t understand modern-day slavery’s massive scope.

I’m told there are around 27,000,000 of us in the world now enslaved. And there are six figures of us inside the borders of the United States.

Kevin Bales. Click to enlarge.

At the 2009 Freedom Awards I vowed to myself do what I could to spread the word about modern slavery. So here we are now, and we’ll have the privilege of speaking with Free the Slaves’ co-founder Kevin Bales about what can be done.

Kevin has spent much of the last year afield doing research for a new book. When we first discussed the idea of bringing him on the show, he mentioned the idea that slavery is a practice which uses tremendously destructive, non-sustainable activities like slash & burn forest clearing and mining. Of course that makes sense when you think about it; someone who’s willing to be a slaver isn’t going to care a whit about environmental problems.

Free the Slaves’ 2010 Freedom Awards are scheduled for November 7. They report that: “Every one of us, every day, touches, wears, and eats products tainted with slavery. Slave-made goods and commodities are everywhere in our lives: cotton, coffee, cocoa, steel, rugs and cell phones. And the list goes on.”

Charcoal slavery in Brazil. Courtesy Free the Slaves. Click to enlarge.

And that: “Slaves can be found in all 50 states, working as farmhands, domestics, sweatshop and factory laborers, gardeners, restaurant and construction workers, and as victims of sexual exploitation. As citizens, we need to recognize the warning signs, know what to do with our suspicions, and be ready to help survivors who’ve been rescued.”

Listen to Kevin’s message on Blue Planet Almanac about modern day slavery, and how you can help solve it.

Opportunity Green 2010

Having known Opportunity Green’s co-founder, Mike Flynn, for a year now, I’ve attended two of his organization’s business trade shows. There are a variety of unique things about Opportunity Green, its speakers, and attendees. Each of them is savvy about sustainability, each of them has particular expertise in looking down humanity’s most newly adopted footpath, and each of them stand a much greater than average chance to create their own future.

Michelle Rodriguez of Avatar, Nicole Landers of iOS Light and Mike Flynn. Click to enlarge.

Daniel Goleman, author of the book Ecological Intelligence, co-author of the audio Ecological Awareness, co-author of the audio The Radical Horizon: A Primer on Business Sustainability, and co-author of the audio Leading the Necessary Revolution, as well as his famous tome Emotional Intelligence – believes that the emerging market for business in sustainability represents one of the most lucrative opportunities in the next 50 years. Think about that and let it soak in.

Whatever expert or common-sensical business prophet you follow, it seems axiomatic that one of the two biggest ways we’re gonna dig ourselves out of the environmental holes we’ve fallen into is to allow people to make money on the changes we need.

Among its activities, Opportunity Green stages its OG25 competition, awarding big attention to the most innovative, worthwhile, ecologically intelligent start-up business. This year’s $25,000 BBMG bucks and a $1,000 Office Depot shopping spree for the winner couldn’t hurt, either ;) Zimride‘s innovative ridesharing program took top honors.

Rick Ridgway of environmental legend Patagonia. Click to enlarge.

Every year for the past four, Opportunity Green has assembled the best and brightest in design, sustainability and technology to present their profit-driven solutions to helping save the world. Leading energy companies, new-product entrepreneurs, university think-tankers, journalists, outdoor products manufacturers, automotive manufacturers, business retailers, beverage manufacturers and investment bankers all attend. See this for the 2010 presenters.

But don’t be thinkin’ that these are simply grubby, opportunistic capitalists. Take a look at co-founders’ Mike Flynn and Karen Solomon’s manifesto:

“The Opportunity Green Manifesto

Opportunity Green inspires a collaborative culture of new thinking and unconventional ideas that pushes change in unexpected ways.


We’re not about business as usual. We facilitate the movement to transform business for good, through advancing change and market transformation by providing open-minded professionals unprecedented approaches to sustainability that are bankable and exciting. In everything we do, we seek to balance the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.

Our purpose is to fill your head with knowledge you can use: ideas, new trends, amazing ingenuity. We seek to create forums diverse in content that generate dialogue and create valuable connections between individuals. This revolves around helping transform business as usual by partnering with extraordinary visionaries, forward thinkers, creative industry leaders and companies committed to building profitable + sustainable enterprises while solving some of the world’s toughest problems.

We believe in collaboration with individuals and organizations that look to push the envelope by creating a mutually supportive community that is invested in the future of our society and acts as a catalyst for positive change.”

Mike Flynn will talk with us about many things that will shape our futures as householders and business people. Listen in!

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, with some available through the links below. is an all-positive talk station and has over 3 million listeners monthly in 104 countries and all 50 United States.

Blue Planet Almanac offers thoughtful perspectives on conscious, green living on Earth. With fascinating interviews, breaking news and product reviews, caller participation about Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability are encouraged, including science and policy of importance to Earthlings. Listeners can have their say in an environment that matters or simply listen to leaders in their field. Join us!

Posted by: Rachel C. Cicigline | September 25, 2010

The Media Underdog

Aside from being major environmental disasters, what else do these five things have in common? I will give you a hint:  it’s not their 15 minutes of fame otherwise known as two solid weeks of top story media coverage. Give up? They are all events that made headlines because of the damage and the disaster.  The key issues that led to the events like, oil demand, energy consumption, toxic waste disposal and pesticide usage fell to the wayside in the mainstream media.

When “the media” were only black ink that smeared all over your fingertips,  there was limited page space to discuss all of the current affairs. Only the issues considered the most “newsworthy” made it to the front page; the rest were hidden in-between the sports section and the classifieds. Now that mainstream media have gone digital, there is room for every topic to be considered a headliner. Yet, one topic consistently remains in small print:  environmental issues. And now, after the disasters have had their fame, the remaining problems – you know, the ones that created the news in the first place – fade into little blue links hidden within the bigger text.

I guess the real question that remains would be… why do we not see more media coverage about underlying environmental issues? Granted, some major national news media have a section within their websites dedicated to environmental news. MSNBC has a great environmental section, but good luck finding it from the main page. In order to find good, up-to-date information about current environmental affairs, we must walk further afield to places like ENN: Environmental News NetworkThe Sierra Club or Blue Planet Almanac. Apparently, the mainstream media know what people want to hear and it’s not about the environment.

My curiosity was piqued and I decided to ask a few people what it was that they wanted to hear more about in the news. Not one person said, “the environment.” Actually, one of the most common responses was, “let’s hear more about health care reform and the state of the economy.” In fact, at one point I even heard, “I would rather hear about my health care costs and where my tax dollars are going, rather than about the research done on some algae in the ocean.”

Fish habitat in algae atop coral. NY Times.

Yes… and that, my friends, is why we do not hear about the underlying environmental issues in the media. The problem that we now face is that society does not realize such issues impact everything around us. You think health care costs are bad now?  Do you think that algae living in the ocean does not affect the state of the economy?  Think again.  The environment works in conjunction with everything in it. Microbes, plants, animals, humans, and even pieces of lint off of your shirt have a purpose. This is called balance. Think of the earth as a scale; when one side weighs more than the other, everything goes crooked.

Triclosan. Ever heard of it? Let me give you a little background. Triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical that is found in many over-the-counter products like your antibacterial hand soaps, dish soap,  deodorant, toothpaste, and to my surprise, even in make-up!! What does that matter to you, you ask? Think of it like this:  With a little bit of an antimicrobial used daily in your dish washing, your make-up removal, and your sweet-smelling hand sanitation… you are allowing microbes to evolve and  to become immune to the product you are using. How do you think Methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA) happened?  At the same time, people are being advised to prevent MRSA by using anti-microbial soaps… that sounds like a never-ending scary circle to me.

And just how does this affect your health care costs? The more resistant we become to certain bacteria, the more treatment we are going to need in order to cure an infection. This means longer hospital visits, larger quantities of intravenous medications, more time invested by nurses and doctors to care for you, and follow-up care after your recovery. Your insurance company gets billed an incredible amount of money and how are they going to pay for it?  What else can they do except  increase your premium and/or increase the employer premium?

And algae? Why in the world would we wonder about algae?  I mean, c’mon, it couldn’t possibly have any effect on the current state of the economy! Let’s get one thing straight:  algae are crucial, especially to the food chain. While algae makes its own food, it is also a great supplier of nourishment to several different populations including fish and even humans. In fact, seaweed, a form of algae, is loaded with nutrients and is often used in Asian cuisine (think sushi!). It contains beta carotene (good for the eyes), iron, magnesium, and even calcium.

Now, let us swing back to triclosan for a moment.  According to Aviva Glaser’s article on Beyond Pesticides, triclosan is not only damaging, but life threatening to some types of algae. When this multi-faceted, unicellular, sometimes multi-cellular organism starts dying, so do the organisms that feed off of it. A fish population dies. A crustacean population dies. Snails die. Worms die. And while humans will not necessarily die directly from a loss of algae, certain job markets will.

Overfishing looks like this. Photo Duke University

Fishermen are the hard-working clan that goes off to sea to collect all of the above for the local markets. They make their living catching and selling. So, what if there is a limited amount of fish to catch because the algae was a missing food source? First and foremost, the fishermen would be struggling to catch as much as they could as quickly as they could, which in turn would lead to overfishing. This is not only damaging to the broader environment, but to the fish population itself. Once again, seafood goes on the decline.

Without seafood, there are no fishermen and without fishermen, there is a larger economic problem. It is a downward spiral. Consider the markets they sell to: Restaurants, wholesalers, and grocery markets would suffer a profit loss, as well as a loss of jobs.

It may not seem like a big deal now, so why worry, right? Let’s wait 20 years for it to become another economic and environmental catastrophe before the mainstream media decides to inform the public. Right? Hey… if we can’t see it, it must not really be there. All I am really saying is that the next time you turn on the television, or your laptop, or even your handy, dandy new iPad to catch up on the latest world gossip, remember to scope-out the issues with the underdog:  The environment.

Think of the underlying issue like a heart problem. It’s a little, gentle reminder to you to search out the cause of the problem and aim to fix that. We can’t always focus on the current fix to cover up the symptoms… we all know that the problem just comes back and usually, with a vengeance.

Rachel C. Cicigline

Rachel Cicigline has a freshly minted bachelor of science in applied biology and science reporting from Sage College in Albany, NY, Magna Cum Laude. As an intern at ZooWorld zoological and botanical conservancy in Panama City Beach, FL, she performed presentations to conservancy guests and assisted in animal care, including veterinary procedures.

Rachel looked beneath the obvious surface connections of natural history during her personal outdoors perambulations, and became even more curious about the balance of life. Her personal turning point happened in 2008 when, in a cybergroup about environmental balance, she was shocked after a chance viewing of a Pacific Garbage patch video. Her grandfather’s anecdotes and coaching, about his profession as a homicide detective, then helped catalyze her desire to right wrongs. There came a moment when Rachel understood she had to do more, because the vast Web of life on Earth needed more human voices, more champions to protect it.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | September 17, 2010

Future Trends

Stephen A. Schwartz

Next to the word canny in my dictionary of the English language is a photo of a man I appreciate as a friend, Stephan A. Schwartz. And in my definition for the word Protean is a reference to canny ;)

Stephan has done a great many very unusual things successfully, as well as the usual things North Americans do. You’d be especially surprised at the sort of people he knows and who seek his counsel. He has introduced me to new friends who are renowned in the fields in which I have interest. In talking with him he has mentioned authors, congressmen and TV personalities. He has done interviews and demonstrations on national TV including prime-time.

But because he has learned to live in his own moment, he’s not the sort to feel like he has to prove who he is by who he knows.

Stephan loves good facts and good data, no matter their source. To me that’s always an indicator of courage. Although he’s astonishingly intuitive, he’s also a courageous empiricist. I’ve listened to fascinating presentations from him, had fascinating conversations and hope for many more. One day in 2007 at lunch an observation he made about humanity simultaneously enlightened, stunned and sobered me. What he said actually made me light-headed. He also said I was the first among his acquaintances and friends to hear it from him; because I saw the comment as incontrovertibly insightful, I felt honored to be witness to his thoughtful evolution.

Because I’m always interested in what Stephan sees coming, I’d like now to point you to his regular news service, The SchwartzReport. You’ll find unique perspectives there you’ll not likely find anywhere else in the world of English, and perhaps any other language.

Take a look, especially, at his Editor’s Note for today, 9-17-10. For the time-impaired, here it is below. Now suck it up and use it wisely:

The SchwartzReport

“We stand at cross roads, every major social trend I see describes an America in decline, an America abandoning over two centuries of commitment to the creation of a vibrant middle class, which is the essential ingredient to a successful democracy. Why?

The very rich, as is always true, have the means to just do much as they wish; they do live in a different larger world. The poor in most systems of government, have a very small voice except in revolutions. It was the genius of the Founders to give voice to the poor by creating a mechanism encouraging the creation of a middle class.

Perhaps because their own family’s immigration was still very much a part of their personal narrative they fully recognized that we are all immigrants — and always have been. It is America’s deepest chord. Everyone, including Native Americans came from somewhere else at sometime. Immigrants collectively creating a middle class by emphasizing upward mobility, is the impulse behind the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Benjamin Franklin saw this clearly, envisioning America as a land of upwardly mobile technologically gifted immigrants each aspiring to improve themselves. The American dream — I can be whatever I wish to be, as long as I am willing to work for it — is a statement of upward mobility.

The difference between one billionaire and another may be meaningful to them, but to the other 99 per cent of the country it is a distinction without a difference, and meaningless. To make a democracy work you have to a large group of people affluent enough to create small businesses, and employ people, but not so rich that they can accomplish all they envision alone. The middle class has an investment in stability and peace, and its members recognize from their own lives that social change occurs through joint effort. Rotary and Kiwanis, library guilds, youth centers, and local parks all exist as expressions of this intention. This is what has created the America we mean when we say America. And few trends now support this.

The only way these trends are going to change is if you, every one of you who is an American of an age to vote, do so, and vote for life-affirming policies that help support a vibrant middle class. I publish these stories so that you will understand in objectively measurable terms exactly what is at risk. There are more of us who are life-affirming. If all of us vote we can change these trends to ones that are healthful, financially secure, and in harmony with the great systems of the planet.


— Stephan

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | August 22, 2010

Our Fossil Chemical Romances and Health

O.K., O.K. … you know why the Gulf oil disaster happened. Most of us pilot our dinosaur-juice powered shiny metal boxes down the road every day. Yours truly included. And our economy is built on the black stuff. Yeah, it’s true that a string of government and corporate Bozos made a series of huge mistakes with the Macondo well, but the well wouldn’t have been there if we weren’t so enamored with our oil.

And everyone knows our health is suffering from our oil addictions. It touches every part of everyone’s lives. So, while no one here’s going to cast the first stone, we gotta handle this. From soup to nuts we’ve got three smart guys to help us with these things on this Monday’s Blue Planet Almanac. Terry Tamminen, Mark Sneller, Ph.D., and Bob Deans.

Bob Deans, Federal Communications Director at NRDC

Bob Deans

For an insider’s view of what’s happening or not with daily climate change policy in Washington, we’ll have the opportunity to hear what Bob Deans of Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sees from his first-hand experience over recent years. Founded in 1970, NRDC is one of toughest, most battle-seasoned NGOs on Earth. NRDC features a tripartite approach to environmental salvation which employs seasoned attorneys, scientists and policy activists winning their way through United States courts in their pursuit of environmental sanity.

If you’re a reader, Bob’s name should sound a little more than familiar because Bob helped NRDC president Frances Beineke pen the book, “Clean Energy Common Sense: An American Call to Action on Global Climate Change.” If all that’s not enough to move you to read the book, bear in mind that Robert Redford wouldn’t preface just anyone’s book. Redford and Beineke are people you want on your team.

In his heart, I suspect Bob’s an environmental patriot. From his bio he recounts that he, “spent nearly 30 years as a newspaper reporter. That included a four-year stint as the chief Asia correspondent, based in Tokyo, for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other Cox newspapers, and eight years covering the (Bush) White House. I’m a former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and author of the 2007 book, ‘The River Where America Began: A Journey Along the James.”

"Clean Energy Common Sense" by Frances Beineke with Bob Deans

Bob is currently NRDC’s Director of Federal Communications. In his role with NRDC, he attended Cop15 in Copenhagen, part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was our world’s most recent attempt to sit together and hash out environmental policies which would lead to positive climate policies. Among his activities, Bob also maintains an excellent and interesting blog at NRDC’s Switchboard.

Bob’s blog at NRDC’s Switchboard shows his job covers everything Federal imaginable and then some. Take, for instance, this especially intriguing section from his 2-1-10 entry about the Pentagon and environmental policy, “Climate change, in fact, ‘may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.’ That’s the conclusion laid out in the Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR, the Defense Department released on Monday.” Let that soak in for a moment or two. The Pentagon is interested in environmental policy because it might affect national security? Yes.

Mark Sneller, Ph.D.

The reason why I’m interested in having you hear what Mark Sneller can tell you about sustainability and health is this: it’s long been known that some of the most polluted environments are inside the doors of your home.

Mark Sneller, Ph.D.

From Mark’s bio, he’s:  “a nationally renowned indoor air expert. After spending over thirty years studying mold, pollen and indoor pollutants and inspecting thousands of homes, offices and schools has many findings and ideas to share with you.”

“Sneller was born in Venice, California. After serving for two years in the Peace Corps in India, he went on to earn his Master’s Degree from California State University at Long Beach, and Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma, both in Microbiology/Biochemistry with a specialty in Medical Mycology. In addition, he served two post-doctoral appointments in cancer research and antibiotic research, and also taught graduate studies in Medical Mycology at San Jose State University.”

Greener Cleaner Indoor Air by Mark Sneller, Ph.D.

“In 1979, Dr. Sneller started Aero-Allergen Research, an indoor air quality company in Tucson, Arizona. Since then, he has received two awards from the Arizona Lung Association for work in the field of respiratory health, has been featured in Newsweek Magazine and The New York Times, and on ABC, NBC and CBS national network news. Dr. Sneller has also been under contract with the Department of Justice and Department of Defense for outdoor and indoor air monitoring and served on the State of Arizona Air Pollution Control Hearing Board under appointment from the governor. A bioterrorism consultant for the City of New York Department of Health, he has hosted his own radio talk show and was a weekly newspaper columnist for ten years. Mark currently has a monthly column on

“Dr. Sneller is an approved pollen and mold identification expert by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and is the author of some fifteen scientific papers in the fields of mycology, palynology, organic chemistry, fungal toxins and combination drug therapy.

A resident of Tucson, Dr. Sneller is a Sensei with the Japan Karate Association and is a member of the Society of American Magicians and president of the Society of Southwestern Authors. “

Terry Tamminen

Terry Tamminen, Seventh Generation Advisors

Terry Tamminen’s a sustainability policy advisor with long experience behind him. He founded the sustainability consultancy Seventh Generation Advisors on Los Angeles’ west side, blogs at CNN, Grist and Fast Company and is a frequent media guest in news organizations which include CNBC. You’ll recall his name from his appointment as Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency in November 2003, as well as Cabinet Secretary and Chief Policy Advisor to the Governor in December 2004.

See a news video of Terry discussing BP’s prospective insolvency here on CNBC’s Kudlow Report.

From Terry’s bio: “From his youth in Australia to career experiences in Europe, Africa and all parts of the United States, Terry has developed expertise in business, farming, education, non-profit, the environment, the arts, and government….

“Terry’s latest book, Lives Per Gallon: The True Cost of Our Oil Addiction (Island Press), is a timely examination of our dependence on oil and a strategy to evolve to more sustainable energy sources…

Lives Per Gallon by Terry Tamminen

“In 1993, Terry founded the Santa Monica BayKeeper and served as its Executive Director for six years. He co-founded Waterkeeper programs in San Diego, Orange County, Ventura, and Santa Barbara. He also served for five years as Executive Director of the Environment Now Foundation in Santa Monica, CA and co-founded the Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic at the School of Law, University of California Los Angeles.

“In April, 2007, he was named the Cullman Senior Fellow and Director of the Climate Policy Program of The New America Foundation, a non-profit, post-partisan, public policy institute. In September, 2007, he was appointed as an Operating Advisor to Pegasus Capital Advisors. Pegasus Capital Advisors, L.P., is a private equity fund manager that provides capital to middle market companies across a wide variety of industries.

“Terry currently travels throughout the United States and the world, lecturing and providing private consulting services to a variety of clients, including several Governors and Canadian Premiers on climate and energy policy.”

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.

Blue Planet Almanac offers thoughtful perspectives on conscious, green living on Earth. With fascinating interviews, breaking news and product reviews, caller participation about Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability are encouraged, including science and policy of importance to Earthlings. Listeners can have their say in an environment that matters or simply listen to leaders in their field.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | July 24, 2010

Bruce Rich, Mick Quinn and Eric Herm. Pick a Rock and Throw It.

Here’s the playbill for this coming Monday’s Blue Planet Almanac radio show at 8 AM Los Angeles time on There, you’ll click, “Listen Live.”

Sustainability is cross-disciplinary. From anywhere you stand you could pick up a figurative pebble or rock, toss it as lightly or hard and you like, and strike a subject which involves environmentalism, its law, policy, farming, food, water or a myriad other important things. Environmental lawyer Bruce Rich, American farmer Eric Herm, and personal development wizard Mick Quinn will explain the interactions of those things for us. And modern humanity weren’t the ones who first thought of these interdependencies.

“To Uphold the World” by Bruce Rich

Bruce Rich – Man Across Time

It wasn’t John Muir, Gifford Pinchot or Rachel Carson. At least 2,000 years before the 1973 United States Endangered Species Act, before 1970’s first Earth Day – two widely feared and respected characters, Ashoka and Kautilya were conservationists who recognized what the Earth had going for them. Although they were respectively conqueror and politician, Asoka and Kautilya were also east Indian conservationists who laid down laws with stiff penalties and state policies to preserve natural resources.

That kind’a puts what we thought we were doing in a different perspective, eh? And in a story arc that exceeds the wildest expectations of any movie mogul or American consumer, Ashoka arrived at his moment of power and fame in an especially bloodthirsty fashion. But then he converted himself to Buddhism! Kautilya was Ashoka’s architect of state, and is said to have made Machiavelli look like he’d not yet graduated from the sandbox into realpolitik.

Bruce Rich

So what does this mean for us today? How can we use what Ashoka and Kautilya did in today creating our means to live? Bruce Rich answers, “In many ways.” Rich is widely recognized for his role as a senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council. That should be good enough for you to get your own copy of this excellent reflection on economics, history and current environmental concerns. But if you’d like the usual superlatives that many people crave, the fact that The 14th Dalai Lama wrote Rich’s afterword and the Nobel Prize winning, “Mother Teresa of economics” Amartya Sen wrote its forward, now you have your recommendations.

Wikipedia says Rich is: “…an American writer and lawyer who has published extensively on the environment in developing countries and development in general… was awarded the United Nations Global 500 Award for environmental achievement for his research and advocacy… Since the 1980s Rich worked as an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. He has also worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the United Nations Environment Program, the World Resources Institute, the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment and the World Bank…”

Rich also: “…testified in Congressional hearings on U.S. participation in international financial institutions… has written numerous articles and opeds on international development and environment in publications such as The Nation, The Financial Times, The Ecologist, and Environmental Forum, the policy journal of the Environmental Law Institute. He has lectured widely at universities and colleges around the U.S.”

Mick Quinn, serial CEO who now teaches personal growth

Mick Quinn – Why We Do or Don’t in Sustainability

Personal development expert Mick Quinn is someone I’ve been interested in talking with for some time, after his wife, Debora Prieto suggested the idea through a Facebook connection. Mick understands the fundamental imperatives of consciousness toward healthy lives. Personal values are absolutely key to sustainability, and nothing on Earth will ever change until we change ourselves through our daily habits. Mick is an expert in habitual behaviour.

By our nature, we never do things that others tell us to do, especially as a species. We all try and do things in the easiest fashion conceivable. Enter personal development and growth, or how Blue Planet Almanac’s April 2009 guest and NY Times best-selling author Thomas Kostigen would ask you to, “Care.”

Although there are many important topics we bring to you in Blue Planet Almanac, personal choices are the most critical to positive change in sustainability. Don’t let the succinct brevity of this little post lull you into thinking there will ever be anything more important. Consider for one instructive example, that The 14th Dalai Lama wrote the afterword to Bruce Rich’s book about the application of sustainable economic ethos to modern life. Everyone needs good tools to make decisions about their values. Mick’s work is basically in the same kind of field as the Dalai Lama’s and they both specialize in the means to create your own happiness.

The Uncommon Path by Mick Quinn

The Irish Quinn has penned an Amazon best-seller, The Uncommon Path of Awakening Authentic Joy. In this era of lightning fast information, a bestseller on Amazon is as good in my book as the waning signature-bound tradition. I find that people who matured in other countries often have perspectives on American behavior which are often fresh and unusual.

In a little digression – I must also admit some pride in hearing this about Quinn because I’ve plenty of Irish blood. Before I grew sick of pickle jokes my surname was Dill. As a nation the Irish have a reputation which involves liberal rock ‘n roll, elbow exercise and quick tempers. Some of that’s deserved, but no more or less than the notion that the United States is a resource-rich nation of spoiled environmental usurpers. Touche. ;)

There are likely to be some surprising things Mick will say to you about your values in sustainability and environmentalism. For a preview of his personal energy, take a look at this vid:

Think of the positive change Mick’s work could bring you as your filling of choice between the bread of Bruce Rich’s and Eric Herm’s means. If instead of just listening to a pleasant radio show about sustainability, you want to move your own growth in different directions which you choose, Mick’s methods are among the best. Many will find that his methods suit them in a manner that others haven’t. Mick is also experienced in the black and white world of business, which will assist and appeal to those of us involved in it.

Eric Herm -Farming Smart

If you pay attention to what’s happening in the world of sustainability right now, you’ll often hear experts discussing the most critical “limiting factors” to environmental health. Many of these factors arise from common sense, but arriving at solutions for them takes time, considerable thought and energy. Geopolitical consultants and most American thinkers often cite food and water as the two most important factors every nation will face, now and in coming millenia. If your people are hungry or thirsty, there will at least be unrest and very often war. Lester R. Brown’s Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization discusses this if you’d like a primer.

Son of a Farmer, Child of the Earth, by Eric Herm

But if we move our focus to an American level as an example of what affects us directly, you wouldn’t find information that’s more accessible and understandable than from Eric Herm, author of Son of a Farmer, Child of the Earth. Eric’s understanding of American agriculture – and what’s put on your table each and every night – is second to none. He backs up his claims with facts, charts and tables, which is pretty unusual for someone of his experience. One of the most interesting things about Eric is although he’s an expert young farmer, he completely understands commerce, corporate profit motives and our government’s incestuous relationship with modern agriculture.

Eric Herm. Men (and women) grow your food. This one’s just smart.

Eric’s got experience in the close examination of the massive, unsustainable scale of commercial American farming. He shows us the many ways in which large companies and even our federal government have turned agriculture into a completely chemical, commoditized enterprise which is now hurting us. And we’ve let them do it because we thought it was O.K. and that someone else would take care of it for us.

The book’s Foreword by Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow of the ‘Take No Prisoners’ Post Carbon Institute, tells us what’s really in store if we are to succeed in sustainability: “America needs enormous numbers of new farmers to follow in Herm’s footsteps. The 20th century saw the replacement of farmers with machines running on oil, and with chemicals made from fossil fuels. In this century, as oil and other resources dwindle, we will need generations of children of the Earth to take up once again the venerable occupation that feeds us all. That means we require a revival not just of the many skills that farmers need, but a renewal of rural farming culture, and the creation of an economic system what rewards what really matters – healthy food and healthy planet – more than it does speculation in imaginary claims on ill-defined wealth.”

If you want to find out what this means on a practical basis, and what to do to help your family and everyone else, tune-in and also read his book. This vid below gives you the underpinnings of Herm’s philosophy, while his book and interview with Blue Planet Almanac will give you specific examples you can use in conversation.

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.

Blue Planet Almanac offers thoughtful perspectives on conscious, green living on Earth. With fascinating interviews, breaking news and product reviews, caller participation about Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability are encouraged, including science and policy of importance to Earthlings. Listeners can have their say in an environment that matters or simply listen to leaders in their field.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | July 10, 2010

AWESOME New BP Product!

Check this out! I couldn’t believe my eyes. BP has really turned their misfortune into a profitable opportunity! Those guys are good! “Gulf Wax!” Who would’a figured?


They write that it’s for, “CANNING, CANDLEMAKING AND MANY OTHER USES”. Wow. I think one of the first uses BP devised was as ear plugs.

BP makes the best of a sticky situation.

And, as an extra, unadvertised feature, the raw oil from the April 20th, 2010 disaster will also appear in a marine gyre near you, in a garbage patch, serving as the chemical glue to attract all sorts of toxic stuff!

Posted by: Michael D. 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.

Blue Planet Almanac offers thoughtful perspectives on conscious, green living on Earth. With fascinating interviews, breaking news and product reviews, caller participation about Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability are encouraged, including science and policy of importance to Earthlings. Listeners can have their say in an environment that matters or simply listen to leaders in their field. Join us live!

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | June 10, 2010

A Moving Picture of Perspective

Comparative volumes of water and air on Earth, from Adam Nieman

At first, I wasn’t really sure why I was attending yesterday’s symposium, Climate & Sustainability: Moving by Degrees. Years of experience, instinct and intuition have taught me plenty about environmental issues, enough to know what to report to my Blue Planet Almanac audience. But I had clear feelings I should simply show up, taking a day out of busy reporter’s life.

But, as I sat listening to keynoter Andrew Revkin, I then realized that I was sitting among some of the best and brightest minds our culture has to offer. A scenario like that is always worth riding. Kai Ryssdal and Andrew Revkin were recognizable names to me. Ryssdal, because I’ve willingly heard his excellent reporting for years on Southern California’s Marketplace. Revkin, because he’s a friend of a friend-at-arms, John Amos.

When Revkin projected scientist Dr. Adam Nieman’s conceptual photos of the Earth (above) on the screen at the symposium, I knew I’d spent my time wisely.

Nieman calculated the total volume of water on Earth, shown on the left, and our air from the Earth’s atmosphere, on the right. Each are shown respectively as blue and pink spheres.

The water sphere measures about 864 miles in diameter, with a volume of of 335,877,862 cubic miles. This includes all the water in the oceans, seas, ice caps, lakes and rivers as well as ground water – and in our atmosphere.

The air sphere measures 1,242 miles across. Because it’s not quick and easy for me to convert from Nieman’s metric tonnes, I’m leaving that number alone to convert on your own if you like. But he wrote that it weighs about 5,140 trillion tonnes. Two things worth remembering about atmosphere: As it arises from Earth it becomes less dense. Half of our air lies inside the 3 miles closest to us.

This helps put everything we do in perspective, eh?

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | June 9, 2010

Moving by Degrees

Now attending the live Webcast of Climate & Sustainability: Moving by Degrees. Watch live at Moving by Degees. Go now and see what’s happening! This is being staged by Southern California’s Public Radio Marketplace.

Posted by: Michael D. Austin | June 1, 2010

Phillipe Cousteau, Jr. with CNN’s Rick Sanchez on 5-31-10

Here’s Phillipe Cousteau, Jr.’s interview with Rick Sanchez on CNN from 5-31-10, titled, “Swimming in the oil slick.”

Phillipe mentions a noteworthy fact – our government spends 1,000 times more on space exploration than on deepwater exploration. Toxicologist Susan B. Shaw of the Marine Environment Research Institute is also quoted.

Phillipe is co-founder and CEO of EarthEcho International and Planet Green’s Chief Ocean Correspondent.

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