Off the Hook

The U.S. Attorney’s office has apparently decided to forego prosecution of The Hump for selling endangered Sei whale sashimi to the makers of the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove.” Evidently, the owners’ self-imposed death sentence for the Santa Monica restaurant satisfied the feds.

Self-flagellation should not be a substitute for law enforcement. I don’t really care too much about the fine, although the delicious justice of penalties going to Sea Shepherd would be perfect. But I do care that this gross violation of the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and CITES should result in a larger investigation.

Who sold The Hump the whale? Who caught the whale in Japan? Who sold the whale to a U.S. distributor? Where else does that distributor do business and what will the feds do to shut them down? The Hump transaction may have been the tip of the iceberg for illegal trade to sushi restaurants.

Will we get answers to these questions? Now that the U.S dropped the prosecution, the likelihood of true justice for this heinous crime is zero.

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To Obama: Save the Whales!

Enough is enough on science claim.

I went through my usual morning routine today: sit-ups and stretches during the 6 a.m. edition of “SportsCenter” (great to see real Laker highlights for the first time in a month!); getting a cup of English Breakfast tea and putting the dishes away; confirming the course of the day with family members Lisette, Zack and Jake; and sitting down to the L.A .Times. 

Because it’s Wednesday, I go to Lopez’ column first to see who he’s calling out (today it’s Supervisor Ridley-Thomas use of discretionary funds) and then I move on to the Opinion section. It was great to see Joel Reynolds from NRDC blasting the Obama administration on its ludicrous position to save the whales by legalizing whale hunting.

I am a biologist and I seem to remember from the numerous ecology classes I took at UCLA that the best way to enhance the health of populations in the wild is to not kill them. The administration’s position that legalizing whaling will somehow expose illegal whaling conducted under the guise of scientific study or cultural preservation is flawed logic at best and catastrophic to cetaceans at worst. (Some activities should just be banned. Just look at how so-called cultural rights have been used to rationalize human rights abuses worldwide over the years.)

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Supreme Hope

State's highest court offers hope on bag bans.

The California Supreme court gave the Pacific Ocean hope Thursday by agreeing to hear Manhattan Beach’s appeal on its overturned plastic bag ban. Happy Earth Day indeed!!

The news comes during a week when a dead gray whale was found to have ingested about 20 plastic bags in the Puget Sound area. (No message there for Seattle voters that opposed plastic bag fees at the expense of cetaceans and marine debris.)

The original lawsuit, brought by the eco-terrorists at the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, led to a ruling that Manhattan Beach’s plastic bag ban ordinance did not comply with the environmental review requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Judge Yaffe’s ruling ended up as a de facto requirement that an EIR was needed to ban plastic bags. It cast a potentially chilling shadow on cities’ rights to pass laws without full CEQA review even though the coalition surely wasn’t litigating with environmental protection as a priority. Manhattan Beach appealed the ruling and lost in State Court of Appeals on a 2-1 vote.

The city then petitioned the Supreme Court, where only about one out of every 20 appeals gets heard, and the court ruled on Earth Day that it will hear the case. This time, groups like Californians against Waste, Heal the Bay and numerous cities wrote strong, legal letters of support for MB’s appeal.

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Act Locally

Join us in cleaning up Compton Creek on May 8. It's always an eye-opening experience.

Happy 40th Earth Day! It seems as if the enormous 20th anniversary celebration was just yesterday, but that’s what happens when you get old. For Heal the Bay, Earth Day used to mean Earth Month, but now the festivities occur mid-March to mid-May. Heal the Bay staff and volunteers will deliver at least 79 educational talks and lead over 112 beach cleanups over the period.

When I heard those numbers, I didn’t feel pride. Instead, I felt sympathy – as in our educational programs department, led by the peerless and tireless Meredith McCarthy, and the rest of our staff needed some serious time on the therapist’s couch.

Talk about delusions of grandeur! Are Meredith and the gang trying to save the planet in real time? God knows we need it. Meredith has a lot of founding president Dorothy Green in her. By working harder than everyone else, she leads by example. And she’s just so darn friendly and gracious that it’s nearly impossible to say no to her.

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An Explosive Idea

Are volcanoes the cure for global warming?

By now everyone has seen the devastating havoc wreaked by the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland And I’m not just talking about the impacts on the careers of TV journalists trying to pronounce the Icelandic tongue-twister of a volcano.  The eruption cloud has shut down air travel in Europe and has led to massive speculation on the climate impacts of the spewing ash and sulfur dioxide.

Most scientists say the eruption is having minimal climate change impacts. (With an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide per day, the volcano would rank about 50th in a list of nations by average emissions-per- day.)  Others say that the beneficial impacts of ash and sulfate in the air will temper the impacts of climate change.

So volcanic eruptions may be just what the doctor ordered to adapt to the high CO2 levels from manmade impacts.  Some scientists that favor geoengineering have suggested creating sulfate aerosol clouds in the stratosphere or maybe even trillions of small mirrors in space as a sunshield.  Why go to all of that trouble when we can just trigger extensive volcanic eruptions across the planet? 

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Bagging a Win

Assemblymember Brownley

Assemblymember Julia Brownley’s bill to ban single-use bags, AB 1998, passed out of the Natural Resources Committee on a 6-3 vote Monday.  If the Heal the Bay-sponsored bill is signed into law, California retailers (grocery, drug and convenience stores) would phase out the use of single-use plastic, bioplastic and paper bags by 2012.

Support for the bill followed party lines, with the ayes coming from Chesbro, Brownley, Huffman, Skinner, De Leon and Hill. Gilmore, Knight, and Logue dissented.

The supportive discussion focused on the detrimental environmental and economic impacts of single-use bags.  Environmental groups, recyclers and local governments all testified in support. Chico Bag, the makers of those cool, compactable reusable bags, discussed the green job potential of the bill. Chico estimates that California has 20 reusable bag companies.

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Back to School

MIT: Does a free T-shirt come with the $50K tuition?

I’ve spent the last 10 days with my son Zack on the traditional high school junior rite of passage: the college roadie. Personally, I only applied to one school. Ever. I’m a Bruin – born at the hospital, bachelors, masters, doctorate and a current lecturer. I’ve gone nowhere in life. Literally.

So for me, the roadie was an opportunity to capture lost youth, or just feel really old because I have a son that will be in college soon. Like every other west side parent, I think my child is extraordinary. Only, Zack really is!!

Seriously, how many other kids out there are interested in the same field as their parents?  His interests are the environment, Biology (especially marine) and engineering. Right now, the apple is still on the tree and doesn’t seem ready to fall any time soon.

We travelled from Dartmouth to Brown to Princeton to Duke to Cornell and MIT. I went in to the road trip with the hopes that Zack would hate them all because of the price tag associated with every one of them. I know, the days of $225 a quarter tuition at UCLA are long gone, but $50K a year for college?  Do you get an electron microscope with that? Or at least a “free” t-shirt?

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