The Blog Aquatic » Anna Zivian http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Ninety Percent of Everything: a Look Inside Shipping http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/10/03/ninety-percent-of-everything-a-look-inside-shipping/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/10/03/ninety-percent-of-everything-a-look-inside-shipping/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 20:52:19 +0000 Anna Zivian http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6760 container ship at port

Photo: Matt Zimmerman via Flickr

Rose George’s recent book, “Ninety Percent of Everything,” offers an outsider’s look inside an immensely important, but remarkably obscure industry. George is a stranger on a strange sea, but she is able to enter deeply into the world of the shipping industry in a short time.

Her writing is clear, elegant and direct, making even discussions of shipping’s many acronyms and abbreviations—TEUs, UNCLOS, IMO, MARPOL, ECDIS—compelling.

George brings the personal into a world that has grown ever more distant and impersonal. She gains her entry into the closed world of shipping by traveling as a “supernumerary,” a working guest (her book is the work) on the Maersk Kendal.

She also joins a European Union Naval Force vessel, the Vasco de Gama, to see firsthand the international efforts to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden.

Ninety Percent of Everything book coverOn occasion, as with her discussions of piracy, her storytelling becomes almost too personal, and her viewpoint and prejudices become distractions. For the most part, however, her stories bring us to the ocean and remind us that there are people behind the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the computers we rely on—behind 90 percent of everything.

Shipping has transformed radically in the last half century. Ships have become bigger, crews have become smaller and more international, and containers have replaced “breakbulk” shipments, where goods were packed and unloaded singly, in barrels, bags and boxes.

The increasing automation has led to a faster and more solitary lifestyle, and George conveys the changes with clarity and compassion. She describes the dangers, the loneliness, the hardships and the economic struggles of officers and crew alike in a way that draws the reader in and lets us see the hardships behind international trade.

George also devotes a chapter to the hardships shipping can cause on non-humans, particularly whales. There is the obvious danger of ship strikes (although it is not always obvious to the ships, which are so big that they often do not notice if they strike an animal).

There is also the more pervasive problem of noise pollution: With more and more ships, the ocean is becoming increasingly noisy. As George says, “Sound means life for aquatic animals. And now, because of us, it can mean death.”

Both of these problems have some partial fixes. To avoid ship strikes, shifting routes and slowing down can help—and new technology can help captains know where whales are and avoid them. Slower speeds and more efficient propellers, which are quieter, can cut down on noise.

In modern shipping, automation and containers have driven up loading and unloading speeds, meaning that port visits are so short that there is practically no time to leave the ship and see the sights that were historically such a compelling draw for young sailors. Shipping is a difficult, dangerous business.

Despite all this, the sea still has a draw—in some cases, economic, but also more viscerally. George does a remarkable job of translating this ineffable pull by bringing us into the lives of the people she meets and the places she travels.

“Ninety Percent of Everything” combines history, technical information, personal travel stories and mini-biographies into a highly readable and informative book.

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Offshore Wind Moving Closer to Providing Renewable Energy to the East Coast http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/25/offshore-wind-moving-closer-to-providing-renewable-energy-to-the-east-coast/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/25/offshore-wind-moving-closer-to-providing-renewable-energy-to-the-east-coast/#comments Fri, 25 Jan 2013 19:40:31 +0000 Anna Zivian http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4404

Credit: Wind Turbines by Shutterstock/Dennis van de Water

2013 may be a very windy year. All along the Atlantic Coast, offshore renewable power has been getting a boost. In states from North Carolina to Maine, growing support for wind energy has led to practical steps that will get this industry moving.

In North Carolina, Governor McCrory has announced his support for offshore renewable wind development, saying it would help grow North Carolina’s economy and provide jobs. On Tuesday, in Annapolis, Maryland, Governor O’Malley rolled out a bill to create incentives for offshore renewable energy. In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, wind projects are under construction. In Maine, the Public Utilities Commission voted 2-1 on Thursday to approve the terms for Statoil, a Norwegian state energy company, to move forward with a $120 floating wind turbine test project, clearing the biggest step in making the proposal a reality. All along the East Coast, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is moving forward with a public planning to help site offshore wind farms, making sure to consider other ocean users and environmental concerns in the process.

Finally, to help tie it all together, in New Jersey, Atlantic Wind Connection announced that it will be moving forward with plans for the first part of its offshore transmission line that will help connect offshore wind farms to the grid to provide energy to homes and businesses in New Jersey. Construction of the 189-mile segment (of what will eventually be a 350-mile line) is scheduled to be completed by 2015. Even before the line delivers wind energy, it will help (off)shore up the transmission infrastructure.

As we saw from Hurricane Sandy, storms can wreak havoc on the energy distribution system, knocking down power lines and causing hundreds of thousands of people to lose electricity. Having a line offshore and undersea means that at least part of the energy grid will be less vulnerable to the hurricanes and strong storms that are growing more frequent.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management made a finding of no competitive interest and approved AWC to move forward with its permitting process in 2011. The public process for approval allows stakeholders, the public and state and federal agencies to review where and how the line will be sited, what impacts construction of the line could cause, and whether there might be any conflicts created by building the line. This smart planning also lets AWC coordinate with other users to figure out the best routes for the line so that it can link up easily to future offshore wind farms as well as to existing onshore infrastructure.

As Atlantic Wind Connection President Markian Melnyk said about ocean planning at a regional meeting in New England, “”What it means for us is greater predictability, lower risk, lower cost. In our view, when you can identify the right places to do ocean energy, you can do everything better — you can do conservation better and can do energy development better. It doesn’t have to be a fight over siting; this type of collaborative siting work helps makes it more about science and more about sound economics than about fighting.”

With the help of collaboration, coordination and smart planning, renewable energy and better infrastructure may soon become a reality on the East Coast.

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When It Comes to the Ocean’s Health Report Card, Let’s Set the Curve! http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/28/when-it-comes-to-the-oceans-health-report-card-lets-set-the-curve/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/28/when-it-comes-to-the-oceans-health-report-card-lets-set-the-curve/#comments Tue, 28 Aug 2012 16:47:16 +0000 Anna Zivian http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2511

What does a healthy ocean look like? The Ocean Index brings together scientific data on everything from coral to the economics of coastal communities to answer this critical question. Credit: Arthur Koch

At Ocean Conservancy, we often get asked “How is the ocean doing?” That straightforward question is actually quite difficult to answer. This vast resource, our planet’s life support system, faces many complex challenges. Quantifying them is no easy matter.

The new Ocean Index  announced in Nature is one way to assess and compare the health of ocean ecosystems across different countries. To date, there’s been no comprehensive source that brings together all manner of ocean-related research in one place. The Index is a good starting point.

Sixty-five scientists and other experts worked together to create this tool. They use a series of indicators to measure ten goals important to us all, including

The Index looks at the current status for each, as well as the likely scenario for sustainability into the future. Overall, the health of the ocean received a score of 60 out of 100. The United States is in the middle of the pack with a score of 63. 

Obviously, that leaves lots of room for improvement. On the other hand, it also means that there are several things that the U.S. is doing well. In fact, the paper calls out the National Ocean Policy for focusing on “…using comprehensive ecosystem-based management to address the needs of both humans and nature.”

The Index provides a solid basis for discussion, helping demonstrate how the decisions we make matter to our health and wellbeing, and showing us where to focus on solutions.

For instance, the goal of clean waters gets a global score of 78. The Ocean Index takes into account research on all kinds of impacts on water quality, from excess nutrients to oil spills and ocean trash.

Or take a look at coastal protection, which covers habitats like mangroves that protect our shores from storms: 73. Not so bad, but not where we want to be, either.
Putting together scientific information about concerns like habitat destruction and chemical pollution alongside key information like the cost of storm damage to coastal communities can boost the success of ocean conservation work.

The Ocean Index also shows how crowded the ocean really is, and how many different sectors rely on its resources, which is why we need smart ocean planning, (among other objectives listed in the National Ocean Policy), to help make smart choices when it comes to how our ocean is used.

As we move forward with the National Ocean Policy, we can use this collective scientific information in the Ocean Index to help make better decisions for the health of our coasts, ocean and communities. Working together, we can move to the head of the class.

Check back on The Blog Aquatic tomorrow for further analysis of the Ocean Health index from my colleague George Leonard.

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