Category Archives: Treehugger

>Greetings From Planet Ocean

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By Graham Hill

A note from the editor:

After sailing 8,000 nautical miles, The Plastiki – carrying a 10-member crew  – arrived triumphantly in Sydney harbor on July 26th, completing a 130-days voyage across the Pacific Ocean.

 

After engaging in a role-playing game with actress Glenn Close during the TED Mission Blue Voyage, entrepreneur Graham Hill joined fellow Selection Committee member and adventure ecologist David DeRothschild and his Plastiki crew on a groundbreaking voyage across the Pacific Ocean.

“I’m not a werewolf,” said Glenn Close, her eyes not leaving mine for a second. My mind reeled. Could I trust her? She seemed calm and confident. Or was that a slight smirk in her smile?

Close, myself, several environmentally engaged celebs such as Edward Norton and Leonardo DiCaprio, along with AOL founder Steve Case, tech savant Bill Joy, and a number of philanthropists, were among the 100 or so aboard a Lindblad Expeditions ship in the Galapagos this past April for the TED Mission Blue Voyage. The five-day conference had been organized by TED and Dr. Sylvia Earle, the deep-sea-diving pioneer and 2009 TED Prize winner. Close and DiCaprio had taken a break from plotting ways to save the world’s oceans for a mean game of Werewolves and Villagers, a highly addictive role-playing game. The game won, Close, talented actress that she is, smiled mischievously. Total werewolf.

This scene, frankly, wasn’t one I had ever imagined myself in. But being the founder of one of the more popular green websites, TreeHugger.com, had, strangely — and wonderfully — brought me together with a lot of people I never dreamed I’d play role-playing games with below decks on the equator. And thankfully! The increasingly vivid environmental nightmare we were heading toward has prompted many of our society’s influencers to see how they can help, and the TED Mission Blue Voyage was the first of two such inspired gatherings I’ve been privileged to drop in on lately, the second being the Plastiki, my pal David de Rothschild’s recycled-plastic-bottle “cataraft,” on which I was just crossing the Pacific.

Unlike many maps, globes are not distorted. Take a look at one. Spin it around. Notice that there’s way more blue than brown. Center it over Hawaii, and the Pacific covers your whole view. The oceans cover fully 71 percent of the globe. It ain’t Planet Earth; it’s very clearly Planet Ocean. Without the oceans, we’d quite simply go extinct, and this is the fundamental issue that both the TED Mission Blue Voyage and Plastiki are addressing.

In the Galapagos, Sylvia Earle wanted to galvanize support for saving our oceans by creating a global network of marine protected areas dubbed “Hope Spots” — think national parks for regions of the ocean — and over the five-day event, she got a major head start. The event featured your standard intense battery of TED talks (ocean-focused), lightened with interludes by Chevy Chase, Damien Rice, and Jackson Browne and peppered with guided snorkeling excursions, diving trips, and nature walks (per Cousteau: we protect what we love).

Between premiering Jake Eberts’s latest masterpiece, Oceans; showing videos of Mike Rutzen playing with a variety of monstrous sharks; displaying fantastic ocean photos by Brian Skerry; and raising a cool 17 million (yes, million), the TED-curated talks delivered. Among much else we learned that our fisheries have been decimated, that two-thirds of our oceans are out of any nation’s control and therefore are frustratingly difficult to regulate. We learned that we insanely subsidize our two-and-a-half-times-too-large fishing industry to the tune of $35 billion a year, while a mere $16 billion could protect more than 20 percent of the seas.

Once Mission Blue concluded, I hightailed it to Christmas Island, Kiribati. Five hours south of Hawaii, this is where I joined up with the Plastiki, a 60-foot catamaran made out of 12,500 reclaimed bottles and a fully recyclable plastic called Seretex.

The cat looked like a pleasure yacht. But one with Magiveresque additions of solar panels, wind turbines, a gigantic terrarium apparatus, and even a power-creating stationary bike. It was crowned with a Buckminster Fuller–inspired geodesic igloo for the crew. In short order, I came to understand that Adventure Ecology’s vessel, while very high-tech in some ways, was more raft than boat. An experimental craft built in San Francisco over the past few years, the Plastiki’s mission was to sail from there to Sydney using only alternative energy (wind, solar, hydro, human) while drawing attention to the plight of our oceans and encouraging us to start thinking “resource instead of “waste” management by emulating our animal brethren and designing for zero waste. The adventure part? The Pacific is absolutely massive, the boat sails a measly three or so knots per hour, and due to the design challenge of hulls full of water bottles, she easily drifts sideways and has serious turning restrictions.

By my fourth day, I’d acclimated to the round-the-clock three-hour watches, the constant salty damp and the incessant creaking, clanging, whistling of our lady Plastiki as she lumbered across the oh-so-ginormous Pacific in a suspiciously Truman Show fashion. The vibe was great onboard, and with partners such as HP and Inmarsat, there was plenty of media streaming outward to CNN, Oprah, the New York Times, Al Jazeera, TreeHugger, and many others. It was also revealing to see how six people can live relatively comfortably in a tiny, tiny space (a roughly 300-square-foot cabin) while only using wind and solar energy.

About 10 days in, coming out of said 95-degree sweatbox of a cabin, I noticed our normally trailing buoy far to port. The infamous doldrums were upon us. And so, with equal parts excitement and fear, we jumped into the water for a swim, excited to get into the massive ocean for a cool-off and for a change of scenery, but fearful that our snail’s pace would be further slowed. We swam around like excited children, leaping off the cabin into the sea, diving deep and hanging onto the buoy, as far as one could safely get from the boat. The water was as blue and has as much visibility as a swimming pool, yet I dove and dove again looking for signs of life. Eerily, we saw nothing at all near the surface, and I understood how parts of the ocean truly can be desert-like.

 

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Filed under David de Rothschild, Graham Hill, Green Blog Network, Greening Hollywood, Hope Spots, Oceans, Plastiki, solar energy, TED, Treehugger, wind energy

>Save The Beers!

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By Maggie Koerth-Baker  April 17, 2010

Originally Posted on Boing Boing

Treehugger’s Chris Tackett brings this sad story of corporate waste and legal sillyness to our attention.

Two employees of the Columbia, Missouri Solid Waste Division and beer rescuing heroes, Beer Heroes or Beeroes, if you will, have made headlines for rescuing some 50-odd cases of beer from being needlessly destroyed at the landfill, at which they work. … And it was a victory, one to be celebrated with say a couple truck loads of free beer, even, that is until word got back to the fun haters in the main office who are going by the book on this one and calling the beer salvaging rescue effort, which some are now calling Operation Safe Suds, a theft and possibly a matter for the police. See, because anything left at the landfill officially becomes city property, these city employees were technically stealing this beer.

America, we cannot allow this injustice to stand! If there’s one thing that can bring America together it is a love of beer. We’ve got problems when we criminalize attempts to reduce waste…even more so when we’re talking about rescuing beer! It’s time we do something about it! I hereby am launching the Save the Beers Campaign. This is an effort to bring attention to Beer-related waste. Share this story with your friends, family and elected representatives. Post our “Save the Beers!” image on your blog, Facebook profile or any spare billboards you have access to as a sign of solidarity. And don’t waste ANY beer yourself. One drop wasted is one drop too many!

Beers, they’re kind of like whales if you think about it real hard.

Extra: Included in this story is possibly the greatest understatement ever written in an American newspaper.

When explaining the motives behind why one would want to take some free beer, the evil man responsible for dumping the beer, Joe Priesmeyer said, “Beer is a popular product.”

Treehugger: Save the Beers!, includes helpful list of 8 ways to use beer instead of throwing it out
Columbia Tribune: Discarded Beer Causes Stir

Please Click Over to Boing Boing to see These and Other Fabulously Intelligent and Eco Comments:

Obviously, the salvagers need to:

a) recover each bottle for recycling at the city waste department, thus returning the containers to the city in an environmentally-responsible manner;

and

b) return to the dump to empty their bladders after drinking the beer, thus returning the contents to the city in an environmentally-responsible manner.

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Filed under Beer Heroes, Boing Boing, Earth day 2010, Green Blog Network, Greening Hollywood, Greening Vancouver, Operation Safe Suds, Save The Beers, Treehugger