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Photo: Waterstudio/Dutch Docklands Maldives via dezeen.
Maldives Floating City is planned to accommodate up to 20,000 residents. Badly needed. Global warming is sinking the country.

Is it possible to reverse the harm we’ve done to the planet after burning so much fossil fuel? For the people of Maldives, time is of the essence, and they’re not waiting to find out.

Alice Finney writes at dezeen, “The Maldives has partnered with architecture studio Waterstudio to create a brain-shaped floating city that will house 20,000 people in a lagoon near the country’s capital.

“Called Maldives Floating City, the development will contain 5,000 low-rise floating homes floating within a 200-hectare lagoon in the Indian Ocean. As sea levels rise, so too will the city, which will be built upon a series of hexagonal-shaped floating structures.

“In the Maldives, 80 per cent of the country sits less than one metre (three feet) above sea level. With the Maldives islands predicted to be uninhabitable by 2100 due to rising sea levels, the government of the Maldives hopes to offer up to 20,000 locals and foreigners the opportunity to move to the floating city as early as 2024.

“Construction is planned to begin later this year on the development, which will be 10 minutes by boat from the Maldivian capital Male.

” ‘This first-of-its-kind island city offers a revolutionary approach to modern sustainable living perched against a backdrop of the azure Indian Ocean,’ said the studio. …

“Maldives Floating City is among a number of floating city proposals, including Oceanix Busan by architecture firms BIG and Samoo and tech company Oceanix that are designed to offer a housing solution to rising sea levels and global temperature increases.

“However, developer Dutch Docklands claims that none have been attempted on this scale and at this speed with full governmental support.

” ‘While attempts at floating cities have been tried before, none have featured Maldives Floating City’s most compelling selling points: full-scale technical, logistical and legal expertise,’ explained Dutch Docklands.

“The development, which is set to be fully completed by 2027, will be composed of a series of hexagonal islands modeled on the geometric shapes of a local coral called brain coral. When combined and viewed from above the development will resemble a brain. …

“The living platforms will support houses, hotels, restaurants, shops, a hospital, a school and a government building. …

” ‘As a nation at the front lines of global warming, the Maldives is perfectly positioned to reimagine how humankind will survive — and, indeed, thrive — in the face of rising seas and coastal erosion,’ said the Dutch Docklands.

” ‘Inspired by traditional Maldivian sea-faring culture and developed in close cooperation with Maldivian authorities, Maldives Floating City homes will eventually be joined by hotels, restaurants, stylish boutiques and a world-class marina.’

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Sixth Assessment Report 2022, states that small island nations such as the Maldives may become completely uninhabitable as the world is on track to warm by two to three degrees this century.

” ‘The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F)’ the report by the United Nations’ climate change panel said. ‘Even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. Risks for society will increase, including to infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements.’

“Viable solutions for urban development into the ocean listed in the report include elevating houses on stilts and creating ‘amphibious architecture’ that can float on the surface of rising floodwater.”

Oy. I try to find hopeful stories for the blog, but I think I failed on this one. We really need to reverse what we’ve done. I know climate is not the same as weather, but the extremes of weather we are seeing should convince even nonbelievers that something is going on. I left for my walk at 5:15 am today to “beat the heat.” It was already 80F (26.6 C)!

More at dezeen, here.

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Photo: Kendal Blust/KJZZ via Fronteras.
These eelgrass seeds are fresh from the sea.
Mexico’s indigenous Comcáac people have managed to protect 96% of the precious eelgrass that grows in their region.

I have long known about beach grass and how it can hold the dunes and protect the land in a hurricane. I know about how easily the roots die if you walk on beach grass and why, when “Keep Off the Dunes” signs aren’t obeyed, houses wash away.

But I’m learning there’s another fragile grass that helps the environment. This one lives in the sea and captures carbon.

Sam Schramski has the story at Public Radio International’s the World.

“At a two-day festival on the coast of northern Mexico [last] month, scientists, chefs and local residents gathered to celebrate eelgrass — a unique type of seagrass that grows in the Gulf of California. 

“Seagrass is on the decline in the world’s oceans, but the Indigenous Comcáac people who live in the region have managed to protect the eelgrass that grows in their waters. 

” ‘From my parents, I learned about medicinal plants and the songs of plants, as well as about traditional foods,’ said Laura Molina, who is Comcáac.

“She remembers how her mom made tortillas out of flour ground from eelgrass seeds known as xnois in Comcáac language, a mix between wild rice and nori seaweed. 

Seagrass is getting a lot of attention these days because of its capacity to store carbon, estimated to sequester up to half the so-called ‘blue carbon’ in the world’s oceans and coastal ecosystems — putting it on par with global forests.

“Ángel León, a Spanish chef and owner of Aponiente restaurant, has made it his personal mission to protect threatened seagrass beds off the Spanish coast. He’s interested not only in the plant’s environmental benefits but also its culinary potential in the kitchen as a nutrient-rich superfood. …

“Seagrass is down about 30% globally since the late 1800s. Through León’s restaurant and related nongovernmental organizations, he has heavily financed seagrass restoration projects.” More at the World, here. Listen to the audio version there.

Kendal Blust at Fronteras also wrote about the festival: “In the small Comcaac village of Punta Chueca, on the Sonoran coast of the Gulf of California, a group of women gathered around a white sheet piled high with dried zostera marina, or eelgrass.

“One woman sang an ancestral song dedicated to the plant, known as hataam, as others beat the dried eelgrass and rubbed it between their palms to remove its small, green seeds. Xnois, as the seeds are known in the Comcaac language, cmiique iitom, are an ancestral food.

“ ‘The Comcaac are the only people, the only Indigenous group, that consumes the seed,’ said Erika Barnett, a Punta Chueca resident who has been heavily involved in restoration efforts.

“Eelgrass seed has been a part of their culture for millennia, she said. Traditionally, the flour was used to make tortillas and a hot drink combined with honey and sea turtle oil. And because it’s quite filling, it used to be carried by Comcaac during sea journeys. …

“Barnett said her great-grandparents were probably the last members of her family to collect and eat the xnois seeds. Her father, now 76, last tasted it when he was just 7.

” ‘That’s was the last time he ate it,’ she said. ‘It’s very ancient, but it’s no longer eaten like it used to be, and most younger people have never tasted it. So this effort is really rescuing our culture.’ …

“Now, Barnett is part of a team working to bring the tradition back to their community — both because of the plant’s nutritional value and its ecological benefits. Eelgrass creates habitat for sea turtles and fish, protects the coastline and captures carbon.

“ ‘It’s important for us to revive these traditions so they can be passed on to future generations,’ she said. ‘But I think we need to show the community that it can be done, first. That it’s hard, but we can harvest the seeds.’

“So for weeks in April, a group of women and girls harvested eelgrass the way their ancestors would have. They waded into the sea to collect plants floating near the shore, then dried, thrashed and winnowed them. …

“ ‘One of the missions of Aponiente is to look to the sea with hunger,’ said Greg Martinez, a chef and biologist. … Martinez said the restaurant is committed to discovering the gastronomic potential in the ocean, both for our health and for the planet.

“And eelgrass has a lot of potential. For one thing, it captures and holds carbon below the water’s surface. Known as blue carbon, it can help mitigate climate change.

“ ‘But it doesn’t only sequester carbon,’ Martinez said. ‘It also protects coastlines. It serves as a habitat for thousands of different species that come to breed in their protection. It buffers waves so if you have a tsunami or another storm it protects the coastline in that way as well.’

“Despite the swath of ecosystem services seagrasses provide, however, seagrass beds currently are disappearing from the world’s oceans, he said. And that makes it especially important to protect the abundant meadows in the Canal del Infiernillo, a channel between the coast and the massive Tiburon Island that is entirely within Comcaac territory.”

More at Fronteras, here. Nice pictures. Both news sites are free of firewalls.

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Photo: Washed Ashore.
Rosa, the bald eagle, was created by Washed Ashore volunteers collaborating nationwide despite the pandemic. Washed Ashore is a nonprofit that repurposes ocean plastic to make art and raise awareness.

Having read about Washed Ashore at the New York Times before the pandemic, I wondered how these plastic-waste-fighting artists managed to keep going during lockdown. I should have known: nothing can stop them.

Founder Angela Haseltine Pozzi showed her mettle in an early March 2020 interview with Alex V. Cipolle: “Angela Haseltine Pozzi stands shoulder to shoulder with Cosmo, a six-foot-tall tufted puffin, on a cliff overlooking the blustery Oregon coast. It is January and the deadly king tides have come to Coquille Point, making the shoreline look like a churning root-beer float.

“Cosmo endures the weather just fine, as he is composed of plastic that has washed ashore — flip-flops, bottle caps, toy wheels, cigarette lighters — all mounted to a stainless-steel frame and bolted to concrete. The puffin is a sculpture from Ms. Haseltine Pozzi’s art and education nonprofit, Washed Ashore, whose tagline is ‘Art to Save the Sea.’

‘We’ve cleaned up 26 tons off the beaches, Ms. Haseltine Pozzi said, ‘which isn’t a dent in the actual pollution issue, but we’re doing something by raising awareness and waking people up.’ …

“Washed Ashore has taken those 26 tons of garbage, all debris that washed up on the Oregon coast (the majority within 100 miles of Bandon), and built 70 large-scale sculptures and counting, including Octavia the Octopus, Edward the Leatherback Turtle and Daisy the Polar Bear. …

“[The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] estimates that eight million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year. Marine animals become entangled in it or ingest pieces they mistake for food, such as the whale that recently washed ashore in Scotland with 220 pounds of debris in its belly — the same weight in plastic an American throws away annually.”

So having read about Haseltine Pozzi’s efforts to draw attention to this travesty through art, I wondered what happened to Washed Ashore during the pandemic. Surely, there would have been no more of Pozzi’s in-person workshops, workshops where Washed Ashore invites “the Buddhists and the Baptists, and the rednecks and the hippies, and the Republicans and the Democrats, and they all sit around the table and they all work together.”

The nonprofit’s excellent blog has that piece of the story.

“When the Covid-19 pandemic led to a national lockdown of indoor spaces in early 2020, the Washed Ashore gallery and art studios were affected much like everyone else. Volunteer activity ceased, exhibits were closed, and workshops were emptied. Washed Ashore relies heavily on a steady stream of volunteers to collect and sort debris and build parts of sculptures, accompanying our full-time staff of artists and helpers. But overnight, our doors were closed and volunteers sent home.

“Knowing the problems of plastic ocean pollution were too great to ignore, Washed Ashore looked to find a creative way to continue our mission to create ‘Art to Save the Sea’ and finding a way to still work together, but differently. …

“And so we got to work, calling on supporters and putting together a plan to unite us as the pandemic kept us all apart. [We] opened our determined efforts nationwide with a goal to work together and create a new sculpture, a symbol of unity.

“What better symbol of hope and unity for the people of the United States than a giant American Bald Eagle, the symbol of our democracy?

“The project was named ‘Come Soar With Us,’ by our Executive Director Katie Dougherty, and our team got to work putting together detailed plastic debris construction kits and instructions and mailing them out across America to over 1,550 volunteers across seven states. Their tireless participation stretched well over eight months, creating the feathers for what would be become Rosa’s impressive wingspan. …

“During a time when so much was halted, the momentum and collaboration from creating Rosa with all of our staff and volunteers was inspiring and has given our team an enormous sense of pride and accomplishment. … You can see Rosa in person at Norfolk Botanical Garden in Norfolk, Virginia, from August 21 – November 4, 2021.”

More at the Washed Ashore blog, here, and at the New York Times, here.

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Photo: Stephen Bay  
Bioluminescent waves crashing against rocks at Torrey Pines State Beach in San Diego, Calif., last month.

How I loved the glowing waves we sometimes saw at night in late summer on Fire Island! The microscopic marine organisms that light up when disturbed apparently visit California earlier in the year.

Vanessa Romo writes at National Public Radio, “It took four attempts for Stephen Bay to see the neon blue waves crashing against the rocks at Torrey Pines State Beach in Calif., but when he did, just one thought went through his mind: ‘Holy cow, the waves are glowing!’ …

“A red tide off the San Diego coast is behind the brilliant display of bioluminescence that is lighting up the water and drawing huge crowds to marvel at the rare phenomenon.

“According to Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, the red tide is due to a cluster of dinoflagellates — microscopic organisms — that live in phytoplankton and light up when there is movement or are disrupted. …

“Bioluminescence expert Michael Latz said that local red tides like the one visible this week from Encinitas to La Jolla — about a 20 mile stretch — ‘have been known since the early 1900s due to observations by Scripps scientists.’ …

“It’s not clear how long the current red tide will last; in some instances they’ve lasted from a week to a month or more. The last red tide in San Diego took place in September 2013 and lasted a full week. A similar event in October 2011 lasted a month. More here.

Swimming in a warm, glowing ocean at night — heavenly. Some red tides are harmful, but NOAA says, “Most blooms, in fact, are beneficial because the tiny plants are food for animals in the ocean. In fact, they are the major source of energy that fuels the ocean food web.”

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I have been learning all sorts of strange marine facts from Suzanne and Erik’s children. They are hooked on a video series called The Octonauts, which features cartoon characters living in the sea. One piece of wisdom from the grandchildren was about wraith-like creatures called siphonophorae, a word that gives me trouble but rolls right off a child’s tongue. Siphonophorae live even deeper in the ocean than the Octonauts and some are light emitting, which makes for a good storyline.

All this leads me to another light-emitting sea creature recently discovered near Hawaii, a shark.

Lauren Smith writes at the Guardian, “Light emitted by a new species of lanternshark, Etmopterus lailae, is camouflage and helps them to hunt, communicate and find partners. Early [in 2017] a new species of deep water shark, Etmopterus lailae, was discovered in waters surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

“Measurements of external features, teeth, vertebrae and intestines, along with specific external markings and patterns confirmed that it was indeed a new species – a member of the lanternshark family. Lanternsharks (Etmopteridae) are one of the most species-rich shark genera. …

“The lanternsharks are one of two deep sea shark families to possess the ability to bioluminesce – in other words, they are able to glow in the dark. The other shark family with the ability to do this are the kitefin sharks (Dalatiidae). This family houses the infamous cookie cutter shark, which was known for its impressive ability to disable US Navy submarines in the 70s and 80s. …

“Bioluminescence is the emission of light as a result of a biochemical reaction. In contrast to fluorescence and phosphorescence, bioluminescenct reactions do not require the initial absorption of sunlight or other electromagnetic radiation by a molecule or pigment to emit light. …

“Bioluminescence in vertebrates is found exclusively among fishes living in marine environments. At present the only known terrestrial animals capable of bioluminescence are arthropods. …

“It is also worth noting that bioluminescence is not just exhibited by deep sea dwellers existing in perpetual darkness. [One study] analysed 17 years of video footage taken from the sea’s surface down to a depths of almost 4000 metres. Observations showed that the percentage of bioluminescent animals is remarkably uniform regardless of depth.”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Image: Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics
Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics scooped two Singapore Environmental Achievement Awards for sustainability.

In The Sea Around Us, Rachel Carson suggested that Earth’s oceans might be too vast for humans to completely ruin. At least that’s what I remember, but I was only 14 when I tried to tackle the grown-up books on my new school’s summer reading list.

I wonder what Carson would say now, given that increased carbon dioxide is damaging reefs and many sea creatures.

She might also be concerned about shipping, but as Hannah Koh reports at Eco-Business, sustainable practices are starting to appear.

“Despite being in an industry that is predisposed towards environmental degradation, Swedish-Norwegian shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) has not let the circumstances define it.

“The company has been proactively putting in place measures to reduce sea and airborne pollutant emissions and set up an international coalition to champion the enforcement of sulphur emission regulations – critical to minimising the impact of the shipping industry.

“Its initiatives impressed the judges of the Singapore Environmental Achievement Awards – which aims to increase the level of awareness and adoption of good environmental approaches within organisations, held by the non-profit Singapore Environment Council – that WWL won the SEC-CDL Outstanding Singapore Environmental Achievement Award and the SEC-MPA Singapore Environmental Achievement Award (Maritime).

“Speaking to Future Ready Singapore in a phone interview, WWL’s head of sustainability Anna Larsson shares that the company’s award-winning approach to sustainability is guided by a combination of its long-term vision as well as immediate-term targets.

“Having and acting on a sustainable vision for the future has reaped rewards for WWL, from saving costs to staff retention, and prepares WWL for the future of the shipping industry today, which challenges companies to balance their bottom lines against their environmental impacts. …

“Ship operators today are under pressure to clean up their act, especially after the United Nations shipping agency ruled in October 2016 to implement a global sulphur cap of 0.5 per cent by 2020. …

“Experts have estimated that this will cost the industry some US$35 to $40 billion alone for the container shipping industry, at a time when the shipping industry is suffering its worst downturn ever.” More here.

Gotta love those Swedes for biting the bullet!

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The first two photos today are from Wayland Square in Providence. My husband and I thought the shade covering at l’Artisan looked like something we could use at our house, but by the time we walked back from dinner at the Salted Slate, the pretty covering had gotten all twisted up by the wind.

The flowers casting early shadows are Marsh Mallows. The little frog in New Shoreham also cast a long shadow. In the next photo, perhaps you can tell that the herring gull is looking for more of my sandwich.

There’s a sliver of moon above the hanging basket. Hope you can see it. Next is a sample of New Shoreham’s lovely fields and stone walls.

My older granddaughter wanted to know if the car with pink eyelashes was mine. No, but maybe I should think about getting eyelashes for the Fusion.

One of my favorite views is looking down the bluffs to the ocean. Often there are surfers riding the waves at this spot. Finally, see how my youngest grandchild cooks breakfast for me in the playhouse.

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Photo: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
A sponge the size of a minivan was found in summer 2015 in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off Hawaii.

One of Earth’s oldest living animals is a sea sponge. As big as a minivan, it has been growing for generations unnoticed and undisturbed in waters off Hawaii.

Elahe Izadi writes in the Washington Post that a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) “captured footage of the spectacularly large sponge during a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration deep-sea expedition, and the species was identified for the first time in a study published [in May] in the journal Marine Biodiversity. …

“There’s more to this sponge than its girth: It could also be among the oldest living animals on earth. … Sponges can live for hundreds or even thousands of years. ‘While not much is known about the lifespan of sponges, some massive species found in shallow waters are estimated to live for more than 2,300 years,’ the study authors write. …

“ ‘Finding such an enormous and presumably old sponge emphasizes how much can be learned from studying deep and pristine environments such as those found in the remote Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument,’ Daniel Wagner, Papahānaumokuākea research specialist, said in a statement. …

“Christopher Kelly, NOAA research scientist and co-lead for the expedition, said the sponge ‘just appeared’ on the ROV’s high-definition camera, Australia’s Pacific Beat radio reported.

” ‘We were looking for deep water corals and sponges, and we had just gotten some close ups of some corals, then turned away to continue the survey and the sponge appeared out of nowhere.’ ”

I can just picture that cinematic moment of discovery.

More at the Washington Post, here.

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My friend Kristina is an artist with a long-time interest in shells. At a Harvard-based shell club that she frequents, she meets many interesting artists and scientists — including George Buckley, a Caribbean coral reef researcher who made the video below.

Buckley says, “Little did I know in 1976 that my first visit to Bonaire to study land snails … and dive with Captain Don Stewart would lead to a career interconnected with Bonaire and to some 100 more return trips!

“Bonaire became the focus of case study after case study of marine management and biodiversity in my Harvard University environmental management program. [Dozens] of research and study groups, students, magazine writers and photographers that I brought to the island all fell in love with the landscapes and the emerald sea of Bonaire.

“The early years of the Bonaire Marine Park [BMP] and STINAPA [Dutch acronym for national park] … were a great adventure and while my efforts with the Carco Project and Marecultura were not as successful as hoped, both helped to lay the groundwork for future efforts around the world as to best practices in that field.

“The BMP’s pioneering leadership in education, moorings, gloves policies, banning light sticks and spearfishing, creating the ‘Nature Fee’ and so much more led to Bonaire’s well-deserved world-wide recognition. The efforts to save Klein Bonaire were a testament to international collaboration and stand to this day as the Hallmark of what a committed group of concerned people can accomplish. It is indeed true that Bonaire is to conservation of nature as Greenwich is to time – with credit to Captain Don.”

If you are on Facebook, check out the rest of Buckley’s post.

Photo: Sand Dollar in Bonaire

 

 

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Don’t you love it when something that is extinct turns out not to be extinct at all? Like coelacanths, which, according to Wikipedia, “were thought to have become extinct in the Late Cretaceous, around 66 million years ago, but were rediscovered in 1938 off the coast of South Africa.”

While I’m waiting for someone to prove unequivocally the existence of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, I will regale myself with Lazarus-like sea snakes in Australia.

I saw this Australian Associated Press story at the Guardian: “A species of sea snake thought to be extinct has been rediscovered off the Western Australian coast. A wildlife officer spotted two courting short-nosed sea snakes while patrolling in Ningaloo marine park on the state’s mid-north coast. …

“The Western Australian environment minister, Albert Jacob, said the discovery was especially important because they had never been seen at Ningaloo reef.

“A Department of Parks and Wildlife officer photographed the snakes on Ningaloo Reef and James Cook university scientists identified them.”

Maybe marine creatures such as sea snakes and coelacanths are more likely to be preserved than woodpeckers — hidden away in the ocean’s unexplored depths. Still, as a movie I reviewed, Revolution, made clear, the seas are threatened, too.

More on courting sea snakes at the Guardian.

Photo: Grant Giffen/AFP/Getty Images
The discovery of the short-nosed sea snake, previously thought to have been extinct, is significant because the species had never been seen in the Ningaloo marine park in Western Australia before.

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A bouncy boat ride in heavy rain last night. A warm sunny morning. Here are a few photos from my last island weekend of 2015.

An especially nice autumnal theme for the Painted Rock. Whoever painted it was lucky to have their artwork survive nearly three days. That would be unheard of in the summer, when birthday messages get painted over by wedding felicitations several times a day.

Down the bluffs on a steep path. Waves breaking on the beach. Tide pools.

I was delighted to find a little urchin (I don’t think I ever had before) and a slipper shell with a smaller slipper shell hitching a ride.

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I was charmed by Sy Montgomery’s recent article in the Boston Globe on the intelligence of octopi (she says “octopuses”).

The author of The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, Montgomery describes getting to know a clever and apparently affectionate octopus called Octavia.

“Everyone wanted to pet Octavia,” she writes. “And no wonder. She was beautiful, graceful, and affectionate. The fact that she was boneless, slimy, and living in painfully cold, 47-degree water deterred none of us.

“What thrilled us — me, New England Aquarium volunteer Wilson Menashi, and four visitors from the environmental radio show Living on Earth was the surprising fact that Octavia, who clearly wanted to be petted, was a giant Pacific octopus.

“When her keeper, Bill Murphy, opened the top of her exhibit, Octavia recognized Menashi and me immediately; we’d been working with her for several weeks. Turning red with excitement, she flowed over toward us from the far side of her tank. When we put our hands in the water, her arms rose to meet ours, embracing us with dozens of her strong, sensitive, white suckers. Occasionally Wilson handed her a fish from the plastic bucket perched on the edge of her tank. …

“Then, as Menashi reached for another capelin to feed her, we realized the bucket of fish was gone. While no fewer than six people were watching, and three of us had our arms in her tank, Octavia had stolen the bucket right out from under us.

“ ‘Octopuses are phenomenally smart,’ Menashi says. And he should know: He has worked with them for 20 years, and is expert in keeping these intelligent invertebrates occupied. Otherwise, they become bored. Aquariums design elaborate escape-proof lids for their octopus tanks, and still they are often thwarted. Octopuses not infrequently slip out of their exhibits and turn up in other tanks to eat the inhabitants.

“Many aquariums give their octopuses Legos to dismantle, jars with lids to unscrew, and Mr. Potato Head to play with. Menashi, a retired inventor, designed a series of nesting Plexiglas cubes, each with a different lock, which Boston’s octopuses quickly learned to open to get at a tasty crab inside. And just this spring, New Zealand Sea Life aquarists teamed up with Sony engineers to teach a female octopus named Rambo to press the red shutter button on a waterproof camera to take photos of visitors, which the aquarium sells for $2 each to benefit its conservation programs. Rambo learned in three attempts.”

What a different perspective on the scary beast in the film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which I saw as a child.

I’d love to copy the whole intriguing article, but I’m afraid that would not be “fair use.” So read it all here.

Photo: Tia Strombeck
Sy Montgomery pets Octavia, an octopus at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

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Suzanne’s Mom was asked to review Revolution, a film by the young environmentalist, biologist, diver, and Sharkwater filmmaker Rob Stewart.

Encompassing gorgeous deep-sea photography, scientific climate-change testimony, a representative of the drowning country of Seychelles, and many youth demonstrations, the documentary forces you to think about what the burning of fossil fuels is doing to the oceans and what it means for the future of the planet. It also gives you the sense that anyone can do something about it — take up a camera, make a poster, or write a letter that makes a change.

The film is infused with a sense of youth, of young people saying, “Enough!” I particularly loved the moment early on when Stewart, who had read only two books on filmmaking, is flubbing his lines in front of Darwin’s Arch. What comes across in addition to the humorous inexperience is a feeling of energy, optimism, and determination.

The film has many engaging details about sea life that Stewart can’t resist throwing in, like how the endangered pygmy seahorse, which camouflages itself to look like coral, “mates for life — and the guy gets pregnant!”

He talks about how the burning of fossil fuels creates too much carbon dioxide, which is absorbed by the ocean and is harmful to anything that needs to grow a skeleton, which is pretty much everything but nasty, poisonous creatures that flourish in the muck where corals died, like the flamboyant cuttlefish. Coral expert Charlie Veron comments that at the same rate of ocean acidification caused by too much CO2, there will be no coral reefs in 50 years.

Stewart also looks at the island nation Madagascar, sole home of lemurs, explaining that endangered tropical forests are responsible for 1/4 of the world’s species and 1/3 of our oxygen. Madagascar scientist Serge Rajaobelina says that population growth on the island and the burning of the trees for development has meant the loss of 80 percent of the forest in 40 years, more than in 55 million years.

The movie goes on to cover perhaps a few too many youth protests, including one in which an inspired, tree-planting young boy says, “We have found we have to save our own future,” and is later arrested in tears.

But then we get to see that children and young adults are actually having an impact.

A sixth-grade class in Saipan writes letters to the Saipan government against killing sharks for shark fin soup, and the government signs a law preventing the practice. In fact, we are told, since the first Stewart film, China, the main adherent of shark-fin soup, has dropped the practice by 70 percent, and 100 countries have banned it.

The upbeat Saipan children who comment on their successful advocacy embody the truth of my favorite Pete Seeger line, “one and one and 50 make a million.” Says one, “Maybe the world might not end because of what we are doing.”

Watch the Revolution trailer here.

[We do not accept gifts here, so the DVD that the film company sends me for screening and reviewing will be forwarded to Save the Bay, RI.]

The late Rob Stewart. The filmmaker did not come up from a dive 1/31/17 near Key Largo.
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The radio show Living on Earth (LOE) reported recently on work to restore seaweeds that are a key part of the ecosystem.

From the LOE website: “Ripped from the seafloor by strong swells, massive amounts of kelp recently washed ashore in southern California. But the uprooted algae may actually be a sign of successful kelp restoration efforts. Marine biologist Nancy Caruso discusses the fragile ecosystem and how she and a community are helping to rebuild the majestic kelp forests.”

Radio host Steve Curwood interviewed Caruso. She recounts how she began 12 years ago with a group of students and volunteers “to restore the kelp forests off of Orange County’s coast.”

After a storm, she says, big holes get ripped in the forest of kelp, often 10 feet high. Then “new life can grow from the bottom up, and so if we see this happen, which we’re seeing right now, the kelp returns immediately after this event, then we know that our restoration efforts are successful, and after 30 years of our local ecosystem not having healthy kelp forests, we can rest assured that it’s now restored.”

To Curwood’s question about how restoration is done, Caruso answers, “It was actually quite an effort because I had the help of 5,000 students from ages 11 to 18 as well as 250 skilled volunteer divers, and we planted this kelp in 15 different areas in Orange County. There’s a spot down in Dana Point. It’s the only kelp forest that was left in Orange County so we would collect the reproductive blades from those kelp plants, and I would take them into the classrooms for the students to clean them and we would actually stress them out overnight. We would leave them out of water in the refrigerator, kind covered with paper towels, and then the next morning we would put them back in the ice-cold seawater and the kelp blade would release millions of spores” that would then be raised in nurseries and returned to the ocean.

“All those animals that get washed up on the beach inside the wrangled tangled kelp become a food source for shorebirds that live along our coast.”

More from Living on Earth here. For more on the importance of seaweed, see also Derrick Z. Jackson’s article in the Boston Sunday Globe: “Eelgrass Could Save the Planet.”

Photo: NOAA’s National Ocean Service
Kelp forests can be seen along much of the west coast of North America.

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John sent a link to a story at Business Insider about a science fair project that could have a real impact on the environment.

Jessica Orwig writes, “This 13-year-old is trying to save the world one ecosystem at a time. Chythanya Murali, an eighth grader from Arkansas, has created a safe, effective, non-conventional method to clean oil spills, by harnessing the cleaning properties of bacteria — specifically the enzymes they use to break down oil particles. These enzymes disassemble oil molecules, making way for the bacteria to convert it into harmless compounds. …

“In 2012, a study found a chilling discovery about the oil-cleaning agents dispersed in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. When combined with the oil itself, the resulting mixture was 52 times more toxic to small animals like plankton than oil alone. …

” ‘My inspiration for this project began [from] the immense damage caused by the BP oil spill in early 2010.’

“To improve oil-cleaning methods, Murali designed a science fair project that explored the different mixtures of oil-eating enzymes and oil-breaking-down bacterias, to see how they effect the marine environment.

” ‘The combination of bio-additive enzymes and oil-degrading bacteria as a novel combination for short and long-term cleaning, and its effect on ecosystems, was not explored before,’ Murali told Business Insider.

“So it only seemed natural to Murali to combine the two and see what happened. She discovered that in a small-scale aquarium, the combination of her chosen oil-cleaning agents could help remove oil while preserving the health of the overall ecosystem, something that some of the oil-cleaning agents we use today cannot achieve.” Read more here.

Kids are going to save the world, I think.

Photo: Chythanya Murali
Chythanya Murali with her science fair poster.

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