Archive for the 'Environment' Category

May 02 2009

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Published by under Environment,Oceans

I’ve written about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific. There’s some much plastic there, that plastic outnumber plankton. Here’s an excellent infographic showing how big it is (the size of Texas), how it was created and how it’s sustained. Ocean currents from all over the Pacific push plastic dumped into waterways and off boats into the North Pacific Gyre (home of the great Pacific Garbage Patch). I was shocked when traveling to remote island in Indonesia to see their beaches covered in plastic debris.

There’s now talk of an Atlantic Garbage Patch and concern that marine fish and mammals are consuming much of the plastic (story on National Geographic).

If you’re looking for a good reason to cut down on plastic consumption, here’s an excellent one. Link to larger graphic on Flickr. Share this!

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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4 responses so far

Mar 13 2009

Ocean Expected to Rise 5 ft Along Coastlines by End of Century

Published by under Environment,Oceans

Mavericks may be the only surf break that survives the sea level rise from global warming. Sure there will be new breaks that fill in, but my guess is that landowners won’t cede their land easily to the sea level rise. So we’ll have levees and seawalls all over the coast and basically be left with no beach. (SF Gate)

Scientists worldwide forecast that sea levels will rise for centuries even if greenhouse gas emissions are halted immediately.

The study was conducted by the internationally known Pacific Institute, a nonprofit research group in Oakland, and was paid for by the California Energy Commission, Caltrans and the state Ocean Protection Council.

With California leading the nation in regulating greenhouse gas emissions, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 ordered state agencies to form a Climate Action Team to research and plan for global warming. Three dozen studies are expected this year, on air quality and health, frequency of wildfires, the use of energy and fresh water supplies.

“No other state has done this kind of assessment of coastal risk,” said Peter Gleick, president and founder of the Pacific Institute and a leading water expert. The new assessment, he said, puts the state “far ahead in our ability to both identify possible impacts and implement effective policies to prevent them.”

Although large sections of the Pacific Coast are not vulnerable to flooding, sea-level rise is expected to accelerate erosion, resulting in a loss of 41 square miles of the coast and affecting 14,000 people, the study said.

One response so far

Jan 28 2009

Plastic is Killing the Oceans – More Plastic Than Plankton in the Pacific

Published by under Environment,Oceans,Sharks

A mass of plastic in the Pacific, increasing tenfold each decade since 1945, is now the size of Texas and killing everything in its wake. Currently, there is six times more plastic than plankton floating in the middle of the Pacific. (Link to Article) The plastic is poisoning our fish and sealife and killing the Oceans. The plastic passes along toxins to humans through fish we eat.

Each day, North Americans throw away more than 385,000 cellphones and 143,000 computers— electronic waste is now the fastest-growing stream of garbage. Lead and mercury are seeping from this waste into ground water. Some of the e-waste, however, is winding up in the sea.

– Each hour, North Americans consume and discard about 2.75 million plastic water and soda bottles; that’s 24 billion a year.

Globally, 100 million tonnes of plastic are generated each year and at least 10 per cent of that is finding its way into the sea.

– Worldwide, each year 113 billion kilograms of small plastic pellets called nurdles–the feedstock for all disposable plastics– are shipped and billions are spilled during transfer in and out of railroad cars. Those spilled nurdles are ending up in gutters and drains and eventually carried into the ocean. Nurdles resemble fish eggs or roe. Tuna and salmon feed on them indiscriminately. Around 2.5 billion humans eat fish regularly. Plastic and other man-made toxins are polluting the global food chain and it’s rising at an unprecedented rate.

Each year, a million sea birds and 100,000 sharks, turtles, dolphins and whales die from eating plastic.

Oceanographers and conservation biologists believe the only way to contend with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is to slow the amount of plastic flowing from the land to the sea.

Buy six organic cotton shopping bags. Use them instead of supermarket plastic bags. Make it a habit to return those bags to the trunk of your car after unpacking groceries.

Reuse your plastic water bottles. If you can refill one bottle for a day then why not attempt it for a week.

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Nov 19 2008

San Diego Now Recycles Surfboards

Published by under California,Environment

The surfboard industry produces over 750,000 surfboards a year (link), the vast majority of which are discarded into landfills at the end of their short life. Surfboards are made with toxic petro chemicals (yes, made from the same source of other environmental and energy problems–crude oil) and release VOC (volatile organic compounds) throughout production and their lifetime. Obviously, there is a high hidden environmental cost for your retro twin fin or Kelly Slater Merrick Model.

San Diego, one of the best surf cities in the country and home of a large population of surfers, is now offering free surfboard recycling to keep old boards out of landfills.

Boards are now accepted at the Miramar Recycling Center and the Solana Beach Lifeguard Station. Those in usable condition will be donated to Los Angeles nonprofit organizations, while broken boards will be ground up and used in mixing concrete.

So consider alternatives to standard polystyrene boards (like epoxy or balsa) and recycle your old boards.

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Nov 18 2008

The Dying Seas – Our Imperiled Fisheries

Published by under Environment,Oceans

Our seas have been dying, for a long time. 90% of the world’s fisheries are imperiled, and things are only going to get worse. Though seemingly innocuous, farm-raised fish are often one of the worst environmental offenders (story in NYT). Wild-caught tuna fisheries are one of the most imperiled, but the ubiquitous sushi delight harbors consumer dangers with often toxic mercury levels (article). The picture is bleak, but there are relatively simple steps consumers can take to influence the market. This article outlines some of the scary facts about fisheries as well as the simple steps consumers can take.

Here are some quotes from the article:

  • “One study, in 2006, concluded that if current fishing practices continue, the world’s major commercial stocks will collapse by 2048.”
  • “Nearly one-third of the world’s wild-caught fish are reduced to fish meal and fed to farmed fish and cattle and pigs.”
  • “Why bother with farm-raised salmon and its relatives? If the world’s wealthier fish-eaters began to appreciate wild sardines, anchovies, herring and the like, we would be less inclined to feed them to salmon raised in fish farms. And we’d be helping restock the seas with larger species.”
  • “The message is optimism,” said David Festa, who directs the oceans program at the Environmental Defense Fund. “The latest data shows that well-managed fisheries are doing incredibly well. When we get the rules right the fisheries can recover, and if they’re not recovering, it means we have the rules wrong.”

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Oct 21 2008

California Cuts Clean Water Monitoring at Beaches – Take Action!

Published by under Environment

Beach Closed

In 1999, California instituted state wide water quality monitoring at beaches to help ensure that the water is safe for water activities. It’s a great feature of California environmental policy and model for other states.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has cut all funding (approximately $1 million per year) for beach water quality monitoring throughout the state. This sudden and unexpected action has gutted the country’s most extensive and progressive beach water quality monitoring and public health notification program. As a result, San Diego County (who received the biggest share of the state funds) has already suspended their monitoring program and other coastal counties may soon follow suit.


Without regular beach monitoring, surfers, swimmers and other beach-goers will be completely in the dark about water quality at their beach. Essentially, a “swim or surf at your own risk” sign just went up all along the California coast.


California‘s beaches generate $14 billion in direct revenue. The elimination of $1 million in state funding for beach testing may have human health and economic impacts that far exceed the cost of the monitoring program.


Send a message today to tell Governor Schwarzenegger and your state legislators to restore funding for the state’s beach water quality monitoring program and keep our beaches safe.


TAKE ACTION via Surfrider.

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Sep 13 2008

Solution to Beach Trash: PickUp3

Published by under Environment

I live and surf in SoCal. SoCal like many coastal areas has a trash problem, well it’s really a people problem. Too many people leaving there trash and too many people not caring about others trash. 5ones posts on one solution for the trash problem devised by a 13 year old. “At the ripe old age of 9, the Southern California native Cobi Emery did what few 9 yr. olds would do and started his own environmental organization, PickUp3. Cobi had become unsettled with the conditions that the beaches he grew up surfing at were progressively becoming more cluttered with every imaginable piece of trash known to man.” Cobi’s solution is simple and easy to implement, every time you go to the beach clean up your mess and pick up and dispose of 3 pieces of trash.

Hopefully, Cobi’s work will inspire cleaner beaches. Mexico tried their own version with a trash-fishing contest, why not here?

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Sep 06 2008

Return to Grace: Wooden and Environmentally Sustainable Surfboards

Nose Riding on a Grain Surfboard

I bought a magnificent quad fin fish last year. Surfs beautifully, sadly it won’t last. It’s a fiberglass board glassed with light fiberglass probably for high performance. Within a couple session, the deck had visible dents on it and I had to apply another layer of glass and resin to it. Fiberglass boards are the one-hit wonders of surfboards. They’re great for a few months, but die out after that, losing pop and gaining weight from dings. Within a year of consistent surf, if they’re not already broken most traditional fiberglass surfboards are done at a high environmental costs. Nothing can be recycled with fiberglass boards, they’re made with toxic chemicals, and production of the blanks, resin, and fiberglass requires petrochemicals and outputs a significant amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. Simply, the system is broken. It was born broken.

Fortunately, there are more sustainable options becoming available. Ecowarrior, Joe Santley, started the company ReSurf along with support from Lost surfboards to begin recycling surfboards (ask your local surfshop that they begin participating). The ReSurf website explains more about the project and list nearby locations. Greenlight Surfboard Supply makes Bamboo fins and other sustainable surfboard materials.

Country Feeling Surfboards is a company building surfboards out of these sustainable materials. “Country Feeling Surfboards celebrates the nature that surrounds us with surfboards made with environmentally friendly materials:  soy-based  and   sugar-based  foams; deck inlays made from hemp, organic cotton, bamboo and silk; and resin that is catalyzed by the sun.”

Quiver of locally crafted Grain Surfboards

What seems like the best option is the resurgence of wooden surfboards. The entire process is sustainable. They’re locally buily, often using local materials, the strong and long lasting. After years and years of use, when it comes time to retire them they’re completely recyclable. The wood can be reused or composted. They’re expensive but if you consider a fiberglass is likely to have a 1/4 the lifetime of a good wooden board and that many wooden boards may last a lifetime then they’re simply good investments.

Grain Surfboards are based in York, Maine and build beautifully crafted, hand shaped wooden boards. Hess Surfboards is based in Ocean Beach, San Francisco and also build hand shaped wooden boards. For the deck and bottom of the board, Hess uses sustainably farmed poplar and red cedar (salvaged from local Victorian homes). For the rails he uses cork and for the fins, bamboo. A small amount of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. Boards start around $1300. A look through their gallery will be enough to convince you. The Surfer’s Journal has written features on both of them. Timberline Surfboards offers wooden surfboards shaped out of Santa Barbara, CA.

Shaping Room of Hess Surfboards

2 responses so far

May 25 2008

Third Shark Attack on Surfer in Mexico in One Month

Published by under Environment,Sharks

A shark injured a 49-year-old American surfer Saturday, May 24, at Playa Linda in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. The attack is the third in one month in the area with a fatal attack on a Mexican surfer occurring a day earlier 20 minutes north near the beach resort area of Troncones. Adrian Ruiz, a surfer from San Francisco, was killed in an attack in April in Troncones. Authorities have not closed beaches in Zihuatanejo, but people were being advised against swimming.

Bruce Grimes, 49 from Florida, suffered minor injuries in the attack and managed to get to the hospital on his own.

“I felt something brush past me three times, scraping my skin like sandpaper. Then I saw a three-meter (10-foot) shark attacking my right arm,” Bruce Grimes told reporters after leaving the hospital Saturday.

Official blame the new influx of shark in the area on climate change.

“We brought shark specialists to the area and the first thing they said was that [sharks] could be because of cold water currents caused by climate change,” said Guerrero state’s environmental minister, Sabas de la Rosa. [Link to story]

Troncones, Mexico is officially the worst place to surf right now. Unfortunately, after the first attack in April there, local authorities responded by baiting and killing 12 sharks. It’s interesting that they blame climate change for sharp increase in shark attacks (Mexico hasn’t had a fatal shark attack in 30 years before the attack in April). I wrote a post a little while back on scientists linking increased shark attacks on global warming. I’m sure there will be a million theories on it, but it a troubling trend with three fatal attacks in one month.

The shark hunt by local authorities after the last hunt becomes particularly questionable after a recent report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature that more than half of the world’s shark are under threat of extinction.

4 responses so far

May 22 2008

The Cardboard Surfboard

Mike Sheldrake and the Cardboard Surfboard

With all the space-age technology going into surfboards these days (including the collapsible carbon fiber board), you wouldn’t expect the next step in shaping innovation to be cardboard. Mike Sheldrake, a surfer and computer programmer is San Diego, took a novel approach to building a better surfboard: he researched aerospace design and used 3-D computer modeling software to to design a snap-together deck built out of 400 pieces of computer cut corrugated cardboard. He then covered it with fiberglass and epoxy resin. Thanks to a mathematically sound triangular pattern, force is evenly dispersed throughout the board—making it incredibly strong. The design and construction avoid the use of expensive tools, making it cheap and easy to assemble. The result is a cheap, strong design made primarily from sustainable materials and one that’s remarkably beautiful. [Youtube videos below show assembly of the board after jump]

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