Ed Begley, Jr. and Phillipe Cousteau mark World Ocean Day

06/11/07 Seán Kinane
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Last week marked the annual celebrations of both World Ocean Day and the United Nations’ World Environment Day. They were observed on Saturday night at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg in an event sponsored by SPEAK! St. Pete and the International Ocean Institute. As WMNF’s Seán Kinane reports, there was music as well as speeches by scientists, policy makers, and activists such as Philippe Cousteau and Ed Begley, Jr.

“When everybody figures out the Big Lie about the environment. This is why I’m the most hopeful, because I think people are starting to figure it out. The Big Lie is that it’s going to cost jobs, it’s going to cost money. The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around. You can have healthy jobs and a healthy economy [did he mean environment?]. [Applause]”

That was Emmy-nominated actor and environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr., who moderated a panel discussion on the importance of the oceans.

WMNF asked one of the panelists, Philippe Cousteau, the grandson of Jacques Cousteau, why the health of the oceans should be important to Floridians.

“People should care about the ocean because the ocean is the life-support system of this planet. It affects all of us no matter where we live. It is the primary source of oxygen. It regulates our weather, our temperature, our climate. And it is a source of food for the world’s populations and provides hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of services that we don’t otherwise have to pay for; protection against storms.”

Cousteau pointed out several ways people could make a positive impact on their environment.

“You know the average piece of food travels twelve-hundred miles. So think about buying local and organic. Think about the light bulbs that you have, the paint that you use, as I said, the cars that you drive, and the things, you know, you volunteer for organizations in your community. And certainly who you vote for on a local, national, and a state level.”

The City of St. Petersburg recently was named the first environmentally friendly green city in the state, as Mayor Rick Baker pointed out.

“Just three weeks ago, St. Petersburg was named by the Green Building Coalition as the first designated Green City in the state of Florida and we are now the only green city designated in the State of Florida and we’re really proud of that fact and we’re going to continue that effort. [applause]”

Mayor Baker also lauded his city's conservation of fresh water through the use of reclaimed water.

“And also developed the first and largest reclaimed water system in the United States which has resulted in the fact that, despite the fact that St. Petersburg is now the fourth largest city in the state of Florida, we use less water, both on a per capita basis and on a gross basis than we did 25 years ago.”

Dr. Noel Brown previously served as the Director of the United Nations Environment Program’s North American regional office. He stressed the urgency of the need to act in order to save the oceans.

“There is an impending crisis of the seas. And it can no longer be treated as a planetary sewer. Or a resource farm for all that can be exploited aggressively or plundered systematically. … Science has been very consistent in warning us about the impending catastrophe unless action is taken. But few seem to be listening. And there is no sense of urgency. Or any sense that we need to act now.”

Often the excuse is made that the environment can’t be protected because it would be too economically costly. But Dr. Vladimir Golitsyn, who is the former Director of the United Nations’ Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, feels that conservation would make economic sense if the costs of ecosystem management were incorporated into market prices.

“Traditional market prices cover the costs of capital and labor, but market prices do not cover the costs of reducing a fish stock, of damaging habitat, or waste disposal and pollution, and other, what can be called, ecological costs. Therefore we should find a way how we can introduce the costs of ecosystem management into market prices.”

Dr. Frank Muller-Karger is a professor of Biological Oceanography in USF’s College of Marine Science and serves on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. He listed several changes that need to be made to the nation’s emphasis on science in order to remain a world leader.

“We need to strengthen education, especially ocean education, science education. We’re falling behind Europe; we’re falling behind people in China and Japan. They’re generating more PhDs than we are. We need to incorporate science in decision-making. Scientists do their own thing at academic institutions and managers of resources do their own thing in their structures in government. All of this really needs money. And that’s really where our government is falling flat. Because we’re funding oceanography and ocean science at the same levels that we did thirty years ago and in the past three or four years, that actually has gone down. And we cannot allow that to happen any further.”

Dr. Paul Boyle has directed several large aquaria and is an expert on environmental outreach. He stressed that for people to care about protecting the oceans, they must learn more about oceans and teach others.

“Teach your children about the oceans. The more you know, the more you’ll see. And then tell somebody about it. I would ask all of you to go home tonight and tell your other family members and neighbors that almost three-quarters of earth’s oxygen comes from the oceans. They will be startled.”

Musician Kristin Hoffman wrote “Song For The Oceans” specifically for World Ocean Day. She hopes it will be sung by one million people.

“I think using music and using song to get people involved in a cause can be so powerful. And I definitely felt that tonight; I felt peoples’ energy and peoples’ enthusiasm. “

Upcoming environmental events include a Clam Bayou clean-up on June 16th and the Pinellas Living Green Expo at the Coliseum in St. Pete on June 16th and 17th.

For WMNF News, reporting from St. Petersburg, I’m Seán Kinane



World Environment Day

Ed Begley, Jr.

Earth Echo International (Cousteau’s group)

Joint Ocean Commission Initiative (JOCI)

United States Commission on Ocean Policy http://oceancommission.gov/

Pew Oceans Commission

Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Committee on Ocean Policy

CEQ’s US Ocean Action Plan, December 2004.

Friends of the U.N. (Brown’s group)

The Ocean Project (Boyle’s group)

World Ocean Day

Dr. Frank Muller-Karger

Kristin Hoffmann

Robert Anthony Aviles and Insight

Pinellas Living Green Expo

Clam Bayou clean-up

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