Tag Archives: pesticides

Taking care of our seas

Dear People of the Earth,

Stop killing and eating us or most of us may die by 2050.


The Fish

– A fictional letter from the
Fictional Representative of Fish to the United Nations


Image via seafoodwatch.org

Image via seafoodwatch.org


In the article UN issues ‘final wake-up call’ on population and environment, the executive director of the UN Environment Program Achim Steiner,  “warned of a global collapse of all species being fished by 2050, if fishing around the world continued at its present pace.”

“The human population is living far beyond its means and inflicting damage on the environment that could pass points of no return.”

This is not a quote from an activist group like Greenpeace. This quote was from a major report from the United Nations. I really hope that wasn’t our final wake-up call.

Seafood watch

Whats for dinner? Let the pocket guide help you decide.

What’s for dinner? Let the pocket guide help you decide. Source: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org

I went out to dinner with friends who visited the famous  Monterey Bay Aquarium, CA, and showed me their Seafood Watch pocket guide.  Now, I carry the guide in my wallet.  The seafood guides “help make choices that are good for you and the ocean,” according to Seafood Watch.  The useful pocket guides have been helping me make sustainable seafood selections at stores or restaurants, based on scientific data on mercury toxicity, endangered species, and destructive fishing methods.

What is Seafood Watch?

“A program of Monterey Bay Aquarium designed to raise consumer awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources. We recommend which seafood to buy or avoid, helping consumers to become advocates for environmentally friendly seafood.”

The Seafood Watch website includes searchable seafood database, downloadable pocket guides, guides for business owners, and form letters for encouraging your local restaurants and stores to offer sustainable seafood.

The guide made me conscious about humanity’s effect on fish and our consumption of fish.  Again, I am reminded of the circle of life, to which as a consumer I can often feel disconnection.  The last time I actually caught my own fish to eat was at Cape Cod, MA when I was a child.  I rarely eat fish these days, and when I do it is usually at a restaurant.

The UN report on the possible global collapse of fish was made in 2007.  I’ve been puzzled by the absence of a major US government plan to meet global warming and related urgent environmental challenges. I’ve been trying to do what I can and vote as a consumer to help.  Along with making sustainable seafood choices when I dine out and buy seafood, I also wrote to our local popular sushi restaurant Kirala and dropped off a seafood pocket guide to its take-out branch, Kirala 2 with a friendly letter.  So far, I have heard no response from them, but hope that others will be inspired to write to them too. We do have much power not only as voters but also as consumers. I do believe that awareness on smart seafood choices can be spread quickly among communities, before it is too late.  I hope to avert the possible future where my children and grandchildren grow up in a world without the fish that were once commonplace in our oceans.

What can I do to help?

Encourage your favorite restaurant to serve ocean- friendly seafood (friendly form letters)

Download a seafood watch pocket guide

Consumers make a difference

Download a sushi guide with Japanese names of fish

Note: The pocket guides are also available at the Ecology Center table at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, CA.


‘Only 50 years left’ for sea fish

“There will be virtually nothing left to fish from the seas by the middle of the century if current trends continue, according to a major scientific study.”

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Why should we care about disappearing frogs?

A story about extinction

When I was working on my film on Siquijor island in the Philippines in 2004-2005, I met a fellow scholar in my fellowship program, herpetologist Cameron Siler who was studying for his PhD. Cameron was based on a neighboring island called Negros, in the city of Dumaguete.  He studied frogs and other amphibians throughout the archipelago. He collected and preserved hundreds of them for his university.  Cameron explained in a recent email that researchers have to follow “very strict collection permits that were given to us by the Philippine government.”

“The main purpose of our research is to document and understand the full diversity of an area.  So we attempt to conduct really detailed surveys and collect voucher specimens that can represent these unique and amazing species in a museum.  Usually this amounts to only 2 or 3 individuals for a species, and so we are confident that we minimize our impact on their populations.”

The biodiversity of frogs and lizards in the country is incredible.  I saw so many in daily life.  Inside the hut where I lived or whereever I stayed in the country, there were little insect-eating lizards hanging on the walls and ceilings, as well as geckos the size of my hand.  Each morning, while we ate breakfast outside, a giant monitor lizard we named Larry the lizard passed before us. He was probably on his way to snacking on the chickens or chicks, who were feeding on our compost pile in the yard.

During our occasional visits to Dumaguete, Cameron would tell us about his adventures to far-flung islands finding sometimes exotic large frogs or wrestling with monitor lizards which grew to the size of adult humans. He showed us his photos of them on his laptop and told us about how he preserved their bodies for scientific study, which were stored in his room.

As he told us about his research, I wondered why the study of frogs should be of any significance to my life. I started to answer this question for myself after being told a few more stories.  Cameron recalled a time when he was in the rice fields around the city of Dumaguete. He found frogs growing extra legs.  He guessed that this condition may have been due to the pesticides applied to the rice fields.  From then on, I vowed to try only to buy the locally grown organic brown rice, which was mainly grown locally for export to Japan.

In the Aug. 12, 2008 article published last week Dying frogs sign of a biodiversity crisis by Rachel Tompa in “UC Berkeley News,” David Wake, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley mentions climate change as a cause of mass deaths and says,

“Amphibians have been around for about 250 million years. They made it through when the dinosaurs didn’t. The fact that they’re cutting out now should be a lesson for us.”

Tompa reports:

“In an article published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers argue that substantial die-offs of amphibians and other plant and animal species add up to a new mass extinction facing the planet.”

In the meantime, I’ll keep searching for ways to step lightly on the earth and reduce my own contribution to climate change — and extinction.

Articles on this topic:
Dying frogs sign of a biodiversity crisis
Link to Global Warming in Frogs’ Disappearance Is Challenged
‘Last wave’ for wild golden frog

Related articles (updated):
To save ourselves, we need to need to understand why primates face extinction
‘Only 50 years left’ for sea fish
UN issues ‘final wake-up call’ on population and environment

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