Earth Watch: Right Whales Need Your Help Right Now

The North Atlantic Right Whale is bigger than a humpback whale and longer than a Greyhound Bus. At present, they are among the most endangered whales in the world with their numbers dwindling to about 350 worldwide. Even though they are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, there is a new threat to their survival.

North Atlantic Right Whales

North Atlantic Right Whale mother and calf swim together off the coast of southern Georgia.

In August 2009, the U.S. Navy announced that it would construct its Undersea Warfare Training Range near the only known calving ground for the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale. Right whales gather in their calving grounds off southern Georgia and northern Florida each winter through spring to give birth and raise their calves. It is designated as a critical habitat for the species yet the Navy plans to build a $100 million offshore training range and install an undersea array of cables and sensors for training warships, submarines and aircraft. In 2012, environmentalists sued to block the project, citing its proximity to the endangered whales’ calving grounds, but Judge Lisa Godbey Wood ruled in favor of the Navy even though they had not completed required environmental studies on whether operating the range would harm right whales and other endangered species.

Ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement accounted for nearly half of all North Atlantic right whale deaths for the past 40 years but the U.S. Navy brings with it an even greater threat. They plan to perform sonar tests that pose a great danger to both North Atlantic Right Whale populations and more than 40 marine mammal species. Sonar may not sound dangerous, but it could prove deadly for right whales. The sonar used by the Navy generates a high level noise that is used to locate modern hidden submarines. Whales and dolphins are especially receptive to this sonar because they possess a special organ near their brain that allows for the use of low level sonar to travel and communicate via echo-location. However, the military’s sonar is so intense that it can cause this special organ to begin bleeding and eventually lead to the animal’s death. Whales and dolphins beach themselves when they come into contact with the high level military sonar in an effort to escape the painful and damaging effect. Even at 300 miles away, sonar can reach a level of 140 decibels—100 times louder than the communications used by marine life.

Neptune Park, St. Simons, GA

North Atlantic Right Whales hold a special place in the hearts of Georgia residents as their state mammal. In Neptune Park, off the coast of St. Simons, Georgia, children play every day on a large playground sculpture of a mother right whale and her calf. Unfortunately, this sculpture sits near the newest threat to their survival.

In 2005, more than 30 whales were found beached in North Carolina after military exercises using sonar were conducted by the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Battle Group. Necropsies on the beached whales found bleeding from the ears and brain after just a few days of sonar exposure. According to the Navy, their new Undersea Warfare Training Range would be used for anti-submarine warfare training for periods up to 6 hours about 470 times a year. The simulated warfare would use submarines, surface ships and aircraft, and would include the use of torpedoes and sonar.

Exposing endangered, sensitive marine life to threats from sonar and explosives is unnecessary. The time has come for the Navy to adopt common-sense measures that would protect the North Atlantic Right Whale and all marine mammals during routine training. It is possible to protect these ocean creatures without compromising our military readiness. The Navy could choose to avoid key habitats where right whales are known to migrate and raise their young or they could use satellite technology that is harmless to sea life instead of deadly sonar.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and their partners have filed an appeal brief with the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta asking a federal court to overturn Judge Lisa Godbey Wood’s ruling allowing the U.S. Navy to build their Undersea Warfare Training Range close to waters where endangered right whales give birth and raise their calves. The SELC has successfully gone up against the U.S. Navy in previous wildlife protection cases.

The next court ruling in this case will be decided the week of July 15th. Our goal is to help educate as many people as we can about the details regarding Naval sonar use and the threats against our friends in the sea. Below we’ve listed some ways that you can get involved and make your voice heard. Please act right now to help protect the right whale and all the treasured marine life near this proposed military area.

Ways You Can Help & Learn More:

  • Sign the petition to U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, calling on him to put safeguards in place that will safeguard whales from the deadly impact of the Navy’s sonar in military training and testing: Click Here
  • Share this information with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and through Email
  • Stay updated and learn more on Southern Environmental Law Center’s case page: Click Here
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Heroes of Sustainability: Wangari Maathai

If anyone knows the challenges that come with being a trailblazer, it’s Wangari Maathai. Her continual struggles for democracy, human rights, and environmental conservation haven’t always been met with support on her native continent of Africa, where she’s faced…

 

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Heroes-of-Sustainability-Wangari-Maathai.html

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Tim DeChristopher Convicted on Two Felony Charges for Protecting Our Planet

As an environmental activist, I was shocked to learn about the prison sentence facing Tim DeChristopher, a university student who falsely outbid energy producers to block their access to precious Utah Canyonlands. As the President and CEO of Dolphin Blue, a company that strives to preserve our planets most precious resources, I cannot help but ask myself the following question: Should DeChristopher serve prison time for protecting our planet against the hopeless polluters who have little or no regard for it?

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Tim-DeChristopher-Sentenced-to-Prison-for-Protecting-Our-Planet.html

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Leaked Emails Suggest Firmer Oversight Needed by Board of US Chamber of Commerce

There is growing evidence that many American businesses are attempting to become more environmentally responsible. Some of those businesses are represented on the board of directors of the US Chamber of Commerce. This suggests that the Chamber should eventually move toward supporting…

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Challenge to the US Chamber of Commerce: What One Small Business Is Doing


Dolphin Blue, Inc
., is just one small business among millions of small businesses, but it is unique. It is the only online supplier of 100% environmentally responsible office supplies. Supplies that are not environmentally responsible are simply not available from Dolphin Blue.

Dolphin Blue is unique in another way. It has challenged the national US Chamber of Commerce to…

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Petition-Blog.html 

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Heroes of Sustainability: George Washington Carver

                                                                      
In an era long before green, eco-friendly, and environmentalism were buzzwords, George Washington Carver advocated for organic farming and plant-based products.

An early trailblazer in the concept of reducing, reusing, and recycling, Carver was born into slavery, likely in the early to mid-1860s.

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Heroes-of-Sustainability-George-Washington-Carver.html

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Transitioning from a wasteful planet, to a sustainable planet

I recently returned from a Western Caribbean cruise, where I spent one week on a ship weighing 130,000 tons and measuring 1,004 feet in length. I was among 4,500 other human beings, all being fed food requiring refrigeration, powered by petroleum. Each cabin, of which there were approximately 200 on most decks, had furniture, cabinetry, and various other materials including wood, plastics, and metal. Despite having a TV hanging on the wall of most cabins, the uppermost deck had a 40-foot by 20-foot big screen TV. Why? Because cruise lines use such enticements to get people to leave home, so they can experience ALL the comforts of home.

Upon returning from my cruise, I participated in a euronews forum asking, “What would it take to really speed up the transition to a carbon neutral, sustainable planet?” First and foremost…

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Transitioning-from-a-wasteful-planet-to-a-sustainable-planet.html

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Just Plant a Piece of Paper, and Watch it Grow.

         

The whole concept sounds like our grade school experiments with avocado seeds and toothpicks and a glass of water . . . or a bit of slow-sleight of hand.  What is seed paper?  It’s just what it says – paper embedded with seeds.    Put it in the ground and with luck and good weather you’ll have a small garden of annuals or wildflowers.

 

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Just-Plant-a-Piece-of-Paper-and-Watch-it-Grow.html

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Governmental Buying Practices and Sustainability

Recently, the staff at Dolphin Blue began questioning the buying practices of our government, and evaluating their overall impact on sustainability.  As more corporations continue to manufacture their goods in foreign countries, many tax-supported agencies have jumped on the “low-cost” bandwagon, creating a governmental bidding system with little regard to sustainability.  To answer some of our questions, we consulted with our in-house expert, Dolphin Blue  Founder & President, Thomas Kemper.

  

How does corporate outsourcing hinder the environmental health and welfare of our economy?

When we support the manufacturing of low-cost goods originating from distant places (i.e. China, Malaysia, Vietnam, India), the costs we ultimately incur are numerous, and detrimental to our natural world, local economies, and to the long-term health of our economy.  Every time a tax-supported entity procures an item provided by giant conglomerates, we continue to chip away at the sustainability of our planet (incurring a heavy carbon footprint), our communities (by eroding the local, regional and federal tax base), and our economies (local, state, and national).  Have you ever wondered why our roads, bridges, highways, school systems, county and state hospitals and park systems are in such disrepair, while the tax-supported jurisdictions responsible for their upkeep and maintenance are screaming that they are broke? How much longer can we continue to provide Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and favorable treatment to our largest corporations, so they can continue providing inexpensive foreign goods to the very tax-supported agencies that are responsible for maintaining the infrastructure and systems that are paid for, by us, the tax payers? As we, the payer of the taxes, continue to see unemployment rise, factories close due to unfavorable treatment, and the degradation of our natural resources’ health (clean air, fresh water, soil quality, forest and food stocks), while our very own taxpayer dollars continue buying cheap, resource-depleting foreign goods, creating a huge burden on the sustainability of our planet.

 

Corporate outsourcing clearly damages our nation’s infrastructure, but how do low-cost supplies produced in foreign countries harm our environment?

Products being procured with no understanding of our environment, affect our human health and global ecosystem in ways we are only beginning to understand.  The use of chemicals, such as chlorine and chlorine-containing compounds, affect the human endocrine system, and compromises the immune system’s ability to do what it was biologically designed to do.  The havoc being wreaked upon the health of our children is a cost seemingly hidden in our out-of-control healthcare system, which continues to grow as the fastest sector of our economy.  I saw this issue arising back in 1994, and made a personal and business decision to provide papers that are processed chlorine free, as well as being derived from 100% post-consumer recycled fiber and made in the USA with Green-e certified renewable wind energy.  Thus, it is incumbent upon all of us, as citizens of our local communities first and foremost, to get involved in the decisions being made by our tax-supported government representatives, and demand that they purchase only socially and environmentally responsible products.

 

Many governmental agencies purchase their supplies at a low-cost from large corporate conglomerates.  How does this practice create an unfair advantage for small businesses of all types?

Many of the corporate giants (whose supplies produce an annual revenue of $15 BILLION and upward ), have the financial ability to provide a catalog with as many as 45,000-50,000 items, of which only 5-10% of those products are actually certified as “green”.   Although Dolphin Blue  has the capability to provide a catalog containing approximately 4,000 items, ALL made in the USA, and ALL made with post-consumer recycled materials, other small businesses are unable to offer such a catalog when a tax-supported entity (municipality, county, state, or federal government) requests pricing from the vendor community.  Consequently, if a small business responds without providing a full catalog, that small supplier is deemed non-responsive to the government agencies’ Request for Quote (RFQ), giving the large giants a tremendous advantage in the marketplace. 

When governmental agencies purchase products and services from corporate giants moving goods globally, with little regard to anything but profitability, the tax-supported entity is doomed and destined for failure.  In my experience, very few government agencies leave the door fully open for those who qualify through the GSA contracting system, where buyers can select goods and services through a “best value” contracting criteria.  While it is regrettable that some agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have granted monopolistic exclusive contracts to some suppliers, a true environmentally conscious buyer will go shopping elsewhere, seeking the products and services truly aligned with the EPA’s stated, charted mission. 

 Is there a “Watch Dog” system in place to monitor and measure the environmental degradation, loss to society, or economic erosion of such “full service” catalog purchasing relationships? 

Unfortunately, there is no program in place to monitor these relationships, and if governmental agencies continue to support the taxpayers who fund its existence, the tax-supported agencies will continue to thrive in the marketplace, while we continue seeing our planet’s health degrade.

 Yes, but don’t some of the larger corporations offer “green” products?

Many “green” items being offered by the giants are not certified for the environmental attributes being claimed, and many of the so-called “green” products are not green at all.  They are usually being shipped many thousands of miles to gain business at a very low invoice expense, which further degrades our planet’s sustainability by imparting a very heavy carbon footprint on the health of our planet.  What might that cost be, to our society, our planet, and, to future generations? We’ve already keenly aware of those costs. We see them around us every day. The longer we bury our heads in the sand, the more devastating the costs.

Additionally, many of the purchasing contracts do not require the products to be made in the USA, thus sacrificing American jobs for a few nickels.  While these large “full service” catalog transactions are rampant among many levels of our government, there are many buyers within these agencies that truly understand the meaning of sustainability (meeting the needs of our generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs), and practice responsible procurement methods.  For these buyers, I applaud and acknowledge your pioneering spirit.  Thank you.  You understand that we are all in this together, and without us working together to achieve a sustainable planet, we will only be continuing to paint ourselves into a very precarious corner.  As citizens of our neighborhoods, local communities, country, and planet, we must be good stewards, and be responsible with all items, goods, and services we purchase.  We owe it to our children.

Tom is founder and CEO of Dolphin Blue, an online retailer of environmentally sustainable green office supplies and green printing products.

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A Green Halloween: The scariest holiday doesn’t have to be scary for the earth

halloween_pumpkinHolidays can wreak havoc on the planet with their travel, treats, and trimmings, and Halloween is no exception. Fortunately, there are plenty of small steps you can take to reduce the impact of this spooky day on the environment. Read on to find out how to keep Halloween a treat for Mother Earth.
 
The Costumes
Instead of buying a new costume, make one from items you already have in your home, trade last year’s costume with someone else for the night, or rent an outfit. Homemade costumes are creative and often more memorable than store-bought ones. If you aren’t handy with a needle and thread, don’t worry — there are plenty of do-it-yourself projects out there for the domestically challenged. Get some ideas from iVillage and about.com, or try a thrift store for vintage finds. If you do decide to go the store-bought route, look for something that may be useful later on, like for a theme party, your kids’ dress-up chest, or even for everyday wear.
 
The Trick-or-Treating
When trick-or-treating, walk instead of driving from house to house. If it’s too cold or houses in your area are spreadtrick-or-treat-766190 apart, drive to one central location, like a mall that offers trick-or-treating. This is also a great alternative when rain or frigid temperatures make going outside difficult. If you do go outdoors, outfit your flashlight with rechargeable batteries.
 
And, of course, give the kiddos a recyclable bag to use. The old standard of a pillowcase still works well for this function, or they can take a reusable shopping bag or a paper bag they’ve decorated.
 
For something more outside the box, have your kids participate in Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Cocoa Campaign, a kind of reverse trick-or-treating. Instead of just taking candy when knocking on doors, kids hand adults a sample of vegan-friendly, fair-trade dark chocolate with a card that details the poverty and child labor problems in the cocoa industry that affect mainstream candy enjoyed at Halloween and year-round.
 
The Candy
When trick-or-treaters come to your door, show off your eco pride with candy that’s at least kind of good for them. (For an alternate idea, hand out non-edible trinkets, like stickers, pencils, and temporary tattoos.) Here are a few candy ideas:
 
The Organic Trick or Treat Candy Mix from NaturalCandyStore.com has 100-plus pieces of USDA-certified organic goodies, including mixed fruit lollipops, root beer float candy, and cinnamon rocks.
 
Green & Black’s Organic Miniature Bar Collection has everything from cocoa-rich milk chocolate with crunchy butterscotch or roasted almonds to bittersweet dark chocolate with sour cherries or crystallized ginger.
 
Chimp Mints Chocolate are bars of vegan chocolate sure to satisfy sweet tooths. All profits support the Jane Goodall Foundation.831-L
 
Candy Tree Lollipops are made from all-natural, organic ingredients in cherry, lemon, orange, raspberry, and strawberry flavors.
 
Sjaak’s Fair-Trade Organic Chocolate Mini-Bites are vegan chocolate bites packed with a punch in the middle — either caramel, mint, açaí berry, orange, or ginger.
 
The Decorations
Don’t forget that nature offers up plenty in the way of fall decorations — think pumpkins, bales of hay, and gourds, which all can be composted when you’re done. When buying pumpkins, look for organic and pesticide-free choices. The pumpkin seeds inside can be a good treat for humans and birds alike. If you buy a few decorations, try to get things that can be reused from year to year or are easily recycled. Set the ambience with soy-based candles and scary music.

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