Newsflash: Game not over for the planet!

Today is one that will go down in the history books as a victory for Planet Ocean and for the 99% of us who are fighting to take our planet back, Avatar-style from those who would use her, abuse her and destroy her. Tonight, perhaps some of the feeling of shame at seeing our fellow citizens being arrested at the White House for exercising their rights is eased. It’s eased just a bit though, as the fight is far from over.  These days I’ll take good news – especially news this big, gratefully.

Over 1,200 people from across the United States and Canada with all different kinds of backgrounds — farmers, ranchers, Gulf Coast residents, faith leaders, indigenous people and climate activists — came to put their bodies on the line and send a clear message to the president that tar sands oil is a death sentence for the planet.

Many echoed the words of NASA climate scientist James Hansen, who said further development of the tar sands would be “game over for the planet.” By delaying the decision on the pipeline, say analysts, Obama has effectively killed it. It was a now or never deal. Not that anyone is going to turn their backs. So this evening, we celebrate with a watchful eye on what happens in 2013.

And now, from Bill McKibbon…

Dear Friends,

Um, we won. You won.

Not completely. The president didn’t outright reject the pipeline permit. My particular fantasy–that he would invite the 1253 people arrested on his doorstep in August inside the gates for a victory picnic by the vegetable garden–didn’t materialize.

But a few minutes ago the president sent the pipeline back to the State Department for a thorough re-review, which most analysts are saying will effectively kill the project. The president explicitly noted climate change, along with the pipeline route, as one of the factors that a new review would need to assess. There’s no way, with an honest review, that a pipeline that helps speed the tapping of the world’s second-largest pool of carbon can pass environmental muster.

And he has made clear that the environmental assessment won’t be carried out by cronies of the pipeline company–that it will be an expert and independent assessment. We will watch that process like hawks, making sure that it doesn’t succumb to more cronyism. Perhaps this effort will go some tiny way towards cleaning up the Washington culture of corporate dominance that came so dramatically to light here in emails and lobbyist disclosure forms.

It’s important to understand how unlikely this victory is. Six months ago, almost no one outside the pipeline route even knew about Keystone. One month ago, a secret poll of “energy insiders” by the National Journal found that “virtually all” expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end.  As late as last week the CBC reported that Transcanada was moving huge quantities of pipe across the border and seizing land by eminent domain, certain that its permit would be granted. A done deal has come spectacularly undone.

The American people spoke loudly about climate change and the president responded. There have been few even partial victories about global warming in recent years so that makes this an important day.

The president deserves thanks for making this call–it’s not easy in the face of the fossil fuel industry and its endless reserves of cash. The deepest thanks, however, go to you: to our indigenous peoples who began the fight, to the folks in Nebraska who rallied so fiercely, to the scientists who explained the stakes, to the environmental groups who joined with passionate common purpose, to the campuses that lit up with activity, to the faith leaders that raised a moral cry, to the labor leaders who recognized where our economic future lies, to the Occupy movement that helped galvanize revulsion at insider dealing, and most of all to the people in every state and province who built the movement that made this decision inevitable.

Our fight, of course, is barely begun. Some in our movement will say that this decision is just politics as usual: that the president wants us off the streets – and off his front lawn – until after the election, at which point the administration can approve the pipeline, alienating its supporters without electoral consequence. The president should know that If this pipeline proposal somehow reemerges from the review process we will use every tool at our disposal to keep it from ever being built; if there’s a lesson of the last few months, both in our work and in the Occupy encampments around the world, it’s that sometimes we have to put our bodies on the line.

We need to let the president and oil companies know that we’re ready to take action should they try to push this pipeline through in a couple of years. There’s a pledge to take nonviolent action against the pipeline up on our site, and I’ll be keeping your names an emails safely stored away so that you’ll be the first to know about anything we need to do down the road. You can sign the pledge here:

In the meantime, since federal action will be in abeyance for a long stretch, we need to figure out how best to support our Canadian brothers and sisters, who are effectively battling against proposed pipelines west from the tar sands to the Pacific. And we need to broaden our work to take on all the forms of ‘extreme energy’ now coming to the fore: mountaintop removal coal mining, deepsea oil drilling, fracking for gas and oil. We’ll keep sending you updates from; you keep letting us know what we need to do next.

Last week, scientists announced that the planet had poured a record amount of co2 into the atmosphere last year; that’s a sign of how desperate our battle is. But we take courage from today’s White House announcement; it gives us some clues about how to fight going forward.

And I simply can’t say thank you enough. I know, because of my own weariness, how hard so many of you have worked. It was good work, done in the right spirit, and it has secured an unlikely victory. You are the cause of that victory; you upended enormous odds.

I’m going to bed tired tonight. But I’ll get up in the morning ready for the next battle, more confident because I know you’re part of this fight too.

Bill McKibben

Marine Mammal Center Gala – San Francisco

Guest Blogger, Jeff Boehm, Executive Director, Marine Mammal Center

On Friday night, last week, some 350 people came together at the San Francisco Ferry Building to celebrate The Marine Mammal Center, to build new relationships and strengthen existing ones, and to raise money! Oh, and to have a fair amount of well-deserved fun!

With presentations by Washed Ashore artist, Angela Haseltine Pozzi, and Melissa on her team, and our own Dr. Frances Gulland in the VIP reception, inspiring videos, a heartfelt and moving speech by youth volunteer-turned adult, David Krucik and the dynamic auctioneering of the education department’s Doreen Gurrola and Biz Stone…we hit those goals, and made some Gala history for ourselves in the process!

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Consider these accomplishments and highlights… We are so thankful to Hewlett Packard, our presenting sponsor, for their tremendous sponsorship of the event—the highest we’ve received yet! For the first time in one of our fund-a-need auctions we received a $10,000 gift! And, this was from an individual who is new to our community! We invited in new co-hosts, Biz and Livia Stone, and through them gained access to a wide array of new friends and supporters. All the while, we enjoyed tremendous food, the beautiful music of the EOS ensemble, and one another’s company.

So many people make events like this a success: a board level committee, our many sponsors and in-kind contributors, the legion of volunteers and staff that lent their smarts, muscle and time to the event, the quality partners who manage the venue (gorgeous and fitting, eh?) and the guests who come to show their support! Central in the planning, was our own Kate Harle, who deserves kudos-a-plenty for the large and daunting task she took on and the event she so well delivered with professionalism and great grace. Thank you, Kate!

Oh, and the tally on raising money to help deliver an enhanced whale bus program to 5,000 school kids in under-served communities…you ask? We met our goal of 60K, and we met the total fund-raising goal of the event (we’re still tallying the final number; it may be more!)

David Chiu speaks out for oceans at America’s Cup Healthy Oceans launch

San Francisco Mayoral Candidate David Chiu has shown strong and consistent support for the environment, for sharks and for the future of planet ocean. Yesterday he spoke as The America’s Cup Authority announced the launch of their Healthy Ocean Project in San Francisco.



Video by Deb Castellana

Inside MBARI

This week we had a very special tour of MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) from Chris Grech,  who has been there since the 1980’s working with their research vessels, from the deepest submersibles on up to their largest research ships. We were joined by my husband Chuck and Riva Kahn Hallock , who I had the pleasure of working with this summer at The Sylvia Earle Foundation in San Francisco.

MBARI is located on the highway to the abyss

Perched at the nearest point on land to the abyssal Monterey Canyon, MBARI’s mission is to explore and document not only coastal California waters, but it also undertakes oceanographic missions around the world. Founded in 1987 by David Packard,  MBARI’s mission ‘is to achieve and maintain a position as a world center for advanced research and education in ocean science and technology, and to do so through the development of better instruments, systems, and methods for scientific research in the deep waters of the ocean. MBARI emphasizes the peer relationship between engineers and scientists as a basic principle of its operation. All of the activities of MBARI must be characterized by excellence, innovation, and vision.

And here we go for an inside look at what goes on at MBARI!

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Time to Jump Another Hurdle For Sharks in California

July 11th will be the next crucial hurdle for AB 376 in Sacramento as it faces the The Senate Appropriations Committee – if we get past this, the vote goes to the Senate Floor. If it passes there, it goes to the Governor Brown’s office for his signature, and then it becomes the law!

There has been pressure from some members of the Senate to add provisions to AB 376 to allow for the sale of fins taken during legally allowed shark fishing. Perhaps the biggest problem with this is that it makes AM 376 – the bill to ban the sale of shark fins in CA virtually unenforcable. Who will be able to tell the difference between a shark fin taken off a legally caught leopard shark in San Francisco Bay from one illegally imported, taken from a shark whose body was thrown overboard from a shark finning vessel? This provision is a tricky way to make AB 376 a VERY expensive bill for the State to enforce – one that the Appropriations Committee might find too expensive to pass in this time of severe fiscal crisis.

Please take a few minutes to call the following Senators, who are on the Appropriations Committee to ask them to support AB 376 without provisions for shark fishing.

Shark Finning - A Bloody Business

Senator Christine Kehoe (Chair): (916) 651-4039

Senator Mimi Walters (Vice Chair): (916) 651-4033

Senator Elaine Alquist: (916) 651-4013

Senator Bill Emmerson: (916) 651-4037

Senator Ted W. Lieu: (916) 651-4028

Senator Fran Pavley: (916) 651-4023

Senator Curren Price: (916) 651-4026

Senator Sharon Runner: (916) 651-4017

Senator Darrell Steinberg: (916) 651-4006