In 2009, not long after Obamaâ€™s inauguration, we created the ad you see here to encourage our new leader and administration to prevent expanded offshore drilling and turn our countryâ€™s energy policy around.
Here we are a year later, and the image now seems chillingly prescient, given the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for more than a month now.
Yesterday, Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman unveiled their climate change bill. As you know, the U.S.â€™s consideration of any climate change legislation is historic â€“ but in the light of the Deepwater Drilling Disaster, the senatorsâ€™ proposal leaves me dismayed.
The â€śAmerican Power Actâ€ť trades away our oceans to the oil industry even as at least 5,000 barrels of oil continue to gush from the broken Deepwater Horizon pipeline every day. Hereâ€™s the first released video of the broken pipeline spewing oil:
There was plenty of finger pointing at this weekâ€™s Congressional oil spill hearings.
The chairman of BP America, Lamar McKay, said BP is responsible for cleaning up the spill, but he blamed Transocean for the failure of the safety seal.
Then Transocean CEO Steven Newman said that since BP is the operator, the spill is ultimately the oil giantâ€™s fault. And Halliburton executive Tim Probert denied that flaws in his company's cement contributed to the leak.
Meanwhile, oil continues to flow, uninterrupted, into the Gulf of Mexico.
But what the company executives and government officials fail to recognize is that the oil spill is not the fault of one company -- it represents an endemic lack of accountability from the oil industry and government agencies as a whole. The catastrophe isnâ€™t the result of one mistake, itâ€™s the result of a fundamentally broken system.
As I told you recently, I had the pleasure of participating in the TED Mission Blue voyage to the Galapagos Islands, led by legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle. I was one of seven â€śidea championsâ€ť on board, and this was my idea: We can tackle the problem of overfishing by curbing fishing subsidies.
Although 75 percent of the world's fisheries are now either overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation, many governments continue to provide huge subsidies -- about $20 billion annually -- to their fishing sectors.
The fleets are fishing at a level thatâ€™s as much as 2.5 times more than whatâ€™s required for sustainable catch levels.
I feel strongly that halting fishing subsidies is one of the single greatest actions that can be taken to protect the worldâ€™s oceans. And I was hoping others on board would agree with me. Canvassing on the ship with a clipboard and a pencil, I felt like I was back in school, collecting signatures in the cafeteria.
And it worked.
The Deepwater Drilling Disaster continues without resolution, as the first reports of sea turtles washing up on shore are starting to trickle in, and local fishermen are reluctantly accepting jobs working as cleanup crew for the company that has ruined their livelihoods.
As the oil continues to gush from Deepwaterâ€™s broken pipe at rates that cannot be accurately determined, we are looking at an oil disaster that will surpass Exxon Valdez in a matter of weeks, if it hasnâ€™t already.
But this tragedy has galvanized opposition to offshore drilling.
Two notable developments have taken place this week already. On Tuesday, I was honored to speak to press in the shadow of the Capitol alongside Senators Bill Nelson, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, as well as the executive directors of the Sierra Club and Environment America.
Leading up to the G-20 Summit in Toronto next month, today Oceana and TEDâ€™s Mission Blue delivered a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling on G-20 nations to stop the expansion of worldwide fishing subsidies, and to prioritize a strong outcome in the World Trade Organization (WTO) fisheries subsidies negotiations.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, Discoveryâ€™s Planet Green has announced 16 visionaries -- people with big ideas that are shaping our world. Joining the likes of Moby, Philippe Cousteau and Stephen Dubner on the list is our very own CEO, Andy Sharpless.
Hereâ€™s an excerpt of Planet Greenâ€™s interview with Andy:
What accomplishment of the environmental movement over the past 40 years stands out to you?
I remember the first Earth Day. I was a student in Philadelphia and I went to an Earth Day concert where I was in high school. It is absolutely the case in the 40 years since then, environmental legislation in the US -- pushed through by the environmental movement and its many supporters both in Congress and out in families of America -- cleaned up the air and cleaned up the water in meaningful ways especially in American cities like the one I grew up in. The air is safer to breath and the rivers and the lakes are cleaner for the people who use them, and swim in them, boat on them, and fish out of them and for the creatures that live in them.
Last week I participated in one of the most inspiring events in my tenure in the ocean conservation movement: the Mission Blue voyage to the Galapagos.
The voyage was led by legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle and included about 100 movers and shakers, including celebrity environmentalists such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton, Glenn Close and 30 of the world's leading marine scientists and non-profit leaders (like me).
We all had one question in mind: How can we work together to save the oceans?
Iâ€™m thrilled to write that we were able to put aside our conservation turf battles and collaborate to find real answers to the oceanâ€™s biggest problems. In just four days, we spearheaded the following initiatives:
- $1 million to complete a package to protect the waters around the Galapagos Islands
- $1.1 million to launch a plan to protect the Sargasso Sea and commitments to raise a further $2.5 million to see the plan through to success
- $350,000 to boost ocean exposure in schools
- $3.25 million to commence a campaign to end fishing subsidies
- $10 million to start a new partnership to fund longer-term ocean projects
Thatâ€™s a head-spinning amount of progress in four days -- but I canâ€™t say Iâ€™m surprised considering all the brainpower and talent on board.
The folks at TED recorded more than 20 talks on ocean issues while on board, so be sure to look out for those in the coming months.
You can read more details about the background on the Mission Blue voyage at the TED blog.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
Iâ€™d like to give you a sneak peak at the first international green charity auction to be held on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, 2010.
Christieâ€™s International has invited four leading nonprofits to be the beneficiaries of its first charity auction for conservation: Oceana, Conservation International, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Central Park Conservancy. Between us, we work on all seven continents â€“ and, of course, the oceans in between.
A Bid to Save The Earth will include a live auction at Christieâ€™s New York City space in Rockefeller Center as well as a silent auction conducted online at Charity Buzz. Every item up for bid is donated, and Christieâ€™s is waiving all its usual fees to allow the maximum impact for the beneficiaries.