Category Archives: conservation

You wouldn’t eat a slimehead…

We have been going about this saving endangered or threatened species thing all wrong.

David A. Fahrenthold of the Washington Post explains in his article Tastier Names Trouble for Seafood Stocks that numerous varieties of fish are currently on the threatened species list because someone decided to give them a less disgusting name. It would seem that the seafood environment has reached this level of degradation in part due to positive PR campaigns. (Is there nothing we can’t blame on marketing?!)

Here in Colorado we are well acquainted with the idea of wrapping an attractive name around something mentally repugnant and serving it to tourists as an exotic dish. After all, we are home to the Rocky Mountain Oyster, a dish that is made out of bull testicles and has absolutely nothing to do with Oysters. Seriously though, can you blame the Cattleman’s Association for the that one? Who in their right mind would order Rocky Mountain Testicles?

The Slimehead has joined the ranks of depleted species because it underwent some PR reviews and came out with the appetizing name of Orange Roughy. Scientists named the prehistoric looking fossil fish for it’s distinctive mucus canals.

Mmmm… mucus canals over long grain rice in a tomato cream sauce. Yummy.

The fish was basically left alone and considered a by-catch of other commercial fishing enterprises until the name change occurred. Then the Slimehead became a popular food source and has been quickly over-fished. It’s currently dangerously depleted.

Other victims of good PR schemes are the Monkfish (previously known as the goosefish), the Uni (a sea urchin previously called a Whore’s Egg) and the Chilean Sea Bass (really the Patagoinian toothfish and not actually a member of the bass family.)

The biggest problem with these PR makeovers is their effect on the fish populations. Many of these previously untouched creatures have low reproduction and incredibly long lives making it very difficult for them to recover from over harvesting. Over-fishing is a serious threat to both the Oceanic environment and fisheries. If there are no more fish to pull from the ocean then there are no more fisheries. (This means no more money for you fisheries! Watch what you’re doing here!) While over-fishing is harmful for the more delicate species mentioned in the article, it is also harmful to fish who normally would be able to handle the threat due to their prolific reproduction. The Cod is an excellent example. Cod should be capable of sustaining heavy fishing but their ocean floor habitat is being destroyed by the bottom trawlers sent to harvest them.

In the meantime the renaming of previously revolting fish is wrecking havoc on these previously ignored species, adding them to the already gigantic list of species that may get the government’s attention some decades down the road.

So I propose a new approach to environmental activism. Instead of battling for months and years to have the government list a species as endangered, and then battling for months and years to force them to designate critical habitat, and then battling months and years to force them to comply with their listings, let’s start an anti-PR campaign.

Let’s rename the depleted fish something really, really gross so they won’t get harvested and eaten.

Seriously, how many of you are going to woo someone over dinner with wine and a filet of Slimehead?


Background information for this post came from Tastier Names Trouble for Seafood Stocks By David A. Fahrenthold and Seafood Watch.

Reduce, reuse, recycle…

It’s sexy to toss your plastics in one bin, and your glass in another. However, there is an imminently more satisfying way to recycle, support a good cause, and save yourself some money. With the market down enough to get people talking about “victory gardens”, thrift stores and Goodwill become appealing alternatives to pricey mall shopping. (Frankly, with the economy the way it is, second hand clothing is looking better than Wal-Mart and Target too.)

As a child advocate earning next to nothing in school I learned from other advocates that a certain neighborhood Goodwill received the bulk of the donations from the country club, and therefore had brand name suits for $15. I went, and sure enough argued my first case in a $15 Chanel suit that fit me like an expensively tailored glove.

Over the years, as we prospered and the housing market boomed, I replaced my thrift store habits with thrifty sale shopping, exchanging my $15 suit experience for the $100 or $150 suit experience. Still not a Chanel brand new, but a little nicer knowing I was the suit’s first owner.

Times, how they are a changin’.

This morning found me considering business attire and coats, missing from my post baby sized wardrobe, and a relatively empty wallet. How could I get a rain coat, a winter coat, and some tops that will work with my two precious pairs of slacks for the piddly amount I had to spend? It simply couldn’t be done. I have to have clothes that fit though, if I am to actually start a practice. I can’t meet clients in sweats.

Then I remembered… the Goodwill by the country club.
Down my mother and I went, happily off to search for a bargain, and happily, we struck gold.

I got a gorgeous full length wool business coat by Christian Dior for $15. I got a lovely khaki rain trench from Calvin Klein for $12.99. I also got several sweaters to toss on over my shells and tanks, thereby creating an expansive set of outfits from my seemingly paltry store. Each was less than $5, each was in perfect shape.

Reduce, reuse, recycle doesn’t have to pertain solely to soda cans and newspapers. I saved a fortune today, getting a week’s worth of winter tops and two coats for less than half the cost of one raincoat brand new. Best of all, I didn’t add to any environmental production costs, and I supported a charity I believe in.

Baaoon Mama… Baaoon!

99 dreams I have had
In every one a red balloon
It’s all over and I’m standin’ pretty
In this dust that was a city
If I could find a souvenir
Just to prove the world was here
And here is a red balloon
I think of you and let it go
99 Red Balloons Nena

Whenever I hear this song I think back to my youth, and get a sense of freedom and joy, an overwhelming desire to spin.

That desire popped, much like a balloon, as soon as I learned that we are depleting our helium reserves in the U.S., and the helium balloon, that amazing anti-gravity children’s toy, may not be around for my grandkids. Imagine not seeing the wonder in a baby’s face as he tries to figure out why this thing goes up… instead of down.

Helium is non-renewable and irreplaceable. There are pockets of the gas in Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma and Russia has large pockets of natural gas, helium included, but there has not been a push to extract it. Further, a great deal of Helium is lost in the process of separating it from oil and natural gas. As the oil and gas are brought out of the ground, the Helium comes with them, but it is not captured as it releases, so it drifts up into the atmosphere and … away. The world’s largest pocket of Helium is located in the Texas Panhandle, and at our current rate of use, that reserve will be depleted by 2015.

In personal terms, this means Monkey will probably not have a balloon arch at her prom, and Otter may not be choosing a balloon from a vendor at a carnival by the time he is eight.

Helium can be produced directly in nuclear fusion reactors, and is an indirect side effect of fisson reactors, but the amount created by both these sources don’t begin to reach our current use. Basically, it has taken billions of years for the Earth to create our Helium stores, so it’s not really a build on demand kind of resource.

Helium can be recycled, and the larger industries users, such as NASA, do recycle it. However, any Helium released into the atmosphere is lost to the Earth forever, and there are no small users currently recycling the gas. To learn more, read up on the issue.

If we are not careful with our Helium, we will be waving goodbye to a childhood tradition, in addition to a scientific resource. This is such a amazing substance, with nothing else like it on earth. It is our connection to the unbelievable, the fantastic, the magical. Let’s do our best to keep it around.

“Bbvvoomm… Ma ma na… Baavmmm”