COMMENTARY: Blue Is the New Green

Some Wise Water Moves from Obama, and a Blue Summit Ahead

Jane Lunchenco will champion real conservation concerns as NOAA administrator.© Sol Neelman

President-Elect Obama’s initial choices for his environmental team look promising in terms of their commitment to climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fund green jobs and develop renewable energy systems. They are certainly a breath of fresh air compared to the Lame Duck’s last-minute pollution exemptions. These allow companies to dirty the air by burning hazardous waste as “fuel,” and exempt factory farms from having to report their ammonia and hydrogen sulfide emissions from, among other sources, manure lagoons located in coastal flood zones.

My concern was that even if we manage to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuel before we reach a civilization-ending state of climate disruption, we could still be left with a lifeless sea full of plastic debris. We need to commit not only to a new energy revolution but also to the protection and restoration of marine and terrestrial biodiversity in all its myriad wonder. We need to apply the precautionary principle that says, “First do no harm,” if we’re to assure our blue planet’s numerous interdependent species survival, including our own.

The good news that begins to lift my concern is that Dr. Jane Lubchenco was picked on Dec. 19 to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the lead civilian agency for the ocean. Lubchenco, former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science among her other credits, is that rare species of scientist who can speak passionately and persuasively for the changes that need to take place. Also she’s a bit of a mermaid, loving the seas she’s helped protect, even the foggy, bone-chilling waters of Oregon where she’s been based at OSU. Dr. J will also be in a good position to bring her new boss, the Secretary of Commerce up to speed.

Summit Up Again

Surfrider will be one of the organizations on hand for the March 7-10 Blue Vision Summit.© Surfrider

Many secrets of the deep will be revealed, along with new administration officials, members of Congress, surfers, sailors, scientists, maritime workers, fishermen, entrepreneurs and explorers at the Blue Vision Summit March 7-10 in Washington, D.C. Following up on fall planning meetings in S.F. and D.C. we held a Dec. 15 conference call with some 20 summit organizers to see how things are advancing for the three-day, four-night event.

Swimmingly, we can report. Plenaries and panels will look at the state of the ocean and climate, federal ocean legislation and policy, state and regional restoration efforts that are working, grassroots success stories and many other parts of a whole that tells us "Blue is the new Green." "Celebrations of the Sea" will take place at the Smithsonian"s new Ocean Hall and a D.C. Surfrider hangout yet to be determined. Participants will also visit Capitol Hill to meet with their elected representatives and educate them about how they can become ocean champions. Expected participants to date include Sylvia Earle, Philippe Cousteau, Leon Panetta, Rep. Sam Farr, California Secretary of Resources Mike Chrisman, Deep Economy author Bill McKibben, Sherman"s Lagoon cartoonist Jim Toomey, Ocean Rower Roz Savage, Climate and Ocean experts Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Terry Tamminen and others. Leading officials from the Obama administration and new Congress are now being invited. Register now and get the early flying fish discount.

DAVID HELVARG is the founder and president of Blue Frontier Campaign. These posts initially appeared as "Blue Notes" on

CONTACTS: Blue Vision Summit, or contact