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At some “Hands Across the Sand” protests today there was no sand

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Today around the world at noon local time groups are coming together to join hands in a statement of solidarity against further offshore oil development and for green energy as an alternative.

Scores of people line up in front of the White House to protest offshore oil and advocate for green energy

On June 25, 2011 scores of people line up in front of the White House to protest offshore oil and advocate for green energy

At at least one of the “Hands Across the Sand” events there were scores of protesters but the beach was more than an hour away. In front of the White House, organized by a local chapter of Surfrider and the Oceana ‘s  DC office, scores of people came out on a sunny Saturday to hold hands with like-minded people to send a message that the status quo where the major emphasis offshore has been drilling our way to energy independence. Stretching out for more than a city block people joined hands in front of the White House gates and shouted protest chants.

When people chanted “clean energy now” apparently, from the mock windmills many people were holding, green energy means offshore wind – an option that while theoretically aided by Secretary Ken Salazar’s Smart from the Start initiative, is still slow in coming online in the U.S.

A Widening Base of Support

As the history from the event’s website states “The Movement Started In Florida. In Florida on Saturday, February 13, 2010, a statewide gathering against near and offshore oil drilling occurred.  10,000 Floridians representing 60 towns and cities and over 90 beaches joined hands to protest the efforts by the Florida Legislature and the US Congress to lift the ban on oil drilling in the near and off shores of Florida.”

One thing that is clear from today’s Hands Across the Sand events is that support for protecting our oceans by limiting offshore fossil fuel extraction and promoting alternatives – sometimes called blue-green energy – have wide geographic support.  In states such as Florida and California this wouldn’t be much of a surprise, but when you look at Hands Across the Sand’s lineup of events occurring today you see places where people are linking up at locations like the great coastal states of Colorado, Wyoming and Missouri.  Not your typical places for protests about issues that are too often seen as important to only those who live on the shoreline. But the reality that many people enjoy having healthy coasts, whether through vacations to coastal destinations or simply back home through the pleasure of consuming healthy seafood, and that those same people are not pleased with ongoing plans to develop the offshore US with additional oil and gas extraction.

But don’t focus too much on this being solely an issue in the U.S.  Take South Africa for example, where earlier today they has their Hand Across the Sand in brisk 15 deg. C  weather. You can see the global reach of this expanding grassroots phenomenon at the Hands Across the Sand international site.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

Written by Will Nuckols

June 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm

A year after the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, can we look for efficiencies as we move forward?

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photo of the drilling platform Deepwater Horizon

Transoceans Deepwater Horizon drilling platform was ablaze one year ago in the Gulf of Mexico. Now having had some time to step back, can we look to include some efficiencies as we guard against the next oil spill?

A question posed for the expert panel at the Smithsonian Institute’s event “One Year After the Gulf Oil Spill” at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC:

“There have been seemingly endless calls for “making sure nothing like this happens again” and accomplishing this ensuring that there are dramatic increases in response capabilities, both at the surface and at the challenging depths where drilling occurs. And there has also been a community of research scientists lamenting the limited availability of manned and unmanned craft which can readily access the depths to study the effects of the spill from the Macondo Prospect, or even doing simple background research before another event occurs in the future.

We need to combine these two concepts and use logic to drive a call for a discussion on the use of technologies which are very limited in their supply.

Do we want to develop large cashes of response equipment on perpetual standby, or should we call for a fleet of dual-use craft that could be used for major leaps forward in scientific study while also serve as emergency response technology in the case of accidents? A realistic view of resources, especially in this economy, says we can’t have a robust deep sea scientific program and also a robust set of emergency response deep sea craft that sits idle. Why not develop a program that maximizes day-to-day benefits for America through exploration and scientific study and also serves as the greatly improved deep sea response team that could be mobilized to address future undersea accidents?

And if you are looking at the government sector as a way to enhance the private sector (or as a guarantee that America’s assets are protected no matter how private sector interests react with their response), why not dramatically increase the oil spill and deep sea recon and salvage capabilities of the Navy’s office of the Supervisor of Salvage? We need those assets in our DoD portfolio as well – why not expand on the capabilities already there through a substantial increase in investment in Navy technologies, and when we do, make sure that the assets serve civilian needs when the military mission allows for their multiple use? We have a track record of success as the basis for civ-mil cooperation – think of the Navy’s NR-1 submarine and the civilian applications it also served. Why isn’t this approach being considered for the gulf?

-William Nuckols, Ocean Policy Expert and Government Efficiency Advocate”

A port bow view of the nuclear-powered research submersible NR-1

The Navy’s research submarine NR-1, recently decommissioned, is an example of how we can combine military defense needs efficiently with civilian needs to access deep offshore waters

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

Written by Will Nuckols

April 20, 2011 at 9:40 pm

The oil spill – “this is our Sputnik”

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Congressman Sam Farr speaks at CHOW in Washington, DC

Congressman Sam Farr calls the Deepwater Horizon accident "our Sputnik" and argues for America to "get off of the black: black coal and black oil."

On Wednesday June 9, 2010 Congressman Sam Farr spoke at the Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) conference and to no great surprise, the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico found its way into the Congressman’s remarks. Congressman Farr has been beating the drum for some time now for an overhaul of our system of governance and how we organize government to address ocean issues, as well as a need for an attention to budget allocations for oceans that are at least on par with our attention to the atmosphere part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The oil spill – “this is our Sputnik”

The U.S.’s attention to those calling for missions to space changed dramatically on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I, a small artificial satellite was about the size of a beach ball, into space. It had never been done before and the first people to do this successfully weren’t the Americans, but our cold war enemies the soviets.

Two years earlier in July 1955 the White House had announced plans to launch an Earth-orbiting satellite, a proposed 3.5 pound payload. But when Sputnik reached space the soviets not only got there first, they did it with a payload in excess of 180 pounds. In this they drove home the point that the soviets were faster than us, and achieved a technologically superior task by launching a much larger satellite than we had even hoped to put into orbit.

Further driving home the fact that U.S. technology and programs were not at the cutting edge, less than a month after Sputnik I launched, on November 3, the soviets launched Sputnik II complete with a dog named Laika into orbit.

The Sputnik launch led directly to the creation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In J958, Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act which created NASA as of October 1, 1958.

Any rational response to the gulf oil spill, given the real damages to the U.S. (in contract to the theoretical threat to the U.S. that Sputnik I and II posed), would include a significant response from the executive and legislative sides of government.

Congressman Farr certainly is not alone when he has called for a better organized executive structure that would more efficiently and effectively address the needs of the nation in our coastal and ocean zones. While broad reorganization is the realm of the Executive Office of the President, incremental steps forward should start immediately. As Representative Farr stated “we are still [operating] in our own silos.”

A call for an ocean policy that creates a focal point for all agencies to fall behind is a message that has been stated so many times in DC. While the call to action is common, the actual action thus far has been insufficient.

Governance issues aside, energy policy itself can drive significant improvements in the threats to our oceans. Sam Farr put it simply: “we need to get off of the black. Black coal and black oil.”

To hear these quotes, as well as some additional wise words from Congressman Farr, check out the two video links below.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.

Written by Will Nuckols

June 10, 2010 at 12:06 pm

On Memorial Day we look forward to a day when a memorial to military divers will join the other monuments in Washington, DC

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Today is Memorial Day, May 31st, 2010. We look forward to a day when a memorial to military divers will join the other monuments in Washington, DC, that honor the contributions of those who have served our nation.

View the new the new video on YouTube that shows the preliminary design for the Man in the Sea Memorial Monument.

Written by Will Nuckols

May 31, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Some days doing what you can to save the planet is easy – even fun

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Today is May 21st, and here in DC it’s Bike to Work Day. View the below short video for a piece on this morning’s commute – for many, it was by bike.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.

Written by Will Nuckols

May 21, 2010 at 9:27 am

“Policies are no good unless there is an implementation strategy to carry them out,” ADM Watkins

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Admiral James Watkins at the podium at the Marine Technology Society

At the May 15, 2010 Marine Technology Society meeting, when discussing the vast work that has occured over the years on ocean policy, ADM James Watkins stated “Policies are no good unless there is an implementation strategy to carry them out.”


On Saturday May 15, 2010 at the Navy Heritage Center in Washington, D.C., a newly reinvigorated Marine Technology Society (MTS) held a meeting to kickoff the first “Admiral James D. Watkins Honorary Lecture,” so named in honor of ADM Watkins, former Chief of Naval Operations, Secretary of Energy and Chair of the HIV/AIDS commission. The lecture series is likely tied not to those impressive accomplishments but more for his role as the Chair of the Bush Administration’s Commission on Ocean Policy and later, merging with Leon Panetta’s work at The Pew Trusts, as the co-chair of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative (JOCI). 

 Before Dr. Rick Spinrad, who recently retired from NOAA to take a position at Oregon State University, made his remarks as the first lecturer in the newly named Admiral James D. Watkins Honorary Lecture series, ADM Watkins made a few remarks himself. In addition to a call for the MTS to increase its input and vocal participation in policy matters in our nation’s capital, ADM Watkins stated “Policies are no good unless there is an implementation strategy to carry them out.” 

 It is the implementation of policy that is the most difficult and critical phase of effective ocean governance. With the subsidence of catastrophic ocean accidents we will soon be on the verge of this Administration’s rollout of its policies for our oceans and coasts. Is the ocean community ready to move forward? 

When seeking input from the public during the public meetings when the Obama Administration Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force was drafting their interim report, a clear call for recommendations on an implementation strategy was sought, but little, boarding on none, was received from the community of ocean experts. That opportunity missed, we need to now sharpen our pencils and draw up plans that we think would move policies forward. For instance, calls for a policy that includes better regulation of offshore drilling or a policy that calls for a more robust spill response capability are the easy part. Of course we want to protect our oceans through responsible oversight and also be ready to respond if our best engineering plans fail and another spill occurs. The hard part, and the phase that will only be optimized if the top people in multiple disciplines pull together, will be the implementation. What specifically should the steps be, and what are the funding streams that would support these efforts? And while we conduct this mental exercise, don’t forget the tight economic constraints we operate under nationally, so developing cost-efficient implementation steps are a must-do

 Just as there is a call for bright people to help stop the ongoing oil leak at the Deepwater Horizon drilling site, a call that has mobilized many experts, we need to also put our collective strengths together and be ready to contribute a host of implementation strategies that will move forward a range of ocean and coastal issues. Start a personal list of good ideas now – the White House ocean policy announcement will be here sooner than later – and we shouldn’t wait to think about an optimized implementation plans. As a professional community of policy, budget, engineering, science and management experts we need to be ready to roll. 

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.

Maybe we do need to worry about our fellow man trying to do us in…

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Today, on April 19, 2010, the anniversary of Waco and Tim McVeigh’s following wacko actions in Oklahoma, there was a group on the National Mall that are convinced that their fellow man is out to do them harm, and that they need to make political moves to ensure that they can protect themselves. Today’s group was the Second Amendment March, a fairly mellow group who gathered lawn chairs, signs and slogans and descended on the place with the most restrictions on guns in the US – Washington, DC.

When I look at my own field of public policy – the environment – I start to wonder if maybe these gun rights folks are onto something. No, I don’t think that more liberal gun carrying laws in DC are likely to be the way to move any policy forward which has at its core the betterment of public safety, but an awareness that there are those among us that would happily do us harm unless we protect ourselves…maybe that is a healthy, if depressing, thought that we need to keep in mind as we craft public policy.

Gun rights advocates at the 2nd Amendment March gather on the Mall in Washington, DC.

So if you feel an uneasy feeling that people in your community are trying to hurt you and your family, maybe you should run with that inclination, and rather than worrying about which specific types of firearms you can take with you to the mall and to dinner, you might start worrying about those in your community who put their interests in making money ahead of the interests of you and your family in being able to live a healthy, disease free life.

For after all, when citing the need to protect “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” it shouldn’t go without notice that life is the first in the list. If life is endangered, and you don’t have clean water, air you can breathe and food to eat that is safe for you and your children, liberty and the pursuit of happiness aren’t achievable anyway.

What does it mean to protect life when parts of a community have no qualms at all about harming other parts of the community if it benefits them? In the realm of environmental policy this translates into the need for a robust, well funded and effective regulatory structure to keep the bad guys at bay.  After all, it’s not like you are going to take a handgun down to your local coal burning power plant and demand at gunpoint that they clean up their emissions and stop business practices that endanger the health of your family. This is clearly the realm of the state and federal regulators – regulators that few people appreciate and who more often than not are decried as trying to put businesses out of work and hurting American communities with their interference. But reality is a far cry from that ill-informed public view.

PS: While I am often frustrated by environmental groups’ failure to coalesce around a central message, I felt a bit less

It is hard to keep any group on message. Carry and conceal? The financial bailout? Health care? Uh, what are we protesting for/against?

critical of my own community when I saw today how hard it is to keep any group of people on message. Whether it was the guy with the anti-bailout sign, or those spouting off about healthcare, there were more than a few of today’s second amendment march attendees who didn’t appear to exactly understand what the second amendment says. But if you prefer to have your glass seen as half-full, the right of freedom of speech was alive and well today. And if this week we combine a demand for our right to life, which to me means a right not to be killed by others’ pollution, with our right to free speech, this week in DC and around the nation we might end up with one heck of an Earth Day 40th anniversary celebration.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.