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" The Earth does not think and does not care what people think, but it gives and takes with undeviating justice and it remembers."
J. FRANK DOBY
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IFCNR (International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources) seeks rational and sustainable solutions for the problems plaguing the Earth’s natural resources: its plants, animals (including humans dwelling on land and in aquatic eco-systems), forests, land, water and air.

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The Place of Capitalism in Society Today

May 3, 2017

The Place of Capitalism in Society Today
By Dr. Angel De La Cruz

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” - Adam Smith

Capital is many things to many philosophers of economics. In the 18th Century Adam Smith saw it as pretty much anything from which an individual expected to derive revenue. A hundred years later, Karl Marx used it to define capitalism when he said capital is money used to buy something in order to sell it to make a profit. Today, Hollywood in the 1987 film “Wall Street” and later the 2013 reprise “The Wolf of Wall Street” portrays capital and capitalism as intrinsically corrupting and evil. The global media and more than a few governments often take a negative view of the United States as the embodiment of greed-driven capitalism.

There’s more than a bit of truth in each negative.

Take Adam Smith’s skepticism regarding the true motivation of human behavior and combine it with Bishop George Berkeley’s famous phrase “esse est percipi.” What results is that perception, not necessarily fact, is accepted as reality. The perception of capitalism has morphed from “progress” in the 19th and early 20th Centuries to “greed” today.

The United States is a nation built upon the principles of rugged individuals turning nature’s resources – its fish, terrestrial animals, forests, rich arable land, minerals etc. – into revenue and wealth and ultimately global influence. It’s also a nation that other nations, for better or worse, strive to emulate. Critics complain, often correctly, that the exploitation of people and resources involved in the advance of U.S. capitalism was morally and ethically wrong. The genocidal treatment of native Americans, the slaughter of bison and the depletion of whales and cod are obvious examples.

The truth is the quest for wealth drives virtually every societal level. Individuals (even those who publicly and privately denounce the wealthy) covet the fruits of capital and strive to gain wealth. Profit drives every business whether it’s a “mom & pop” delicatessen or a multinational corporation. The same is true for non-profits and religions. Only the term “profit” is exchanged for “revenue” or “income.”

There are plenty of negatives associated with capitalism past and present. True fortunes were built exploiting to near exhaustion natural resources and workers alike. Social activists condemn corporations some justifiably and some hypocritically. They consider themselves holding the moral high ground when condemning corporate heads who pocket multi-million dollar salaries and refuse to pay living minimum wages for laborers. Yet they are silent when non-profit animal and environmental groups pay their leadership seven-figure salaries, raise tens of millions in the name of saving abandoned puppies and the oceans and spend pennies doing nothing but complain. If pointing out what’s wrong with society is the NGO role fine. It’s a noble service. However, it’s only one step in finding solutions to environmental and social problems.

The truth is profits are not evil. They are just excess money. No church, no NGO, no corporation, no private household can exist unless they bring in sufficient income to pay the basic necessities. Whatever is left over and above paying the bills (profit) can either be pocketed by the greedy or used for good.

Tally up the cost of ridding the oceans of floating plastic, of spaying and neutering and treating the ills of tens of millions of dogs and cats, of preserving wild flora and fauna on land and in the water, of devising new ways to replace old detrimental technologies, of developing treatments that counter disease…of providing ways that feed, clothe, educate, and shelter those in need and every one of our families. Where is that money in those vast amounts to come from?

Certainly the churches, many NGOs, governments, corporations, charities, and generous individuals are among the answers. But the truth is only by business enterprises, particularly those that trade globally, can generate sustainable and massive amounts of capital over expenses that can make a real difference in curing the ills that plague the planet and its inhabitants.

Generating profits provides jobs, income, the ability to conduct research and develop innovations that move society forward in every field: food, clothing, shelter, education, health care for humans and animals alike, energy efficient transportation, and charitable giving. Name a field that can’t benefit from a profitable economy.

Profits gained by taking “unfair” advantage of overworked and underpaid employees or from the “selfish” exploitation of a natural resource leaving nothing for future generations builds resentment, hatred, even the very real potential for violence. It’s behavior that’s simply wrong.

Profits gained from corporations that understand and practice ethical capitalism is the answer.

Ethical capitalism? It’s defined as the application of the triple bottom line of economic prosperity, environmental responsibility, and social justice. Provide a product or service that generates sustained revenue; do no harm, in fact, help improve the environment; and insure that every individual regardless of ethnic origin, sex, faith or nationality is treated fairly and with respect and you have ethical capitalism.

The United States was founded on capitalism. Now it must provide leadership in leading the way to spreading the global gospel of ethics, capital, true and applied compassion for others as well as the world in which we live.

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We Need a New Approach to Saving the Oceans!

May 12, 2017

We Need a New Approach for Saving the Oceans!
By David Wills

Daily, among a myriad of activities we hope and believe will make a real difference to the earth and our neighbors around us, we constantly review hundreds of stories and reports offering conflicting and even contradictory versions of the state of fish and other marine stocks in our oceans.

We read articles on the effects of pollution and global warming on coral reefs and marine species’ habitats. We read about destructive practices including but not limited to bottom trawling; efforts to stop illegal, unregistered, and unreported fishing; and reports on the millions of pounds of wasted by-catch as well as intentionally falsified take documentation.

We monitor the deteriorating state of the world’s oceans and the plummeting statistics on wild fish stocks. Then with total amazement watch spin doctors of both industry and its opponents pronounce claims of robust catch numbers as they lobby for continued maximum harvest quotas while at the same time the complete opposite about the same stocks are decried by the other side of the issue. The back and forth would be laughable and reminiscent of the parable of the fox guarding the hen house if the real state of the oceans was not so tragic.

With no universal observer mechanism on the ships trolling the oceans for the various capture fisheries, governments and scientists and academia must rely on the “catch numbers” reported by the individual captains whose livelihoods depend on maximizing their catch against increasing operating costs.

As a small aside, “maximum sustained yield” (MSY) the mantra for fisheries management, was a practice developed in the 1930’s by the US Forest Service. It may work for trees because they stand still and are easy to count, but it definitely is not a practice that can be easily applied to or work as well for enormous amounts of biomasses of living, moving, animals.

In fact it is such a narrowly focused management methodology that the 20th Century’s most respected expert in marine fishery dynamics, the late Peter Anthony Larkin, wrote the MSY epitaph in 1977, four decades ago.

Larkin condemned Maximum Sustained Yield because it put marine species at too much risk. It left out too many relevant factors and left management decisions too vulnerable to political pressure to be accurate or objective. Its myopic view is weighted towards “benefits” (to the fishery) while at the same time ignoring relevant negative factors. It strives to impose a constant harvest rate without taking into account each species’ natural biological and environmental fluctuations.

In short, MSY is probably not the way to try and ascertain accurate population counts of global fisheries whose health and abundance depend on an integrated management approach.

Plato observed that human beings are motivated by four things: fear, empathy, altruism, and self-interest.

And the strongest of the four are fear and self-interest.

It does not take a scholar to see that if one’s living; one’s economy; and thus one’s well being depend on a species of fish, then it is in the “reporting” person’s self-interest to make sure the “facts” being reported concerning the population of that species are positive. Similarly, is it so incomprehensible that the very thought of a catch restriction or, heaven forbid, the closing of that species’ fishery just might generate a wave of debilitating fear?

That same self-interested bias is endemic in the respective marine industries. Unfortunately the actions they take to generate profits are also the actions that generate pollution, contribute to the warming of the oceans, and, quite literally, to nearly all of the problems plaguing the oceans.

So the bottom line: we need a new view and a new approach toward protecting our oceans.

What is in place is not working. It is not worth debating; it is simply not working.

Two years ago a very bright and accomplished young woman, Grace C. Young, wrote a very inspirational article entitled “How to Save Our Sick, Neglected Oceans.” It’s in the blog archives of her very thoughtful website (www.graceunderthesea.com) or accessed from TIME magazine at http://time.com/4029379/cern-for-the-oceans/

Take a moment and read it. Her vision is spot on.

We need a new approach to saving the oceans and in doing so maybe saving ourselves.

Maybe Grace’s reflections past and present are a good place to start.

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Progress for Good? Where is it?

May 11, 2017

Progress for Good? Where is it?
By David Wills

One of the primary, if not the primary catalyst behind efforts to develop a sustainable, eco-friendly, aquaculture system came from a desire to address certain environmental problems associated with traditional aquaculture.

After nearly 20 years of companies developing and testing a truly commercial scale bio-secure, recirculating system it is equally important to take a look at the larger world stage and at the state of the planet's resources and environment.

Sadly, everywhere one looks, things appear even more distressing than the state of affairs the planet was facing twenty years ago. Below is just one small example taken from an ever-growing mountain of articles and news stories reporting dire news about the oceans, the weather, loss of species, habitat destruction, pollution and disease.

Prior to, during and after the 1992 RIO convention, 20 years later at RIO + 20, and now five years since then, governments and corporations continue to give "lip service" to the incredible need for cleaner energy, more sustainable food production, greater protection of wild resources, and the implementation of social equity that can begin to alleviate poverty and greed, that are the underlying catalysts for so much of the misuse of the world's resources.

Who was it that once said, "the more things change the more they stay the same."

Twenty-seven years ago, some of us were at the Rio Convention. Today we can recall the "greenies" pledging they would expose the causes behind the global misuse of our natural resources and they (the NGO community) proclaimed: “if everyone donated to their cause, they would make the world a better place."

Simultaneously, the pro-resource “use” groups - corporations, and governments alike - said, "it is not all that bad but we will be more responsible and use some of our profits to develop a greener and more compassionate way to do business and we will make the world a better place."

Today, nearly thirty years later it surely appears that they both lied or, to be politically correct and more polite, “were in error.” A few year old article lying wrinkled but not forgotten waiting in the office a few too many years to be converted to a digital file brings that point home.

Expert Task Force Recommends Halving Global Fishing for Crucial Prey Species

Forage Fish Twice as Valuable in the Water as in the Net

WASHINGTON – Fishing for herring, anchovy, and other “forage fish” in general should be cut in half globally to account for their critical role as food for larger species, recommends an expert group of marine scientists in a report released today. The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force conducted the most comprehensive worldwide analysis of the science and management of forage fish populations to date. Its report, “Little Fish, Big Impact: Managing a crucial link in ocean food webs,” concluded that in most ecosystems at least twice as many of these species should be left in the ocean as conventional practice.

A thriving marine ecosystem relies on plenty of forage fish. These small schooling fish are a crucial link in ocean food webs because they eat tiny plants and animals, called plankton, and are preyed upon by animals such as penguins, whales, seals, puffins, and dolphins. They are primary food sources for many commercially and recreationally valuable fish found around North America, such as salmon, tuna, striped bass, and cod. The task force estimated that, globally, forage fish are twice as valuable in the water as in a net—contributing US$11.3 billion by serving as food for other commercially important fish. This is more than double the US$5.6 billion they generate as direct catch.

These species play a growing role in the everyday lives of industrialized nations. Their demand in recent decades has greatly increased for use as fishmeal and fish oil to feed farmed fish, pigs, and chickens that people consume on a regular basis. Fish oil is also used in nutritional supplements for humans.

“Traditionally we have been managing fisheries for forage species in a manner that cannot sustain the food webs, or some of the industries, they support,” says Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, who convened and led the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force. “As three-fourths of marine ecosystems in our study have predators highly dependent on forage fish, it is economically and biologically imperative that we develop smarter management for these small but significant species.”

Small schooling fish are an important part of the ecosystem on both coasts of North America. Many marketable species on the Pacific coast, such as salmon, lingcod, Pacific hake, Pacific halibut, and spiny dogfish, feed on them. A large number of seabird species relies on them as well, and research shows that the breeding success of the federally endangered California least tern may depend on the availability of local anchovy populations. On the eastern seaboard, more menhaden are caught (by weight) than any other fish off the Atlantic coast. Taking out excessive amounts, however, means less food for tuna, bluefish, and striped bass ― as well as whales, dolphins, and seabirds – and affects fisheries and tourism industries from Maine to Florida.

“Around the globe, we’ve seen how removing too many forage fish can significantly affect predators and people who rely on that system’s resources for their livelihoods,” said Dr. Edward D. Houde, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science and task force member. “We need to be more precautionary in how we manage forage fish in ecosystems that we know very little about.”

Made up of 13 preeminent scientists with expertise in a wide range of disciplines, the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force was established to generate specific and practical advice to support better management of forage fish around the world. This group of experts, with support from the Lenfest Ocean Program, synthesized scientific research and other information about these species and conducted original simulation modeling to reach their conclusions.

“The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force has provided guidance on how to prevent over fishing of these small prey species,” said Dr. P. Dee Boersma, professor and director of the Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels at the University of Washington and task force member. “Our hope is that fishery managers will put our recommendations into action to protect penguins, cod, whales, and a whole host of other creatures that need them to survive.”

The numbers of forage fish have not increased over the past few years but the fishing pressure and commercial demand have. How is that making the planet better?

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