Briefing highlights importance of ecosystem services in Gulf of Mexico

On November 16, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership joined with the Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea (COMPASS) and the National Research Council of the National Academies to sponsor House and Senate briefings on restoring the ecosystem services that support economic vitality in the Gulf of Mexico. The briefing highlighted findings from a recent National Academies report that examined changes to ecosystem services in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The report intends to provide guidance on methods to identify and assess important ecosystem services in the Gulf region in the wake of the oil spill. Reps. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) made appearances at the briefing, expressing their support for legislation that would foster economic and environmental recovery in the region.  Scalise and Castor co-chair  the House Gulf Coast Caucus. Rep. Scalise is a sponsor of H.R. 3096, Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States (RESTORE) Act of 2011. The RESTORE Act would dedicate at least 80 percent of penalties paid by the responsible parties under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to Gulf Coast states to invest in the long-term health of the coastal ecosystem and bring about environmental and economic recovery in the region. Companion legislation (S. 1400) has been introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). The Greater Houston Partnership, Chamber Southwest Louisiana, and Greater New Orleans Inc., joined with several other commerce organizations in writing to House and Senate leaders in support of the bill. “The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the five states of the Gulf Coast region was almost $2.4 trillion in 2009, representing 30 percent of the nation’s GDP,” the letter states. “We believe that enacting the RESTORE Act is vital to the environmental and economic recovery of a region still dealing with the devastating impact of the disaster.” According to one of her congressional aides, Rep. Castor has not cosponsored the RESTORE Act because she is working with Rep. Scalise on improvements to the bill, but she has voiced her support for getting 80 percent of the CWA fines for the Gulf region. Rep. Castor has sponsored H.R. 480, the Gulf of Mexico Economic and Environmental Restoration Act of 2011, a similar bill that would also direct 80 percent of BP’s fines towards Gulf Coast restoration. The briefing’s speakers included David Yoskwitz of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies; Nancy Rabalais, Executive Director and Professor at Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium; Heather Allis, Lead Scientist at the Natural Capital Project; Robin Barnes, Executive Vice President of Greater New Orleans Inc. and Timothy Reilly, Managing Partner at CatVest Petroleum Services,...

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Moving forward on environmental literacy

This post contributed by Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs Connect with gamers.  Connect with religious communities.  Work with public health professionals.  Explore.  Make the connection to a green economy.  Find champions in the private sector.  Engage with your community.  These were all messages those participating in last week’s Ecology and Education Summit heard from a wide range of speakers focused on improving environmental understanding and stewardship.   Convened by the Ecological Society of America and the National Education Association, as well as dozens of partners, the Summit explored ways to enhance environmental education in the United States.  The conference brought together a wide range of people involved in education—from those focused on green schools to those exploring ways to deepen interest in the environment using computer games, and religious leaders promoting Earth stewardship and social justice.  Focusing on global climate change, polar explorer Will Steger said that he sees building a clean-energy economy as a method for alleviating climate change, contributing to the economy, and advancing national security.  Through his Foundation, Steger seeks to contribute to this transition. Cassandra Carmichael, with the National Council of Churches, pointed out that, while the science community has knowledge, the religious community has thousands of years of practice in powerful metaphors that successfully move and motivate people.  She argued that these two communities should interact more on their common goal of protecting ecosystems, regardless of differing views about whether or not these are “God’s creations.”  Carmichael noted that elected officials take particular notice of “someone with a white collar or a nun” appearing in their office and making a pitch for taking better care of our natural resources.  Watching a congressional hearing on endangered species unfold years ago, I saw first-hand how an evangelical minister disarmed a Member of Congress with eloquent arguments based on religious values when that same Representative had just successfully filleted a scientist who was also testifying for species protection. Thinking carefully about various communities and their perceptions was another recurring theme of the Summit.  One conference participant noted that in his experience, replacing the word “environmental” with “stewardship” or with “natural resources” keeps people engaged who would otherwise immediately switch off, assuming that the speaker is an elitist “tree hugger.” And while some conference attendees seemed to feel strongly that an outdoor experience should be the top goal, others argued for taking advantage of existing trends in society, such as the estimated 500 million so-called gamers, or people who regularly play computer games.  Instead of maligning this activity, argued game designer Rusel DeMaria, those promoting environmental education should think about ways to reach gamers through their favorite...

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