Jul 29 2010


Why so much dispersant in the waters of the Gulf Coast? EPA Senior Policy Analyst and EPA whistleblower, Hugh Kaufman goes on MSNBC to tell us what the US Government and BP doesn’t want us to know:


Jul 27 2010


Published by under penguins

Please watch this important video from TED if you want to know what is happening in the oil-stained waters of the Gulf Coast. And think about our human friends who live and work there, and the fish and birds and mammals who make it their home.

Susan Shaw: The oil spill’s toxic trade-off

Break down the oil slick, keep it off the shores: that’s grounds for pumping toxic dispersant into the Gulf, say clean-up overseers. Susan Shaw shows evidence it’s sparing some beaches only at devastating cost to the health of the deep sea.

Susan Shaw is an internationally recognized marine toxicologist, author and explorer.


Jun 01 2010



BP Oil Slick – Photo: Richard Perry, The New York Times

Declaration of Penguin Sympathy and Penguin Solidarity

We have had our short moment in the sun. For the briefest time, humans flocked to see “March of the Penguins.” During those days, they cared about us. But we have learned, like many before us, that fame is fleeting. And there lots of birds and bees and fish and bears, and a flock of documentary filmmakers looking for Emmys and Oscars.

Thanks to the internet, we have learned that there are many species threatened as we are. The Javan Rhinoceros, fish like the Vaquita, the Cross River Gorilla, the Sumatran Tiger, the Golden-Headed Langur, the Black-Footed Ferret, the Borneo Pygmy Elephant, the Giant Panda, and the Polar Bear from the other end of the Earth. We could go on and on.

Today our hearts go out to all those live in and about the waters of the Gulf Coast. The oysters, the shrimp, the sturgeon, the Brown Pelican, the Least Tern, the Piping Plover, the Oystercatcher, the Northern Gannet, and the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. We could go on and on. And we know it is nesting season.

To our human brothers and sisters, we have a simple question. When will you learn? How many of us have to die before you remember once again to live simply? A train instead of a car. Walking rather than riding. Charity not greed. Care not carelessness.

The American President says he is in control. Perhaps you sleep better believing him. But we who swim and fly know that he controls not the ocean, not the sky, not the ice or the snow.

There is a hole in Earth. The Earth is bleeding black.

The ice melts. The ocean burns.

Wake up!


Photo: Gerald Herbert, AP


Photo: Gerald Herbert, AP


Aug 24 2009


OK so maybe now you will believe us – us small folk you think are so cute. The ice is melting. What have we been telling you? The ice is melting.

Down here. Up there. In Montana. In Europe. In South America. In Asia.

Melting faster than you thought. Or wanted to admit.

Go to the BBC: see the pictures.

This is Antarctica, our home:

Calculations based on the rate of melting 15 years ago had suggested the glacier would last for 600 years. But the new data points to a lifespan for the vast ice stream of only another 100 years.

Professor Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University says this about the melting ice:

This is unprecedented in this area of Antarctica. We’ve known that it’s been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier.

Now similar things are happening up north in the Arctic.

Professor Jason Box of Ohio State University, has been studying the melting ice up north with Greenpeace. He has been surprised by the lack of significant ice they encountered in the Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada.

According to the BBC: “He has also set up time lapse cameras to monitor the massive Petermann glacier. Huge new cracks have been observed and it’s expected that a major part of it could break off imminently:

The science community has been surprised by how sensitive these large glaciers are to climate warming. First it was the glaciers in south Greenland and now as we move further north in Greenland we find retreat at major glaciers. It’s like removing a cork from a bottle.

So you are finally seeing the melting ice. But what exactly are some of you doing about it. Banding together to finally confront global warming? Taxing your use of carbon?

How about fighting each other to take advantage of the melting ice? Now that sounds like human beings

The more the ice melts the easier it is to send ships through the North. Russia, Canada, Denmark and the United States all have a strong interest in controlling the northern route. The Russians are having training exercises and firing missiles; the Canadian government is sending its politicians to show how much they care about the far north. Everybody is planting their flags on the ice.

Nobody is asking the polar bears.

Nobody is asking the penguins.


Apr 08 2009


Forgive us for being out-of-touch for so long. We’ve just completed a 100-day workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation on Polar Melt Traumatic Stress Disorder PMTSD.

Thanks to Angela Schrimsky and Donald-Peter Fredricksen of the Avian Therapy Center for leading the group.

Unfortunately while we were talking, a large portion of the Wilkins Ice Shelf broke off from the Antarctic mainland confirming the most dire predictions about the climate crisis. We have though, thanks to our talented workshop leaders, learned some very interesting meditation techniques. Not to mention the chanting exercises: “Om melt melt melt; Om drip drip drip … ”

Now if only Angela and Donald-Peter could do something about our melting home.


Larsen B Ice Shelf – Photo: Mariano Caravaca

It is not easy to watch the ice melt around you. It is not easy to see your home in danger. To know your fellow penguins may not survive.

The other day, the American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about ways to protect the polar regions:

Clinton said the recent collapse of an Antarctic ice bridge was a stark reminder that the poles are gravely threatened by climate change and human activity.
“With the collapse of an ice bridge that holds in place the Wilkins Ice Shelf, we are reminded that global warming has already had enormous effects on our planet and we have no time to lose in tackling this crisis,” she told the first-ever joint meeting of Antarctic Treaty parties and the Arctic Council at the State Department in Baltimore.
The bridge linking the Wilkins shelf to Antarctica’s Charcot and Latady Islands snapped on Saturday after two large chunks of it fell away last year. The shelf had been stable for most of the last century before it began retreating in the 1990s.

And we have recently received word for our friends up north that the arctic ice. As William Marsden reported for the Montreal Gazette::

In the summer of 2007, a large portion of Arctic Sea ice – about 40 per cent – simply vanished. That wasn’t supposed to happen. At least not yet. As recent as 2004, scientists had predicted it would take another 50 to 100 years for that much ice to melt. Yet here it was happening today.


Measuring Arctic Ice – Photo: Martin Hartley, Reuters

Hopefully, Schrimsky and Fredricksen will be heading there to do a workshop.
Unfortunately the Arctic Nations are now arguing about who has control over the ice and melting ice and the resources that will soon be easily to get to as the ice recedes.

And for all the talk about making the shift to renewable resources and away from burning fossil fuels like oil and coal, Jad Mouawad of the New York Times reported on April 8, 2009:

The Obama administration wants to reduce oil consumption, increase renewable energy supplies and cut carbon dioxide emissions in the most ambitious transformation of energy policy in a generation.
But the world’s oil giants are not convinced that it will work. Even as Washington goes into a frenzy over energy, many of the oil companies are staying on the sidelines, balking at investing in new technologies favored by the president, or even straying from commitments they had already made.

Royal Dutch Shell said last month that it would freeze its research and investments in wind, solar and hydrogen power, and focus its alternative energy efforts on biofuels. The company had already sold much of its solar business and pulled out of a project last year to build the largest offshore wind farm, near London.
BP, a company that has spent nine years saying it was moving “beyond petroleum,” has been getting back to petroleum since 2007, paring back its renewable program. And American oil companies, which all along have been more skeptical of alternative energy than their European counterparts, are studiously ignoring the new messages coming from Washington.

Already one penguin species has been named by the US EPA as endangered and 5 other species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). According to the EPA:

The penguin species recommended for endangered status is the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), of South Africa and Namibia … The five species recommended for threatened status are: the yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes), the white-flippered penguin (Eudyptula minor albosignata), the Fiordland crested penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus), the erect-crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri), all from New Zealand, as well as the Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) of Chile and Peru.

They have solicited more scientific information about the:

effects of climate change and changing ocean, land or sea ice conditions on the distribution and abundance of these penguin species and their principal prey species over the short and long term (especially information on known prey substitutions and their effects on the penguins …

If only they had attended our workshop!

What can we say except: “Om melt melt melt; Om drip drip drip … ”
All together now:
“Om melt melt melt; Om drip drip drip … ”

No responses yet

Nov 04 2008


Published by under penguins

Penguins throughout the world – as well their animals friends – are filled with hope as Americans head to the polls (we, of course, are at the pole but not the poll!) A vote for Obama is a vote for penguins and endangered species everywhere. There are animals who may not agree – for example, there is the lone mavericky polar bear of Polar Bears for Palin – but he is the exception not the rule. (Whatever that quaint human expression means!)

We want to acknowledge some of our favorite human friends who are out in the streets in solidarity with endangered species:

Penguin Lisa

Penguin Lisa & Bruno Bear

Please vote because Penguins can’t.

No responses yet

Oct 03 2008


We at Penguins United have been busy for the last month and have allowed much too much time to go by without checking in with you, our faithful readers.

Burn out, I think you call it!

We call it WPS – weary penguin syndrome.

Emperor Penguins on Glacial Ice

We are very tired of being what you call “an indicator species” – like in “a species whose presence, absence, or relative well-being in a given environment is indicative of the health of its ecosystem.”

Not much well-being happening these days for us.

Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, penguins are sounding the alarm for potentially catastrophic changes in the world’s oceans, and the culprit isn’t only climate change, says a University of Washington conservation biologist.

Oil pollution, depletion of fisheries and rampant coastline development that threatens breeding habitat for many penguin species, along with Earth’s warming climate, are leading to rapid population declines among penguins, said Dee Boersma, a University of Washington biology professor and an authority on the flightless birds.

“Penguins are among those species that show us that we are making fundamental changes to our world,” she said. “The fate of all species is to go extinct, but there are some species that go extinct before their time and we are facing that possibility with some penguins.”

How depressing is that?

Here are some facts:

  • Once about 400,000 pairs lived in the Magellanic penguin colony at Punta Tombo in Argentina between the late 1960s and early 1980s; there are just half that today.
  • African penguins decreased from 1.5 million pairs a century ago to just 63,000 pairs in 2005.
  • Galapagos Islands penguins have fallen to around 2,500 birds, about one-quarter what it was when Boersma first studied the population in the 1970s.
  • Adélie and Chinstrap penguins have declined by 50 percent since the mid-1970s.

  • Where Adelie Penguins Live

    Changing climate also appears to be key in the decline of Galapagos penguins, she said. As the atmosphere and ocean get warmer, El Niño Southern Oscillation events, which affect weather patterns worldwide, seem to occur with greater frequency. During those times, ocean currents that carry the small fish that the penguins feed on are pushed farther away from the islands and the birds often starve or are left too weak to breed.

    These problems raise the question of whether humans are making it too difficult for other species to coexist, Boersma said. Penguins in places like Argentina, the Falklands and Africa run increasing risks of being fouled by oil, either from ocean drilling or because of petroleum discharge from passing ships. The birds’ chances of getting oiled are also increasing because in many cases they have to forage much farther than before to find the prey on which they feed.

    Right now Galapagos penguins is the only penguin species covered by the Endangered Species Act. But we all need protection.

    According to the Center for Biological Diversity:

    For instance, each of two recent El Niño years decimated Humboldt penguin populations along the coast of Chile and Peru, calving of an iceberg off Antarctica resulted in reproductive failure for an entire emperor colony, and a major oil spill off the South African coast wiped out many thousands of African penguins.

    Any wonder we are suffering from Weary Penguin Syndrome?

    No responses yet

    Jun 30 2008


    Things are heating up – a penguin joke. James Hansen testified before Congress 20 years after his famous warning about Global Warming. Famous, at least, for penguins and polar bears.

    If I told you only two Congresspeople showed up to hear one of the world’s greatest experts talk about a threat that could end human civilization as you know it would you laugh or cry? Human civilization. Some of us consider that yet another penguin joke.

    After reading Hansen’s testimony, Andrew Revkin of the New York Times posted his comments beneath the following headline: “Are Big Oil and Big Coal Climate Criminals?

    [Hansen] said everything he has been saying for years: unabated warming would erode the ice sheets, flood coastal cities and drive many species into extinction.

    But there was a much discussed recommendation in both his oral presentation and a written statement he prepared beforehand: that the heads of oil and coal companies who knowingly delayed action on curbing greenhouse gas emissions were committing a crime. “These CEO’s, these captains of industry,” he said in the briefing, “in my opinion, if they don’t change their tactics they’re guilty of crimes against humanity and nature.

    Adelie Penguins – Photo: Heidi N. Geisz

    From the penguin perspective, you humans have some odd ideas about crime. You can imprison a man or a woman for stealing money from a grocery store, but you seem to turn away from the larger crimes: destroying the Amazon forest, allowing the glaciers to melt, allowing species after species to disappear.

    You are the smart ones, after all. Fire, the atom, the Space Shuttle, the iPod.

    And now you seem to turn away from the obvious.

    James Hansen terms it the “global cataclysm:”

    He testified:

    Climate can reach points such that amplifying feedbacks spur large rapid changes. Arctic sea ice is a current example. Global warming initiated sea ice melt, exposing darker ocean that
    absorbs more sunlight, melting more ice. As a result, without any additional greenhouse gases, the Arctic soon will be ice-free in the summer.

    More ominous tipping points loom. West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are vulnerable to even small additional warming. These two-mile-thick behemoths respond slowly at first, but if disintegration gets well underway it will become unstoppable. Debate among scientists is only about how much sea level would rise by a given date. In my opinion, if emissions follow a business-as-usual scenario, sea level rise of at least two meters is likely this century. Hundreds of millions of people would become refugees. No stable shoreline would be reestablished in any time frame that humanity can conceive.

    Animal and plant species are already stressed by climate change. Polar and alpine
    species will be pushed off the planet, if warming continues. Other species attempt to migrate, but as some are extinguished their interdependencies can cause ecosystem collapse. Mass extinctions, of more than half the species on the planet, have occurred several times when the Earth warmed as much as expected if greenhouse gases continue to increase. Biodiversity recovered, but it required hundreds of thousands of years.

    Weddell Seal under the ice – Photo: Getty

    A kind lady wrote to us recently kindly suggesting that we use too many words. That humans have a short attention span. That if we wanted to get our point across we needed to be more like television. What, we wondered, would that look like? How about: The End Is Near! Or maybe: “You’re Killing Us All!”

    While we all think about the perfect 30 second spot, how about you think more about what Dr. Hansen has to say:

    The disturbing conclusion, documented in a paper I have written with several of the world’s leading climate experts, is that the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is no more than 350 ppm (parts per million) and it may be less. Carbon dioxide amount is already 385 ppm and rising about 2 ppm per year. Stunning corollary: the oft-stated goal to keep global warming less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is a recipe for global disaster, not salvation.

    Like his very smart carbon tax, Hansen offered some clear ideas for action:

    We must move beyond fossil fuels eventually. Solution of the climate problem requires that we move to carbon-free energy promptly.

    Now I imagine many of you are looking for climate criminal part. Are you ready?

    Hansen continues:

    Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including funding to help shape school textbook discussions of global warming.

    CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.

    Conviction of ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal CEOs will be no consolation, if we pass on a runaway climate to our children. Humanity would be impoverished by ravages of continually shifting shorelines and intensification of regional climate extremes. Loss of countless species would leave a more desolate planet.

    What is the term you humans use? Oh yeah, we penguins are interested parties. Count us among those “countless species” who can lose.

    I guess the question for you how much are a bunch of polar bears or a bunch of penguins worth? And if corporate greed and your need for a carbon economy kills us, are any of you quilty?

    James Hansen calls it a high crime against humanity. Polar bears would call it a high crime against polar bears. And we’d call it a high crime against penguins. All of us would call it a high crime against nature.

    No responses yet

    Jun 10 2008


    Sorry. Sorry. A heartfelt penguin apology for not writing sooner.
    We have been busy here in the land of ice and snow.

    Many young people write us asking what they can do to save the earth. Of course, none of us have gone to school, let alone college. We have what we call “ice smarts” – you call it street smarts. But there is a very smart man who has a very simple but very smart idea about what can be done. James Hansen works for the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and teaches Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.

    His plan is called “Carbon Tax and 100% Dividend.” We’ll do our penguin best to describe it. Taxing fossil fuels raises the prices of fuel but spurs reduced use. That is what is absolutely necessary today. Reducing the use of the fuel that drives global warming. Unfortunately, there are those who are fighting against the global movement to drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels – and the drive to increase the use of renewable fuels.

    Of course, there are many different ways of taxing oil and gas and coal. Many allow companies to buy and sell the right to use energy. Many proposals are about business as usual and are designed by and favor the wealthy users of energy.

    James Hansen’s plan
    starts when fossil fuel energy is first sold – “within the
    country or at the last (e.g., at the gas pump), but it can be collected easily and reliably.
    You cannot hide coal in your purse; it travels in railroad cars that are easy to spot.”

    So all users of coal, oil and gas are taxed. The question is how does the system work and how do you protect average working people.

    Hansen continues:

    A carbon tax will raise energy prices, but lower and middle income people, especially,
    will find ways to reduce carbon emissions so as to come out ahead. Product demand will
    spur economic activity and innovation. The rate of infrastructure replacement, thus
    economic activity, can be modulated by how fast the carbon tax rate increases. Effects
    will permeate society. Food requiring lots of carbon emissions to produce and transport
    will become more expensive and vice versa – it is likely, e.g., that the UK will stop
    importing and exporting 15,000 tons of waffles each year. There will be a growing price
    incentive for life style changes needed for sustainable living.

    There is a price to be paid for addressing the climate crisis; but the price has to be paid fairly.

    Hansen argues that there is a simple way to build in fairness:

    The entire carbon tax should be returned to the public, with a monthly deposit to their
    bank accounts, an equal share to each person (if no bank account provided, an annual
    check – social security number must be provided). No bureaucracy is needed to figure
    this out. If the initial carbon tax averages $1200 per person per year, $100 is deposited in
    each account each month (Detail: perhaps limit to four shares per family, with child
    shares being half-size, i.e., no marriage penalty but do not encourage population growth).

    The price is oil is rising all over the world. The cost of producing and delivering food is rising. Working people are suffering as prices rise. An unfair tax system will only make things worse. Here is what Hansen has to say:

    The worst thing about the present inadequate political approach is that it will generate
    public backlash. Taxes will increase, with no apparent benefit. The reaction would
    likely delay effective emission reductions, so as to practically guarantee that climate
    would pass tipping points with devastating consequences for nature and humanity.

    Americans, in particular, are always concerned about how the government spends their tax money. Hansen has some strong ideas about all this.

    Carbon tax and 100% dividend, on the contrary, will be a breath of fresh air, a boon and
    boom for the economy. The tax is progressive, the poorest benefitting most, with
    profligate energy users forced to pay for their excesses. Incidentally, it will yield strong
    incentive for aliens to become legal; otherwise they receive no dividend while paying the
    same carbon tax rate as everyone.

    Special interests and their lobbyists in alligator shoes will fight carbon tax and 100%
    dividend tooth and nail. They want to determine who gets your tax money in the usual
    Washington way, Congress allocating money program-by-program, substituting their
    judgment for that of the market place. The lobbyists can afford the shoes. Helping
    Washington figure out how to spend your money is a very lucrative business.

    But we can save the planet and alligators by making sure that not one thin dime of the
    carbon tax is siphoned off by lobbyists for their clients – 100% must be returned to
    citizens as dividend. Make this your motto: “100% or fight! No alligator shoes!”

    We started this blog to help you understand what is happening to our world. We are only penguins after all.

    We have no vote. We pay no taxes. But you do.

    Go to James Hansen’s website and read more.

    Save the Ice. Save the Earth. Save our Home.

    No responses yet

    Apr 02 2008


    Our home is cracking apart around us.

    Some of the Antarctic ice shelf just broke off. How big? For those of you Americans who have ventured to the city that calls itself the Greatest City in the world, it is 9x the size of Manhattan. And sticking with American examples, the Wilkins Ice Shelf itself is about the size of Connecticut.

    According to CNN,“British scientist David Vaughan says it’s the result of global warming.”

    The rest of the Connecticut-sized ice shelf is holding on by a narrow beam of thin ice and scientists worry that it too may collapse. Larger, more dramatic ice collapses occurred in 2002 and 1995.”

    Glaciologist Ted Scambos at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, CO was studying satellite data. He let Professor David Vaughan and Andrew Fleming of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) know that the ice shelf was at risk. Luckily, a crew from BAS photographed the process from aboard a Twin Otter plane. Thanks to them you, too, can see what is happening:



    According to the Christian Science Monitor:

    “the region has seen unprecedented rates of warming during the past 50 years. Two of the 10 shelves along the peninsula have vanished within the past 30 years. Another five have lost between 60 percent and 92 percent of their original extent. Of the 10, Wilkins is the southernmost shelf in the area to start buckling under global warming’s effects.

    ‘Wilkins is a stepping stone in a larger process,’ says Scambos. ‘It’s really a story of what’s yet to come if the mainland of Antarctica begins to warm.’”

    That is what happening to the ice. And things aren’t so hot when it comes to food.

    The UK Observer published this article by Juliette Jowitt:

    “The Antarctic, one of the planet’s last unspoilt ecosystems, is under threat from mankind’s insatiable appetite for harvesting the seas.

    The population of krill, a tiny crustacean, is in danger from the growing demand for health supplements and food for fish farms. Global warming has already been blamed for a dramatic fall in numbers because the ice that is home to the algae and plankton they feed on is melting. Now ‘suction’ harvesting which gathers up vast quantities has been introduced to meet the increased demand. It threatens not just krill, but the entire ecosystem that depends on them, say environmental campaigners.

    Krill are also believed to be important in removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by eating carbon-rich food near the surface and excreting it when they sink to lower, colder water to escape predators.

    ‘Whales, penguins, seals, albatrosses and petrels – all those creatures we think are absolute icons of Antarctica – depend on krill,’ said Richard Page, a marine reserves expert with Greenpeace International.

    Photo: Corbis

    We watched as New Orleans was swallowed by the sea. Penguins: we are New Orleans.

    No responses yet

    Next »