Monday, April 21, 2014

Fish + Hope = the future

After a year of work, the Fish Story team, part of the Gulf to Gulf project, is launching a ground-breaking new website. It goes live today and is ground-breaking because it will become a platform to connect an educational forum, the webcasts that have been coming out of Gulf to Gulf since 2009, ecological art, hard restoration science and actual restoration projects. Check it out as an Earth Day present!

Our launch date is auspicious. The launch procedes the 44th Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. The 44th Earth Day is bookended by two critically tragic anniversaries: the March 24, 1989 Exxon Valdez spill and the April 20, 2010 BP Macondo oil spill.  Both events have made it clear that significant progress towards protecting the earth from human opportunism must come from ordinary citizens, not institutions. The 44th Earth Day is going to be auspicious because it represents the persistence of hope. That persistence is a testament to the determination people have to protect the earth from untrammeled greed.

Another reason for auspiciousness is that last week, April 14, 2014, the IPCC press release announced it's new report on climate change. The IPCC report is auspicious because it is the loudest call for action we have heard so far. In a nutshell, the IPCC report says 2 simple things:

1. We must act radically NOW.
2. Rich countries must give poor countries money to rescue them from bearing the consequences of climate change caused by rich countries.

Personally, I would be pleasantly surprised if geopolitics will give way to intelligence on this crisis. There are too many governments too beholden to extractive fossil fuel industries and the short term profits of destroying water, habitat and species. However, I do believe ordinary citizens, especially those of us "enlightened" by education can effect dramatic change. This is a time for hope, not despair.

The 44th Earth Day is going to be a time to celebrate a realistic strategy to save the  planet from human behavior.

Almost one year ago, the Fish Story team was in Memphis, TN., as part of the Memphis Social city-wide exhibition curated by Tom McGlynn. Our mission for Fish Story was to draw attention to how fish habitat mirrors human environmental challenges. The inspiration to focus on Memphis came from Dr. Gene Turner, whom in response to my question about how to catalyze healing dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, before the BP spill, had replied "Iowa," referring to the effluent from factory farms up river. Our premise was that Memphis is sited at a habitat and impact nexus critical to the Mississippi Water Basin. In 1982, it was estimated that water from the Basin serves at least 18 million people. Over thirty years later, presumably that number is higher. At the close of the Fish Story series of events, Dr. Jim White and I calculated what it might take to mitigate climate change (36 % re-greening of the earth).

The Fish Story plan is a bit more specific than planting a tree and much less abstract that a number. If you study any system of tributaries, rivers and watersheds, it is easy to see how systems link up and are interdependent with each other. Those systems can be conceived metaphorically, as all the elements that make a beautiful vocal sound from a human voice. Restoring habitat as a bioregional strategy for conserving habitat. It is about connecting dots between specific locations (trigger points) in a mapped system. Focusing on fish as the indicator taxa for that system ties our goals to specific externalized results.

The Mississippi Water Basin can be conceived of as a physiological system comparable to how the human voice produces beautiful sound.

Our new website, www.gulftogulf is just the new leg of a long journey but it will be a significant leg.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hope 3 of 3 FIsh Story Afterlife!

Fish Story Afterlife! 

When the Gulf to Gulf team completed Fish Story Memphis last Spring, I knew we had to do more. The team had calculated that 36% re-greening the earth could mitigate global warming. How to do that? We decided to create a website that could link restoration work, education, the Gulf to Gulf work on line, ecological art and invite our friends to be part of that 36%! Please join us and consider giving feedback on this beta version of the site before it goes public:

Screen shot from the new website

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hope, 2 of 3

I am pleased to share a pre-Valentine's Day gift with you, a three minute excerpt from the time lapse film Earth Time, 118 days: March 15, 2011 to July 11, 2011 from the restored Ghost Nets (1990-2000) wetlands in the Gulf of Maine ( The full Earth Time film is seventeen minutes long, beginning seven days after the April 20, 2010 British Petroleum Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and ending December 3rd, 2013, representing three years, seven months and seven days of regeneration from the bioengineering portion of the Ghost Nets wetlands restoration project that was effected April 15, 1997. 

 I am also pleased to announce the following link to a recent ARTnews article ( included a reference to my new Wikipedia page: (

Hope, 1 of 3

I am pleased to announce the release of 4 new "Gulf to Gulf" webcast events. These are not intended as polished films but rather raw conversations about how we can deal with climate change.

"I periodically find myself over-whelmed by how difficult the struggle is, how grief-stricken I am by collateral damage, as climate change takes human life around the globe. At those times, like today in a Noreaster, listening to deaths interspersed with accounts of dissolving starfish and slaughtered elephants in a world inured to loss, I take heart in knowing I am one of many in an army of determined Hope for the earth's future. I am therefore more than pleased when we can contribute sober considerations to that future.- Aviva Rahmani 2-13-14

The following is more information on each of these webcasts:
These conversations are deliberately raw, except for recording corrections. They are opportunities to reflect with the participants, on the implications of each research session. We are proud that since they were initiated in 2009, they have been accessed from over 75 countries. We consider them to be an on-going public think tank to come to terms with the impacts of climate change from Gulf to Gulf, across the planet.

Additional information on each webcast and participants: 
"The Search for Anthropocene Solutions" January 20th, 2014 with investigative reporter  Dahr, Jamail, artists Erika Blumenthal and Aviva Rahmani, Fisherman Addison Ames, and Dr. Eugene Turner, Distinguished Research Master and Professor, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA:(, Addison Ames a fisherman in the Gulf of Maine and joining from Qatar, ecological artist Erika Blumenfeld (, and her husband, investigative journalist Dahr Jamail, author of "The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan" ( and "Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq" ( ( Participants talk about problems in the Gulf of Mexico due to the Macondo oil spill.

"Assessing Predictions from 2007" January 8th, 2014 with Dr. Jim White, Professor of Geological Sciences, Fellow and Director of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, CO: ( and Addison Ames a fisherman in the Gulf of Maine. Aviva and Jim discuss their work together since 2007 and predictions they have made about the impacts of climate change.

"Leverage 36% Green from Memphis?" November 12th, 2013 with Dr. James White, Professor of Geological Sciences and a Fellow and the Director of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, CO: (, Dr. Eugene Turner, Distinguished Research Master and Professor, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA: ( and Virginia McLean President of Friends for our Riverfront in Memphis TN: ( Participants discuss the places and ways in which re-greening the earth may be possible.

"Women and Global Warming" October 2nd, 2013 with Dr. Jim White, Professor of Geological Sciences, Fellow and Director of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, CO: ( and Chris Cuomo, Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies, University of Georgia and Curator at eco*art*lab ( Participants discuss ways to talk about climate change and how, if possible, to reach the people who can actually make an impact regarding climate change.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Meditation on the Artists' Mark

I think I might keep revising this over a few days because the ideas aren't simple to me. "Tache," is the painterly term for the mark of the brush on a surface. The origins are modernist, dating from impressionism but it is also associated with abstract expressionist brushwork. For a long time, it was out of fashion to leave any trace of the artists' presence so there were no marks. Then we went into an era of deskilling, where the artists sloppy marks were everywhere to prove it wasn't a rote effort, something machine made and all gloss.

As an ecological artist, I am ambivalent about my mark on the outcome of my work. If the desired outcome is a restored or at least healthy ecosystem, does it need the human touch in any form? That can segue into long theoretical discussions about the nature of any restoration and the implications and extent of human presence but my concern in this post, is just to begin to clarify my own thoughts about the artists' mark.

The artist Lucy Meskill posted something on her FB page today in response to news that populations of Monarch butterflies are crashing due to lost habitat. Her post was a plea to buy and plant asclepius, commonly know as milkweed, the only food monarchs eat (rather than lawns). That is, to me an ideal tache on the landscape. It would be the mark of a healing effort, not to mention that the flowers are beautiful, as are the doomed butterflies.

But my mulling about marks goes a little further because recently, as I wrote on my own page, I have been feeling consumed by paint-envy, as I've been reading Martin Gayford's, "Man with a Blue Scarf," about posing for the painter Lucien Freud. On the ecodialog, I started writing about that longing as almost like wanting to have a baby used to be, when I was younger: I just want to be mixing & applying paint, like I once just wanted to bear a child. There was an avalanche of eloquent response from my colleagues. Everyone confessed their longings and fulfillments.

My own questions are about how could I make a painterly mark, a tache that is evoked by trigger point theory, that evokes a trigger point effect?

I supposed in one way, the desire to leave a mark couldn't be much different than a dog that has to pee on the lamp post. So to think out what I was thinking, I went to an art opening for Shirin Neshat's new work on the political tragedy in Egypt, "My house is burning," a reference to a poem by Mehdi Akhanan Slaes, whose first line is, "My house is on fire, soul burning." Over her large, monochromatic, powerful portraits, Neshat had superimposed fine Islamic calligraphy. This is a trope I'd seen before in her work. Sometimes it worked in this show to convey the pathos of the population and sometimes not. I haven't decided. What was her impulse in these marks and did it distract or add another layer of meaning? I'm not sure.

Shirin Neshat 2013

I thought she was more successful when the images were less explicit, the tasche more mysterious.

Shirin Neshat 2013

In my own work, when I paint, I am being reflective about my content, which is always some aspect of reality that eludes me or that I want to somehow contain and digest. I am also trying to capture some moment, some world view that might convey some deep emotion and share it, for example, as I am thinking about now, trigger point theory. For many years, I thought it was impossible for me to express myself in any more truthful form than those marks I could make on a surface.

"beautiful View," selection of small paintings each 10"x10" oil on linen 2010
Now suppose, everyone who could, bought a packet of asclepius and the result was a resurgence of monarchs, then whose tasche is it? Lucy's for making the suggestion? What is the goal of the tache besides a service to the universe? Is it still an artists' tache? Is the tache, the flight of the butterflies? In chaos theory, we reference the impact of the flap of a butterfly's wing to indicate the delicacy of sensitivity to initial conditions that can change the earth. Could all those Asclepius seeds change the future? If such an effort were successful, I would call it DIY restoration and would hope for much more.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Trigger point options?

Today, after a few hours of work, I went to see Dr. Susan Levine, the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) doctor/ researcher who has been treating me since 1991, told her what I'd been up to and what my worries were while she took some blood. The conversation was grounding. I've stopped talking about CFS much except to people who have it or treat it, except about how it inspired trigger point theory. Often, when I'm in a relapse, as I was tonight, I'm reminded how that works: I have to choose where to put limited stamina. That's such a simple idea but the implications have been profound for me. Tonight, I had 4 events on my agenda plus follow-up on 6 more. They didn't happen. Instead, I just thought. I asked Susan what is happening to CFS patients as we all get older, with vanishing emotional and financial support for many and still no seriously promising answers? She said, "it's a very serious problem." And that is what I see with trigger point theory/ environmental war triage: serious problems, no obvious answers, limited options. Even my own theory, is just a promising theory. I discussed this with kitty. She stretched, yawned, studied me with her big green eyes and then purring, curled up closer for a moment before wandering off to her food bowl.

My new kitty has been in residence exactly one week and has become the resident philosopher and a FB star with her own album and fan mail.

This is an example of what will require some serious thinking about our limited options:

More Than We Thought
H. Jesse Smith
One of the most worrying impacts of climate warming is the sea-level rise caused by melting or collapse of the polar ice sheets. The Antarctic Ice Sheet contains enough water to raise sea level by roughly 60 m were it to melt completely. Most of the work done to determine the influence of warming on the Antarctic Ice Sheet has focused on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is thought to be the most unstable portion with respect to warming. Fogwill et al. consider the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS), which contains 90% of Antarctic ice, using a computer model to examine how much of that region may have melted or collapsed 135,000 to 116,000 years ago during the last interglacial, when the global average air temperature was about 2° C higher than it is now (a potential analog for the warmer climate of the next century). They focus particular attention on the effects of the Southern Hemisphere westerly winds on Southern Ocean circulation and the dynamics of the Antarctic ice sheet, concluding that the EAIS may have made a significantly greater contribution to sealevel rise over that period than currently is believed, with the implication that projected changes in the climate of the southern hemisphere may constitute a more serious threat to the future stability of the EAIS than has generally been appreciated until now.

Sometimes the trigger point is where and and with whom we consider our options. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

IPCC 2009: Memories of times past and time lost

In 2009, I had the privilege of working with Donald Brown, who has a new book and also writes of Dr. Robert Brulle's new study documenting the immorality of climate deniers and their funding, Chris Cuomo and others on the press release of the Ethics Committee that was delivered at COP15 in Copenhagen for the IPCC, when I was a formal observer for the University of Colorado. The following iteration was one of the versions I worked on then. Shortly afterwards, as I blogged in the High Tide COP15 Project, the Danish government went into full panic mode. Police attacked peaceful demonstrators. They shut down the conference, and everyone went home.  The global fossil fuel industries went to work on smear and disinformation campaigns against activists and scientists alike. The world has squandered precious time and lives while climate change has accelerated. J'accuse the fossil fuel industry for their frantic, amoral scramble to amass ever greater profits at the expense of the entire world.

                                  Press Release

Press Conference on Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change
Friday, December 11, 2009 9:30 am, Press Conference Room

The Crucial Missing Element in the Climate Change Negotiations: Duties and Responsibilities, Not Just Narrow National Economic Interest.

Ethics is a practical issue. Tuvalo’s demand for a binding agreement illustrated the Ethical challenges of the negotiations. To make climate justice operational, ethics issue must be included in the text. Ethicists from around the world call on those nations opposing meaningful commitments. Do you deny duties and responsibilities to:

- Tens of millions of Africans whose food and water supply is threatened by increasing drought
- Small island states who see their very existence jeopardized by rising seas
- Much of central Asia faces losing their fresh water supply as the Himalayan glaciers melt
Many parties continue to justify their positions in climate change negotiations based on their economic interests alone. Climate change is a matter of justice and morality. COP15 commitments must take responsibility, to protect the poorest peoples and richest ecosystems, who will suffer the direst consequences of climate change.

The COP15 is struggling with the gap between commitments and implementation. Previous failures have created a lack of trust in the process. Parties need to agree on how to make climate justice operational in the text. This press conference examines how nations must negotiate if they acknowledge their duties and responsibilities

-   to prevent dangerous climate change
-   to pay for harms caused by high levels of greenhouse gas emissions
-   to prevent deforestation programs
-   to enable transfer of sustainable energy technologies to poor nations.

This press conference will assist the media in understanding how some parties are taking ethical responsibility while others employ naked self-interest to justify their negotiating positions.    

The press conference has been called by the Collaborative Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change (EDCC. EDCC is a program comprised of 17 institutions around the world working on climate change ethics and whose secretariat is the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State University. Other members of the EDCC include the IUCN Ethics Working Group, the Bahai, etc, etc, and individual ethicists from around the world working on the ethical dimensions of climate change. Interested individuals can contact EDCC program coordinator Don Brown at or Dr. Nancy Tuana, Director of the Rock Ethics Institute  at Penn State University at