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The Green Life: The Ocean: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

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March 18, 2009

The Ocean: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

I was in Washington, D.C. on Mar. 8 to cover the Blue Vision Summit, a gathering of ocean scientists and ocean activists, and rarely have I been so depressed and inspired in the space of a single speech.

That speech was given by Roger Payne, the biologist who discovered in the 1970s that humpback whales have songs, and who has done hard-hitting research since. He nearly drowned the crowd with a five-minute litany of the ocean’s problems: rainforest destruction, cyanide poisoning by the aquarium fish trade, pollution by undersea oil wells, the slaughter of bycatch, sewage killing coral reefs, to name a few.

So, you might wonder, where's that "inspiring" part? It came at the end. Payne concluded with something that everyone knew but needed to hear: “The chance to make a giant change has never been better than at this moment.”

Obama is, as one speaker put it, "the first bodysurfing president" the first to grow up in Hawaii. Following the Bush years, he's a manta ray of hope for those who want the oceans treated with more kindness. No one knows yet whether he or Congress will champion the oceans. However, many of the 400 or so attendees put their names to the sign-up sheets to meet Congressional delegations later in the week.

I walked away feeling that the conference was a clear sign that the ocean lobby enters the Obama era with the wind at its back.

--David Ferris

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