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Obama adminstration moves forward on coastal issues

June 23 2009 | Culture Shifting, Jim's Blog,
by Jim

Our coastal and ocean resources represent almost $138 billion dollars to the US economy. If our coastlines were a company they'd be a Fortune 10. Of course they aren't a corporation but don't you think it's about time we started valuing them appropriately and aligning federal policies to insure their value is preserved?

The Obama administration is starting to do just this...

Let me backup a bit... a little over five years ago two independent groups (US Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission) looked at the state of our coasts and oceans. These groups were large-scale teams and made up of the highest caliber experts available. One of these was put in place by, then, President Bush and the other group was a group experts from non-profits and non-governmental organizations that deal with ocean and coastal issues.

They both said the same thing (which is notable... how often do two independent groups say the same thing?)

I'll paraphrase and oversimplify what they said...

"Our oceans are not doing well. In fact our oceans and coastlines are doing horribly. Now is the time for large-scale action to save our oceans from collapse."

The environmental community sang praises for both reports in unison. Again, notable. We agreed with what was wrong. We agreed with what needed to be done. Picture all the environmental groups you know of that are associated with coastlines and oceans... holding hands and singing "We are the World" together, in the right key. It was wonderful. Everything aligned, everyone agreed, life was great. Bliss.

Then nothing happened.

Well, that's not fair... something did happen. What happened was that our coastlines and oceans got worse. They got worse due to the existing pressures on water quality and other ongoing pressures and then felt even more pressure due to new challenges including alternative ocean projects, ocean acidification, offshore drilling leases, etc.

But now, it seems as though the bleak backdrop of non-action is starting to shift.

A few weeks ago President Obama signed a proclamation declaring June to be National Oceans month. That by itself isn't anything to cheer about. But what is worth cheering about is what he did alongside that proclamation. President Obama issued a memorandum to executive departments and agencies to establish the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force. I know what you're thinking, another task force... stay with me... this decision puts additional focus on the protection, maintenance and restoration of the health of coastal and ocean ecosystems and resources. That sounds a lot like our mission here at Surfrider Foundation and we love it when we're not the only ones focused on achieving it.

This may sound like another task force of non-action but what he's trying to do is the opposite. President Obama is trying to connect-the-agency-dots and nudge (well, maybe push) the various departments and agencies toward action. I'm not surprised by this movement as he did a stellar job of picking Leon Panetta and Jane Lubchenco as part of his core team.

We strongly support this action by the Obama administration's movement regarding our coastlines and oceans because we know the pressures they face.

We applaud this movement, we see this increased emphasis as 100% complimentary to our national grassroots network and our mission and we look forward to the next steps where crisp, understandable and relevant action takes place.

We know that the road ahead won't be easy but we're past a major threshold. We've stopped singing We are the World and started to treat our oceans and coastlines like the priceless entities they are.

image: popcrunch
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