Monthly Archives: January 2010

If you want to change people, you must create enough leverage to encourage the change to happen.

The subject line to this post is Seth Godin’s reason for writing his most recent book: Linchpin. If you’ve had a chance to read some of my earlier posts, I’ve mentioned Godin a few times. His blog posts are short, thoughtful and generally leave me thinking. He’s known as a marketing guru of sorts – yet so many of his great little books talk about “change” – personal, organizational, and societal.

Last week I emailed him  just to say thanks for his posts. He emailed back within about 15 minutes, saying thank-you in return, with some comments about wild and farmed salmon – and keeping the gumboots on the ground.

I didn’t email him back though – and tell him when my brother and I were kids growing up on Haida Gwaii off the coast of B.C. – where it rains about 280 days of year – our mom would make us leave the house with gumboots as we’d walk the mile or so to the bus stop. We’d get to the end of the driveway and throw the gumboots in the bush; grab our shoes out of our bags and put them on. Of course by the time we got to the bus stop our feet would be soaked – but, sheez, at least we still looked cool…

And now decades later when we’re all home we have a chuckle about it – our mom was certainly wiser than we gave her credit at the time (we thought we were soooo clever). She knew exactly what we were doing, however her take: “I did my part as a parent by getting you to leave the house with them on; after that it was your choice…” (or something to that effect).

I suppose in relation to the subject line of this post: she wasn’t interested in creating the leverage for change – she left that to us. Yet,  this wasn’t necessarily the same tactic in cleaning up our bedrooms… parents have all sorts of leverage-tricks in that scenario (as I’m now learning as a parent).

Godin’s post: Why write a book? he suggests:

The goal isn’t always to spread an idea. Sometimes the goal is to make change happen. A book is a physical souvenir, a concrete instantiation of your ideas in a physical object, something that gives your ideas substance and allows them to travel.

The reason I wrote Linchpin: If you want to change people, you must create enough leverage to encourage the change to happen.

Books change lives every day. A book takes more than a few minutes to read. A book envelopes us, it is relentless in its voice and in its linearity. You start at the beginning and you either ride with the author to the end or you bail. And unlike just about any form of electronic media, you get to read the book at your own pace, absorbing it as you go.

I published a book today. My biggest and most important and most personal and most challenging book. A book that scared me.

It took me ten years to write this book. I’m hoping it changes a few people.

Kind of neat to read coming from someone who puts a book out and a few weeks later sees it on the New York Times bestseller list.

don’t call NASA.

I’m not sure if I’ve come across better language that may point to some of the problems. The following quotes are from a senior fisheries researcher within Fisheries and Oceans from a recent conference on the nutrients that salmon bring to the river environment.

And as I’ve pointed out before, I do not mean to disrespect, simply highlight where I think there are serious issues with language (emphasis is mine) that tends to fog out reality:

Full implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy will require that we design experimental systems that allow us to quantify the impacts of sectoral activities on ecosystem integrity in the regions where they operate. WSP implementation also requires DFO to become more responsive to dealing with the ecosystem account end of the ledger in terms of fisheries management because we are signatories to both national and international agreements that obligate us to develop an ecosystem approach to fisheries management.

I have started to do a lot more investigation into where the language of ‘management’, ‘economics’ and ‘accounting’ started to infiltrate agencies responsible for looking after natural resources. The fact that there are senior bureaucrats that talk about how we look after salmon in language from ‘accounting’ – is concerning.

And maybe we should look after salmon better because it’s the right thing to do instead of “because we are signatories” (but then maybe I’m just being too picky on language…)

Or, in talking about natural systems in mechanized terms – same DFO researcher, same discussion:

bears function almost like a squad of “front-end loaders”

In reference to the number of salmon that bears move from stream to the forest. Those salmon operate on the same principle that has us apply fish meal and fertilizer to gardens, lawns and farms – they are fertilizer for plants (as well as food for scavengers). Sometimes analogiess are helpful to make points –  but bears as front-end loaders….

And here’s the conclusion to the discussion:

We need to do quite a bit more research. … instead of just following the signature of marine derived nutrients and whether or not MDNs can be found on landscapes or in critters, we really need to create salmon-mediated, energy and nutrient flux models to show quantitatively what the impact of salmon returns are on the integrity (ecological structure and function) of whole communities of organisms.

Once created, such models will allow us to compare the importance of nutrient and energy delivery functions of salmon relative to the alternative pathways by which nutrients and energy may be satisfied for whole communities. It will be a non-trivial challenge for fisheries science to provide a clear perspective that allows meaningful headway in specifying salmon management practices to achieve a better balance of ecosystem values for future generations.

Thank ghad, someone actually used critters in a scientific forum – however, eghad at the rest of the language.

No, no, and no.

We cannot create “models” that are going to predict “whole communities of organisms”. There is a reason that population dynamics are components of chaos theory. There is absolutely no way to predict, measure, or identify all factors that affect one population – let alone an entire fricking community of organisms.

A little over a hundred years ago – say one hundred and fifty – salmon had been doing just fine “managing” themselves for some 2 million+ years. In the last 10,000 – 50,000 years (hot debate among archaeologists) around the Pacific Rim, salmon and humans have done quite well. Oddly enough, in the last 70-90 years – through most of their historical range – wild salmon runs have declined by 90% in many areas.

More models, more equations, and more computer simulations are not going to bring wild salmon runs back to their historic sizes or even to significant fractions of their historic sizes. Waiting until we create more models, more equation, more computer models, and conduct more research is also not going to do anything in the meantime.

For government, politicians, and scientists to suggest we should wait longer for that alchemical equation, model, or computer simulation that will change salmon into gold is about as irresponsible as it comes.

The bottom line…

  • if you systematically kill 80% of a population of anything over a period of several decades and expect 20% to produce the same size population in perpetuity (the practice of Maximum Sustainable Yield),
  • then dam, urbanize, log, mine, and pollute the habitat that is essential for re-creation –
  • then throw in some ‘natural’ negative oceanic changes,
  • throw in a little more killing of major food sources (i.e. herring and other feed fish),
  • throw a bunch of fish farms on migration routes,
  • and what the hell, throw ins some massive (capital intensive) hatcheries that pump out  genetically inferior populations.

– And what do you get?

hmmm, I think I can safely say: no need to put this in PowerPoint and no need to send this to the rocket scientists at NASA.

“please be more academic in your writing…”

Recently, my wife had a marked assignment returned from an online B.C. university course she’s doing. The assignment was for a humanities related course – something to do with Canadian history. One of her instructor’s comments was: “please make an effort to sound more academic in your writing”.

“And there’s the issue”, I said.

Why is it that institutions of “higher learning” insist that all students adopt a form of speaking that we would not use to speak to our children, nor to our neighbors, nor to our mechanic?

I get the fact that, yes, if we’re talking to our mechanic she might start using language that we don’t follow. However, I generally say “whoa, whoa, can you just show me what you’re talking about?”

“Sure, here’s your distributor cap, and under here is… bla, bla, bla.” And I get a great explanation and in the meantime learn a bunch about my vehicle.

“Ok”, I say. “What’s an immediate priority and what can we leave for a bit.”

Or, if I’m at my dentist… “yeah, before you fire up that awful sounding drill could we have a discussion about what you’re about to do… and what’s that going to cost when you’re done?”

I’m guessing that when you go to school to become a mechanic – they don’t say “please, use more ‘mechanical’ language”. Or, at dentist school, do they insist on explaining root canal in the most fog-like manner possible?


We should be teaching people – especially people in government, or any organization with a variety of ‘stakeholders’ – how to speak in plain language. No, this is not “dumbing” it down. Do you think Obama goes home at the end of the day and explains to his girls the challenges of humanitarian aid in a disaster zone through the language of logistics, economics and United Nations bureaucratic bafflegab.


Generally, the large majority of jobs in government – with the exception of many administrative positions (i.e. the folks getting the most work done every day) – require a university degree. Yet, as demonstrated by my opening – and by my own ‘academic’ experience – why use “we’ll get ‘er done” when you can use “let’s implement a strategic benchmarking indicator process that utilizes complex factoral best practices”?

Why go directly face-to-face in communities, when you can have another peer-to-peer workshop or seminar with breakout groups and PowerPoint 2011 – where everyone speaks the same language. Where, instead of falling asleep in the hotel at night with visions of “sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads”; one falls asleep with “polynomial saccharide benevolent mythical beings performing rhythmical patterned successions in the upper division of their body containing the brain….”

When government suggests “open and transparent process” – what does that mean?

Front yard or back yard reports

An analogy came to me today regarding the mountains of “reports” out there on salmon (or other topics) – this following up on a few days of trying to wade through over 500 pages of three volumes that the Marine Stewardship Council pumped out recently. (Nothing like a 9 year process, over 500 pages of reports, and only 15-days to send along any objections…)

Today in the suburban neighborhood where we live, we walked to the nearby playground in the winter afternoon setting soon. We needed to get out for a walk and the kids needed a good run. When we walk to the park, about four blocks, we generally take an alley as there’s no traffic and the kids can pull the wagon down the narrow icy lane burning off a little more energy.

The analogy is this: these mountains of reports often have a look resembling the front yards of suburban neighborhoods – clean, freshly painted, latest siding, manicured lawns, trimmed hedges, shoveled driveways (in northern neighborhoods that is). Yet, when you get into the back alleys you start to find out what each house is really about –

  • ‘Tyvek’ plastic peeling and flapping in the wind as old cracked siding rots away from chipboard walls;
  • tired rusted station wagons and Ford Broncos missing a wheel or two,  hoods open, and that really weren’t much good for anything in the first place – and certainly not now 25 years later;
  • tired old dogs barking and pacing in yellow and brown snow,  thrown in the backyard to keep them out of the house on football playoffs Sunday;
  • old faded plastic Fisher Price kids toys and fallen over swings;
  • abandoned Christmas trees with remnants of tinsel fluttering; and
  • today, bags and bags of old Free Press newspapers – each weeks edition fading and blowing in the wind, chronologically laid out down the lane.

Every now and again, a house has a backyard almost as prim and proper as the front. There’s even one that has a small ice rink with snowbanks for boards – and fresh skate tracks from little feet.

These are the occasional reports that actually have something to say – not the air pie sandwiched between pretty salmon pictures on front and back covers.

The air pie that is riddled with such empty, bumpfy language that says so much without saying much at all.

I got a lovely book given to me for Christmas – The Surface of Meaning: Books and Book Design in Canada by Robert Brinhurst – the B.C.-based writer, typographer, poet, linguist and thinker.Talk about a book with beautiful covers, and fantastic content in between.

In the Prologue, Bringhurst suggests:

Individual readers and whole societies can and do see themselves reflected in their printing, whether or not they are conscious of it as such.

Lesson 3 (for the Marine Stewardship Council) in how not to earn credibility

For thousands of years First Nations people on the British Columbia coast and inland have been almost entirely dependent on salmon runs. Some estimates suggest that the Fraser River basin was potentially one of the most densely populated areas prior to colonization. Various estimates also suggest the Fraser River used to support somewhere around 120-140 million salmon.

From the mouth near present-day Vancouver to the upper reaches around Takla Lake, Valemount, and other headwater areas there was a pretty simple principle at work – catch too many salmon and die (or have to move to another territory). Somehow the amazing number of nations on many of these rivers had a system for making sure salmon made it upstream to neighbors and upstream to spawning grounds.

When I worked in the Yukon in the early 2000s I learned about an impressive system that made sure that over 90 different nations were able to access salmon along the 2700+ km Yukon River. In the present day, the Yukon River Panel with reps from the U.S. and Canada are working every year on making sure that salmon runs make it upstream.

80% of the salmon spawn in Canada (in the Yukon Territory), however, for many years over 80% of the salmon were being caught in the U.S. in Alaska. Something had to give.

Now, everyone along the river is attempting to figure these issues out. Salmon runs have declined, open sea fisheries are largely closed, and so many people – First Nation or not – depend on salmon every year for things like dog teams, an essential form of transport in winter.

There’s also a very unique chum salmon run that fights upstream to near the community of Teslin – an over 2700 km journey (including past one dam at Whitehorse). It’s one of the longest traveling chum runs in the world; chum generally like to spawn near the mouths of rivers.

It’s not an easy process – however, a pretty amazing amount of people try and work through the issues.

In trying to read the MSC reports, it’s suggested that this certification process was the longest the organization has been involved in at over nine years. As the process:

has required all parties engaged in the process (i.e clients, DFO, First Nation and ENGO stakeholders, the assessment team members and the certification companies), to constantly backtrack and review the preceding certification step and its results in order to proceed to the next assessment task. [pg. 1]

In addition, there was:

a vast amount of information provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the client, environmental, conservation and First Nation stakeholder groups. [pg. 3]

I was curious what some of the First Nation input was – especially in light of the complex legal environment that surrounds aboriginal rights and title (treaty rights with the Nisga’a on the Nass River) and B.C. fisheries. And the very strong emotions that surround salmon fisheries for most First Nations people.

I read, and read, and read (as mentioned in previous posts there’s over 500 pages of reports) – ok, maybe skimmed at times – and not until page 68 of the Volume 1 report does it state:

SCS [Science Certification Systems, Inc. the company that conducted the certification process] made a significant effort (through emails, faxes, couriered packages, and phone calls) to both contact and speak directly with First Nations organizations associated with the fishing and fisheries management of salmon in British Columbia, Canada. Although these efforts were made, SCS was unable to gain any traction with First Nations.

And, in fact, pretty much the only communication with First Nations was a meeting “in the interest of efficiency” between one member of the review team with three groups in a series of three meetings over a one month period in 2005.

One, maybe don’t run off about how First Nations were involved in the nine year process in the opening pages of the reports – if in fact there was only three meetings in 2005 with specific Nations.

Two, there is a legally mandated principle of “meaningful consultation” with First Nations in Canada. A few years ago the logging company Weyerhaeuser learned an important lesson about how phone calls (or faxes, or emails) were not considered “meaningful consultation” when dealing with the Council of the Haida Nation on Haida Gwaii regarding Tree Farm License 39.

I’m not suggesting that the Marine Stewardship Council has engaged in a process that requires “meaningful consultation” as the Canadian courts have attempted to describe it – however, Fisheries and Oceans the federal ministry that engaged heavily in this process and has a “five year action plan” to meet conditional MSC certification – does.

Any thoughts?

Lesson 2 in how not to earn credibility

I have been attempting to wade through the over 500 pages of reports that the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has posted regarding their upcoming “eco-certification” of BC sockeye fisheries.

It’s a bit of a slog – but I’ve come up with some ideas…

Here’s a suggestion for awarding  first aid certificates. Just give applicants certifications – it’ll be good for the economy, as more people will have this extra certification to market themselves.  They will most likely get paid a few more dollars an hour. These extra wages will get pumped back into local economies.

It’ll be good for everyone.

Now, for quality control purposes we can just give the certificate with conditions. And, for simplicity sake, let’s give the certificate holder five years to meet those conditions. These would be conditions such as:

  • condition 1: demonstrate to the certifying agency (Workers Compensation) that one has secured a CPR ticket within two years
  • condition 2: by the end of year, demonstrate to agency that one knows the difference between major bleeding head wound and minor abrasion
  • (and so on)

In the meantime, here’s your conditional certificate.

Or, let us institute a new drivers license program. Every 16-year old applicant gets their certificate to drive. Why wait and test to see if they can meet conditions? That will just delay their ability to market themselves for better jobs, or drive themselves to school, or other economic benefits.

It’ll be great for the economy.

What you drove mom’s car into a telephone pole? … ah, just enroll in driver training and report back to us next year.

What you bounced a pedestrian off your windshield… in a school zone?… ah, just show us by next year that you can drive 30 km/hr in school zones. (Or in the words of fisheries management: demonstrate to us that you know how to operate under a “Limit Reference Point”)

What this is your ninth speeding ticket this month?… ah, just demonstrate to us in your five year action plan that you’ll figure this out.

(Or, in the words of fisheries management: demonstrate to us that you know how to operate within a “reference points for conservation”… like conservation of school-age children in school zones – that’s the point of the 30 km/hr limit isn’t it?)

Ok, so what do these new certification schemes have to do with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and BC sockeye fisheries. Well… this past week the MSC, a London, UK based organization, announced that they are about to certify four BC sockeye fisheries.

Now the catch to this international “eco-certification” is that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has to meet approximately 40 conditions – which are conditions that fell below a 80% “scoring guidepost”. Like a driver’s test, or a financial planner exam, or first aid attendant exam – or other tests that have a ‘passing’ limit above 50%.

To meet conditions below the MSC “guidepost”, DFO has outlined a “Five Year Action Plan”.

Conditions related to these criteria must be met within a 5-year period.

But please do not be concerned as in the first few paragraphs of  Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)  “Five Year Action Plan” submitted to the MSC they state:

It is important to note that implementation of the following action plan assumes there will be no requirement for additional departmental resources. However, as we initiate implementation of the action plan, we may discover that this assumption was flawed and a re-evaluation of the original assumption is required.

Yes, good recovery in that last sentence. I often use this logic when I’m trying to explain to the bank about my loan payments….

And what are some of the conditions that DFO is going to meet?

fully implement ‘Strategy 1’ of our WSP [Wild Salmon Policy]. ‘Strategy 1’ of the WSP requires standardized monitoring of wild salmon status, including identification of upper and lower benchmarks to represent biological status and guide harvest decisions.

(Well, thank goodness for full implementation – as it’s only been five years since the Wild Salmon Policy came into force.)

So, this is where ‘speed limits’ come into play – or Limit Reference Points (LRPs), or “benchmarks” as quoted above.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) describes fisheries LRPs as:

the maximum values of fishing mortality or minimum values of the biomass, which must not be exceeded. Otherwise, it is considered that it might endanger the capacity of self-renewal of the stock.

In other words if you kill too many fish you might wipe out the run.

So, for a layperson such as me – I’m gathering these are pretty damn important numbers to know before one opens a fishery. Now what DFO has promised to the Marine Stewardship Council is that:

Condition 6

Certification is conditional until the Conservation Units have been defined for Fraser sockeye … and LRP’s for each Fraser sockeye conservation unit are defined and peer reviewed.

Condition 11

Certification will be conditional until a LRP has been defined for Henderson Lake and there is no significant scientific disagreement regarding this LRP.

Condition 16

Certification will be conditional until LRP’s have been defined for each of the Nass sockeye stocks targeted in the fisheries for Nass sockeye.

Condition 19

Certification will be conditional until Limit Reference Points or their equivalent have been defined for Fraser sockeye salmon stocks, and recovery plans have been developed and implemented for stocks harvested in Fraser sockeye fisheries that are below their LRP. The proposed recovery plans must provide information regarding the probability of recovery and the timing for recovery.

OK, am I reading this right?

Basically, what I see is:

DFO here’s your license to drive (i.e. MSC certification) and over the next five years you can demonstrate to us that you know what speed limits are – oh, and what the hell, you can set the speed limits if you like….

Lesson 1 in how not to earn credibility

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is one of these environmental-certifying organizations that have kind of become like underwear.

A couple days ago, the MSC announced it has made a “determination” that B.C. sockeye fisheries should be certified within the MSC principles – or in other words that these fisheries are “sustainable” and should be labeled as such in the marketplace.

Note that this includes the sockeye fishery on the Fraser of which a judicial inquiry has been launched to try and find out why only 10% of predicted sockeye returned this year.

After a 15-day “objection period” for folks to submit objections, the fisheries can then be certified by MSC.

Needless to say, there are some significant objections to this imminent certification. Some of these can be read in Mark Hume’s Globe and Mail article from the other day – comments such as ‘green washing’ and ‘eco-fraud’ seem common.

The main office for MSC is based in London, UK with satellite offices around the world including Seattle, WA.

uydThe MSC’s fishery certification program and seafood ecolabel recognise and reward sustainable fishing. We are a global organisation working with fisheries, seafood companies, scientists, conservation groups and the public to promote the best environmental choice in seafood.

By getting MSC certification various fisheries can then apply the MSC label to their products (similar to the dolphin-friendly label on tuna, or fair trade coffee). The apparent advantage to being certified is:

Being part of the MSC program will set you apart from competitors and give your company a selling point to win new markets. Just as importantly, it will ensure that the seafood you are offering to customers today will continue to be available in future, and your company will have switched towards a sustainable business model.

I’ll be straight-up, I was rather confused in reading the headlines that a fishery, that wasn’t actually a fishery this year, could be certified as sustainable. On the Fraser River, over 10 million sockeye were predicted to return – about 1 million made it back. Basically, every fishery was shut down.

But, say, I guess a non-fishery is sustainable right?

Kind of like the passenger-pigeon hunt last year in Alabama… Or the dodo clubbing festival in the South Pacific last month…

In the case of certifying the Skeena sockeye fishery as “sustainable” – I don’t really see a difference between this and say an Alberta elk or bison farmer inviting American big-game hunters on to their farm, pulling the farm tags from the ears, and calling it eco-friendly, “sustainable hunting.”

Or, just let big game hunters loose on the streets of  Jasper, AB where one has to be careful walking at night so as not to get in the way of a “rutting” elk (i.e. not much difference than closing time at a dance bar…).

The only difference is that at least, wild elk and bison wouldn’t get caught in the crossfire.  The bulk of the sockeye caught in the Skeena fisheries are either hatchery raised, or a product of “enhanced” habitat in the Babine area. Only problem, is that schools of salmon don’t travel segregated by hatchery fish or wild fish. Or, even by different species. Thus, endangered steelhead are often caught as by-catch in sockeye fisheries – as well as endangered wild sockeye that may be from a different area than the hatchery-enhanced sockeye.

I suppose maybe we can start inviting Americans from the east coast and get them to troll in a Broughton Archipelago fish farm:

“Look, Homer, why fish east coast rivers when you can come out here and catch atlantic salmon on every cast?”

(now, that’s a sustainable fishery).

Ok, rants and riffs aside. I figured I’d start to dig a little further to at least try and learn how and why these sockeye fisheries are poised to be certified as eco-friendly and sustainable. Or, what I might need to do to lodge an “objection” within the 15-day MSC objection period. I read the executive summary of the report and it states:

Readers should note that in order to appropriately review this report, it is critical to review this report concurrently with other documents, particularly the information submission which was prepared by DFO to respond to the performance indicators which were developed by the Assessment Team to evaluate the fishery.

Only problem: there are 3 Volumes of reports. Total pages: 542.

Furthermore, if I want to lodge an objection – there are only two very specific items that I can comment on.

Lastly, in big letters and a page unto itself on the MSC website is an entire section on “Credibility“:

The MSC is committed to being the world’s leading certification program for sustainable wild-capture seafood. We seek to deliver a robust, effective and accessible certification program that keeps up with the latest scientific knowledge and industry practices.

Ok, yup. And better yet:

How we meet best practice

The MSC program enables consumers and seafood buyers around the world to make the best environmental choice in seafood. Underpinned by best practice guidelines for ecolabelling and certification, we follow international, professional benchmarks to promote robust processes and uphold our values of independence, transparency, impartiality and stakeholder consultation.

If you haven’t read my previous posts on Bumpf – please visit that category.

Please note: (humble opinion here) MSC, if you want credibility don’t hide behind empty bumpf words, or, thousands of pages of data.

Credibility is one of those things like trust: you can’t state it, or demand it, YOU EARN IT.

And the difficult lesson that ‘certifying’ bodies, and corporations, learn is that once you earn it – boy, is it easy to completely lose it in a couple of bad decisions.

Eco-certification programs are becoming like underwear…

Eco-certification programs have become kind of like underwear – rather ubiquitous, a variety of colors and quality,  changed daily, or maybe weekly, and some that ride up the…

These programs are also kind of like blogs of which there are apparently 80,000 new ones a day. Like blogs, underwear serves decent functions – but like some kinds of underwear damaging if worn too often: think briefs; wear them too often fellows and your ability to spawn is in jeopardy…

In recent years there has been an explosion of environmental certification and “eco-labeling” programs. Things like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that apparently certifies wood from sustainable and environmentally and socially responsible logging operations,  Leadership in Environmental Design (LEED) green building standards, Fair trade products (e.g. coffee, cotton, etc.), dolphin-friendly tuna, and so on.

These programs are supposed give power back to consumers so as to make responsible purchasing choices (i.e. “vote through the marketplace” and “vote through your wallet”) – and to promote environmental responsibility within various industries and specific companies. So, for example, buying FSC-certified wood is supposed to make a consumer feel good that they are supporting environmentally and socially responsible business practices. Some lumber stores sell only FSC-certified wood, putting themselves in the upper echelon of “green businesses”.

Many of these programs are voluntary for companies to pursue and maintain certification. The organizations handing out certifications are apparently unbiased, objective, and free from outside influence.

But, yet, like your favorite underwear they get worn out, frayed, and sometimes just down right soiled. And sometimes, those outside influences suggest maybe you should just throw those away now…. or when the wash is done, those favorite underwear have simply not returned – and we have to go out and get a new pair. You know, organic cotton, fairly trade, fairly made ones that don’t ride up the…

data belief or data relief?

It seems Seth Godin (marketing guru) is pretty much right on with today’s post: Too much data leads to not enough belief. He also seems to nail his points with few words – i.e. short posts. Here’s the post:

Business plans with too much detail, books with too much proof, politicians with too much granularity… it seems as though more data is a good thing, because data proves the case.

In my experience, data crowds out faith. And without faith, it’s hard to believe in the data enough to make a leap. Big mergers, big VC investments, big political movements, large congregations… they don’t usually turn out for a spreadsheet.

The problem is this: no spreadsheet, no bibliography and no list of resources is sufficient proof to someone who chooses not to believe. The skeptic will always find a reason, even if it’s one the rest of us don’t think is a good one. Relying too much on proof distracts you from the real mission–which is emotional connection.

Yes, sir.

A little scan of papers, reports, and “briefings” related to the wild salmon discussion in just B.C. alone – suggests an average length of about 50 pages. Many are well over 100 pages; some sneak down into the 20 page range.

For example, the Suzuki Foundation has five nice looking wild salmon related reports on their website. Total length 282 pages – average length 56.4 pages. Now don’t get me wrong some of these reports have some decent content and interesting perspectives – and lots of pretty pictures.

I’m just left wondering if the 200,000+ Gumboot Army – average B.C. folks that don their gumboots and head out to their local streams to look after wild salmon runs – as well as thousands of First Nation community members intimately connected to wild salmon – (and don’t forget those busy politicians who are the ones that actually need to have the will to make brave decisions) can wade through the logjam of  reports?

Does 300 pages of proof create an emotional connection? Or, maybe that’s not the purpose of the reports?

Any thoughts?

salmon-colored glasses?

If you know this one; stop me here…

How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the ark?

Think about that for a second…  is your answer “two”.

If it is you’re wrong. Read the question again and think about it.

Think again about who loaded the ark – it wasn’t Moses, it was Noah.

The Kaplans raise this question in their book: Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human.  As they suggest, to look at one thing is to become blind to everything else. They highlight a study where observers watch a basketball game and are told to count how many passes one team makes and not the other. Concentrating on the task, the majority of viewers will miss the gorilla mascot walking across the court and briefly stopping in front of the camera.

looking is an active, selective process, involving choice of objects, assessment of surprise, direction of attention, and division of the world into Important and Invisible. So it’s not surprising that our opinions can shape not just what we think but also what we see.

Think about the classic example of buying a new car and then all of a sudden you start seeing those cars everywhere – maybe even feeling some affiliation. Marketers know this, they prey upon it. Why do you think Harley Davidson owners are almost like a cult group among North American yuppies? Or, why the Austin Mini had a huge resurgence after featuring in a James Bond movie or two….

Certainly our mistakes generally err toward the self-serving whether it’s a case of researchers “finding” that the data fits the curve or taxpayers discovering that they magically owe the government less that they’d thought. These aren’t necessarily lies – just accurate reports from a parallel, more desirable universe, which suggests why people caught out in them are so often sincere in their protestations of innocence. But the world doesn’t know how we want it to be, so why do we cling to self-serving conclusions in the face of conflicting evidence?

Simple: once we have a conclusion we don’t see the evidence, or we downgrade it – whether it’s a smoker telling you his chimney of a grandmother lived to be ninety-nine or an oil company executive telling you that climate-change science is “flawed”.

Let me throw a rather stunning piece of evidence that rings in my ears – the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has been reporting for years:

over 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. The dramatic increase of destructive fishing techniques worldwide destroys marine mammals and entire ecosystems.

Could some of this be a case of a few too many fisheries researchers and managers, government ministers and others: “finding that the data fits the curve”?

For example, that operating on the principle devised for farming crops – maximum sustained yield (MSY) – is highly, highly flawed. In salmon “management” the principle of MSY has dictated that salmon fisheries can catch/kill 80% of a run and that the remaining 20% will make it upstream, feed the ecosystem and successfully spawn the  next generation – which can then be depleted by 80%, and so on, and so on…

Downgrading the evidence… is that what the Kaplans called it?

Or salmon-colored glasses, or to be entirely truthful – I think we could say that salmon “management” has been through rather thick human-colored glasses.