Tag Archives: social media

Pacific salmon: death of a thousand cuts…?

In relation to posts this past week and the plea from lawyers at the Cohen Commission into the decline of Fraser sockeye for a ‘conference’ to discuss the paper load…

salmon threats

I looked around online and came up with some potential solutions:

simplify 101?

I'm tired of clutter...

aka: garbage bags

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Hey… maybe that could be the name of the conference —

Cohen Commission: Clutter free & Clearly organized

(Alliteration at its finest…)

_ _ _ _ _

On a separate note… I appreciated this post from Godin’s blog:

The bright line of small differences

Is there a schism between the folks who love color tattoos and those that like black & white ones? Or the fans of the original Star Trek who hate the folks who like the far inferior newer Star Trek models?

Freud noticed it too.

Here’s why it happens:

First, you have to care. When people care about a brand or a cause or an idea, it’s likely that have other things in common. And the caring causes them to invest attention. Once they’ve done that, they can’t help but notice that others don’t see things the way they do. We ignore the great unwashed and reserve our disdain for those like us, that care like us, but don’t see things as we do.

The really good news is that the tribe cares. If you don’t have that, you’ve got nothing of value. In fact, the squabbling among people who care is the first sign you’re on to something.

Hmmm… squabbling and salmon… those don’t go hand in hand – do they?

Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement: giving appearances of “solidity to pure wind” or fog banks

“The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug”   – Mark Twain

Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. — George Orwell, Politics and English Language, 1946

Over the last few days to a week, I’ve been sifting through a leaked version of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement — the actual signed copy is still not posted on the website. Other reviewers and criticisms of the agreement suggest certain Orwellian characteristics. I quite appreciate this comparison, as Orwell was a fan of simple language and wrote novels like 1984 about the dangers of political-speak (newspeak).

Now I may not go so far as to suggest that this particular agreement is making lies sound truthful (although maybe yesterday’s post suggested so) and murder respectable; however, there is certainly no shortage of that type of language in our political elite, which has certainly become well adopted by the media and in the delivery of TV nightly news (news-speak). For example, when “collateral damage” is used to make murder sound respectable.

.

(I have alluded to this in several earlier posts on this site: Words Matter; Why Business People Speak Like Idiots; how the term  “conservation” is like scotch broom; bullshit bumpf to blame for salmon disappearing,  and so on…)

.

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement is full of these empty, meaningless, wind-full words that obscure any meaning like a Pacific coast fog bank obscures landmarks. When the fog of empty-bumpf language rolls in — active adaptive management, precautionary approach, sustainability, ecosystem-based management, ecological integrity — meaning disappears faster than the horizon, or the island of real meaning that was just moments before serving as a beacon for our direction.

If you’ve ever spent time on the coast, you know that Pacific fog banks slide in so thick sometimes that vertigo sets in. One can not tell the sea from the sky, up from down, north from south… in a kayak, or a seaplane, it can be especially dangerous, more so without a compass to trust.

Several years back, I fell into a fisheries contract as the person initially hired was killed in a float plane crash. She had been working in an isolated logging camp on Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Is.). Her and her crew were picked up by float plane on the west coast and were flying back to town. The Pacific fog bank rolled in, and the pilot was left trying to navigate by flying very low and following a logging road on the ground and relying on local knowledge.

The only problem is he followed a different logging road then he thought… the one he followed ends abruptly in a mountain cliff.

_ _ _ _

And that’s the point here. When we all get lost in fog-full empty-language which has lost meaning and obscures reality — how do we navigate safely to make sure that we are saying what we mean, and meaning what we say?

What compass (moral, integrity or otherwise) do we use when business, environmental groups, government, or otherwise start using fog-full language that obscures any actual meaning?

And — especially — know what we are signing. And — most especially — know what we are communicating to greater audiences (e.g. marketing tool for big business to appeal to consumers).

if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better.  — George Orwell

_ _ _ _ _

Following my first few posts re: the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement — I emailed all of the ‘communications’ people listed on the Agreement website including the Forest Products Association and the nine enviro groups to let them know about this site and my thoughts on the agreement.

I did it partially as a test to see how well everyone was standing by language in the Agreement — specifically that any signatories were supposed to let other signatories know about “third parties” that “may take a position or make public statements that are contrary to the principles and intent of the CBFA”  — pg. 38 under Goal 6: Marketplace Recognition. (which makes me think maybe the signatories don’t understand social media…?)

I think some of my comments might be considered “contrary”…? (and by the way if you’d still like to send a letter to the CEO of Abitibi-Bowater — one of the signatories — protesting their operations in Canada’s Boreal Forest… you still can: from Greenpeace’s (one of the signatories) website.

I only got a response from two individuals — both enviro signatories. To be fair, I won’t state who and what organization; however, this is part of one of the responses:

We at the […] are confident in the science that underpins the agreement and are hopeful that other key stakeholders in this unprecedented process will ensure that at the end of the day the Boreal is indeed protected.

.

The “science”? hmmm.

The “Goal” of this Agreement, as clearly stated in its own section:

"Goal" of Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement; pg 5 of leaked version

.

(Is this not one of the worst run-on sentences you have ever read… worse than a “short” salmonguy blog post… I have visions of my grade 8 English teacher butchering that sentence with her red pen bayonet)

.

Here’s a decent definition of science from Wikipedia to use as a barometer:

Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise of gathering knowledge about the world and organizing and condensing that knowledge into testable laws and theories. As knowledge has increased, some methods have proved more reliable than others, and today the scientific method is the standard for science. It includes the use of careful observation, experiment, measurement, mathematics, and replication — to be considered a science, a body of knowledge must stand up to repeated testing by independent observers.

.

So what is the science “underpinning” this Agreement?

  • The science of “boreal forest conservation” and “forest sector competitiveness“…?
  • The science of “conservation and protection of boreal biodiversity“…?
  • The science of “forest products… recognized as a climate-friendly choice in the marketplace“…?
  • Or, the science of a “global source of supply of sustainable forest products“…?

Oh, no wait… it’s the science ‘underpinning’ the Agreement… So that would be the: “Core elements of the agreement” , which include: ecosystem-based management, active adaptive management, protected areas, precautionary approach,  “recovery of species at risk” , greenhouse gas emission (GHGs) reductions, and so on…

Somebody please explain to me the “science” of ecosystem-based management…

Where in the world has the science of “ecosystem-based management” been implemented over a long enough time period; over a large enough geographic area to prove that it assisted in “recovering” species at risk…(for example caribou which have declined by over 60% from historical estimates)?

Where has it significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions…? Where has it been used along with “active adaptive management” and the “precautionary approach” in a mass industrial development setting?

Where have all of these been “scientific principles” been utilized in such a manner as to be recognized as “testable laws and theories” and have resulted in a “body of knowledge” that has stood up “to repeated testing by independent observers.” ?

They haven’t.

— it’s voodoo science at best. It’s mushy, fog-full language, simply reproduced through the mating of corporate enviro groups, corporate industry, and government spin-doctors resulting in offspring that resemble this Agreement and many other document like it (e.g. The Wild Salmon Policy)

Harsh… maybe… however someone explain to me exactly how a “sustainable” forest industry operates…. what is “sustainable”? What does it mean? What does it mean for the communities in those forests? What does it mean for the revered ‘bou (caribou)?

Somebody show me were a “network of protected areas” has made a difference for large migratory animals like caribou (or salmon, or grizzly bears – yeah Jasper and Banff are doing wonders for the grizzly)…

how big does this “network” have to be? How big was it before industrial forestry? (Oh wait, it was all of it…)

Show me exactly how “science” is going to allow severely depressed caribou herds to co-habitate with expanding industrial forestry, tar sands operations, and mineral exploration and mining —  which is only going to expand as world populations grow (ever heard of Potash?).

It’s not possible. This is a big experiment… with a whole lot more flash; then dash. A whole lot more: ‘maybe this, maybe that’. A whole lot of fog bank language rather then saying what we mean, and meaning what we say.

It’s high time that folks stop hiding behind bullshit bumpf words like ecosystem-based management, precautionary approach, sustainability, adaptive management, and whatever other concocted bafflegab gets cooked up over the burners of windowless boardrooms, transcontinental jet flights offset by carbon credits, and float & bloat schmooze fests in the ‘wildernesses’ of North America.

What the hell are we actually trying to do here…?

“If you think learning your vocabulary words doesn’t make a difference, try going into a store and asking for toilet paper when you only know the word for sandpaper”

— Alan Webber: Rules of Thumb: 52 truths for winning at business without losing yourself

“Joint” agreements: The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement.. just plain bizarre

Greenpeace Boreal image

I’ve been reading through the leaked version of the recently announced Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement – the touted historic agreement signifying a new era of Joint Leadership in the Boreal Forest.

This Agreement apparently covering Canada’s Boreal Forest (which stretches from the Yukon and B.C. all the way across the country to Newfoundland) was signed last week by twenty-one forest companies that operate in Canada’s Boreal forest  and nine “leading” environmental companies.

Reading through the leaked agreement (a final copy of which still isn’t posted on the website) I am left wondering what sort of “Joint” is being referred to (or reefered to).

As another writer has suggested, Dawn Paley, in an online article on The Dominion: The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement Reconsidered Paley suggests: “the numbers game is far from the only Orwellian aspect of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement” referring to some of the ‘communication’ activities and organized campaigns of the nine “leading” environmental groups involved — and how this Agreement controls and dictates how those activites can now be conducted by those organizations.

In the agreement these types of ‘activities’ are “legally” defined in the “Definitions” section of the agreement (I say legally because only lawyers could develop these sorts of legalese definitions and my experience negotiating agreements that points to the lawyerly joy of ensuring these sorts of things are “legal”), :

page 4 of CBFA

Some important words to highlight here: “any”; as in the fifth word of this definition.

Therefore “any advocacy or communication activities” by the nine ‘leading’ environmental groups — signatories to this agreement — with any relation to:

  • paper recycling campaigns — i.e. reduce, reuse, recycle;
  • the importance of forests (e.g. home to critters like salmon, caribou, grizzly bears, bees, owls, and so on — oh yeah, and humans…;  carbon sequestration; oxygen producers; and all those other silly things that forests do…); and
  • maybe truly “conserving” and “protecting” forests in the real meaning of those words (i.e. like leaving alone, or maybe just for walking through, or hunting in, or simply being in — as opposed to the completely co-opted use of these words.

Now that we have a legal “definition” to work with… I used the ‘search’ function to look through the 70+ page agreement to see where “ENGO Advocacy Work” is used and why it had to be defined.

It first comes up on page 37 of the Agreement, under the section “Goal 6: Marketplace Recognition“.

CBFA is the Agreement -- FPAC is Forest Products Association of Canada, the logging companies

.

Section 6 follows Section 5, which is “Forest Sector Prosperity“….  And here’s where things begin to get odd (ENGOs are the nine enviro groups):

.

page 38 CBFA

So, if you remember back to the definition of ENGO advocacy work, enviros are going to have to have their lawyers review any advocacy or public communications and ensure it fits with this Agreement and anything to do with the Canadian Boreal Forest. (Last time I checked, climate change was having a significant effect on the Canadian Boreal Forest)

_ _ _ _ _

Greenpeace banner at Abitibi, Montreal headquarters 2007

Apparently they’re not doing very well as I checked Greenpeace’s website today and if I wanted I can still send a letter to “Abitibi-Consolidated” headquarters called “stop looting the Boreal Forest“.

(click the image to see related page on Greenpeace website – but do it soon because apparently it’s supposed be gone according to the “Agreement“).

Side note: Abitibi-Bowater, the world’s eighth largest pulp and paper producer is still under bankruptcy protection…)

Side note II: if you watch the YouTube video on Greenpeace’s website you can see images of their campaign against companies operating in the Boreal Forest…

.

Besides the clever banners and vandalizing ocean freighters, there are images of logging trucks, clearcuts, the rumble of forestry equipment and so on. My question is: how does this agreement change any of that?…

There’s still going to be frigging logging trucks, road building, and logging equipment rumbling through the Boreal forest by at least 21 companies (i.e. FPAC members) and whatever other logging companies operating in the Boreal Forest that didn’t sign this agreement…

Greenpeace defends their position in a Q & A paper on their site.

_ _ _ _ _

OK – now here’s the Orwellian section… and apologies I recognize the legalese is onerous to read through — but this part blows my mind!

.

.

(First, one of the legal definitions of “third party” is: any individual who does not have a direct connection with a legal transaction but who might be affected by it.)

12 (a) — am I now going be getting emails, phone call, or visits to my door suggesting that I, or any other “third party” making statements contrary to the principles and intents of the “Agreement” (it’s a sad piece of crap), should be worked with “proactively” to minimize my actions against the “principles and intent” of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement?

Or are the signatories going to move straight to 12 (c) (v) and suggest I “modify” my position, and/or public statements (i.e. weblog entries)?

Under 12 (b) — if any of the FPAC, FPAC members, and ENGOs figure I, or other third parties, may continue to hack away at this shoddy agreement, they have to immediately notify the other signatories.

This is just down right school yard tattle-taling…

OK, so how about this?

As I searched around online over the past couple of days, I came across a Facebook page called “Save the ‘Bou” (as in caribou). Save the ‘Bou is apparently:

“a campaign to protect Canada’s last remaining Woodland Caribou by environmental groups, Canopy, David Suzuki Foundation, ForestEthics, and Greenpeace Canada.”

If you visit this facebook page – and say scroll down near the bottom there’s a particular entry:

Kim Fry Greenpeace released a report last week which details how the Ontario government has allowed AbitibiBowater to destroy intact forests and Caribou Habitat in the English River Forest.

Well, Kim Fry, I hope you’re ready to be worked with “proactively” by the FPAC, FPAC members, and ENGOs to modify your position. You are “affiliated” with the four environmental groups that created this Facebook page, by just being on the page. Hope you’re not a “fan” or a “friend”….

_ _ _ _ _

So, are the four enviro groups going to erase this Facebook page that they created because the ‘Bou are now “saved”, “protected”, “conserved” and/or “well-managed by “ecosystem-based planning”… Or, erase all entries from the last while, or entries to come (under article 11 of the Agreement) “where applicable all of their publicly available materials (both current and future) are consistent with the principles and intent of the CBFA”?

Peek-a-‘bou…

What about donors or members of any of the enviro organizations involved — if they blog, or comment negatively about the “Agreement”, will action be sought? What level of action are environmental groups willing to take? or the forestry companies?

Will we start getting “joint” Greenpeace-AbitibiBowater banners put on our houses: “STOP MAKING STATEMENTS THAT ARE CONTRARY TO THE PRINCIPLES AND INTENT OF THE CANADIAN BOREAL FOREST AGREEMENT!”?

Donors, members, Facebook fans, attendees of conferences or events, and so on — would fit the definition of affiliated third parties “through membership or otherwise” (Article 12 of Goal 6 above). About 10 or 12 years ago I gave the Suzuki Foundation (in its early days before it had over 60 corporate employees) some membership fees, donations, and bought some reports — I guess I better watch what I say on this weblog….

_ _ _ _ _

All of this, and I haven’t even got into the lost meaningless language, half-truths, bullshit bumpf, and other sad pieces of this agreement… and why do I care?

to be continued…

Renaming PowerPoint and which way for wild salmon?

downtown Portland

I walked out of the hotel in downtown Portland on the first day of the conference — see post from day one — sitting in a dim ballroom watching endless PowerPoint presentations with charts, graphs and models (and not the ones from Victoria Secret). Cursing PowerPoint, bullet points, and lamenting the “cut and paste” function… I looked up and saw this “sign” (photo above).

The red lights are very fitting, and the question is which way are the salmon only permitted to go?

In my marathon 15 hours of driving yesterday — leaving the Oregon coast at 9 a.m. and getting home to Prince George at midnight (I almost turned into a pumpkin) — I came up with a new name for PowerPoint:

Missing-the-Point

See with the fun of alliteration; Microsoft could get really creative with this… about as creative as their really awful “Windows 7… my idea” commercials.

Something like: “Microsoft… (majorly) Missing-the-Point…” (everyone’s using it… so it must be great).

I’ve got an idea… send PowerPoint down the same road as movie bombs like Ishtar… see, they share some similarities millions and millions of dollars to make and market; absolutely terrible to watch and endure.

Or… maybe just disable the bullet-making capabilities… tell people they can only use pictures, and they’re not allowed to look at the screen, while presenting… every time a presenter begins to read a giant block of text from a “slide” on the screen, they get zapped with an electrical shock. Maybe we could use those “hands-free” headsets for cell phones that have become the latest rage. Then the shock is delivered directly to the cranium…

I find some irony in academics using their slides as cheat sheets for their presentation… would they allow their students to do this in their classrooms?

Or the academics that have their allotted 15 minutes for the presentation and end out only making it half way through their presentation before time is up… again would this be permitted in their classrooms with students?

Here is an example from the conference… and apologies for the fuzzy picture, see even a camera can’t focus on this:

Slide hell

To be somewhat fair to the presenter I’ve cut him out. However, he did read most of this slide… (with a little paraphrasing…)

Now, I don’t raise these points to be cruel — and I recognize it is difficult and challenging to get up and speak in front of a room of 300 or so people.

But please for the love of ghad… along with hours upon hours of developing modeling equations, puzzling over graphs, and Bayesian, Freudian, Einstenien analysis; try and put some thoughts into representing your thoughts in a dynamic, interesting, and engaging fashion for as much of a cross section of an audience as possible. [Especially when they have paid to attend]

Sure the band AC/DC, or U2, or Michael Flatley (Lord of the Dance) only appeal to a certain cross section of folks — however they spend countless, countless hours puzzling over how to present their performances to appeal to as many people as possible.

Here is a cartoon from Hugh Macleod that highlights this nicely (albeit with some crudity thrown in to emphasize the point…)

www.gapingvoid.com

Ok, maybe scientists and Bono is not an overly fair comparison… but when it comes to salmon; folks get excited. I think I can safely say that a big reason people work with, for, and around salmon is because of love… fascination… curiosity… and sheer engagement with the subject matter — with this sleek, silver, slimy critter. With this fish that connects the power of the North Pacific with the heaven-reaching heights of the Rocky Mountains.

It is a truly remarkable species and the connection we humans have with it is dotted everywhere I drove on this trip…

Raymond, WA

Raymond, WA (salmon into thin air)

South Bend, WA

Dorymen's Association -- Pacific City, Oregon

a dwindling scene... Pacific City dories going out after salmon

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

And you see the reason “everything is marketing” is — as recognized in the welcoming letter to this particular conference:

…Much of this debate has been limited to a small group of experts and practitioners. While public perception might be changing, I would hazard a guess that most of the public would not recognize a hatchery program as a potential risk to wild salmon.

Mr. Pete Rand, Senior Conservation Biologist and Conference Chair, State of the Salmon Program

I agree entirely with Pete on the limited nature of some of the discussion — e.g. limited to experts — however, I’m not sure I agree with the fact that the public doesn’t recognize the risks.

along the Salmon River, coastal Oregon

Here’s a photo on a tiny shop, ironically on the “Salmon River” in central Oregon just inland from Otis, on the way to Portland and Salem:

.

.

.

.

.

What it comes down to is exactly as Macleod suggests: everything is marketing….

even the charts and graphs, modeling equations, and dimly lit ballroms with ‘experts’ debating the risks and/or benefits of salmon hatcheries…

Politicians enact legislation, the public elects politicians (in theory), politicians act on public will.

Public will comes from clever, clear, and compelling marketing…  there is already a deep set relationship with salmon — with settler and indigenous people alike — the marketing doesn’t even need to be that clever or compelling — but certainly clear.

Unfortunately, PowerPoint (aka Missing-the-Point) is not an important piece of that puzzle – at least not in utilizing it in the traditional sense.

somebody please kill PowerPoint…

It is now after 4 p.m on the first day of the Ecological Interactions between Wild & Hatchery Salmon in Portland, Oregon. The current presentation is: “Reproductive behavior of wild and hatchery spring Chinook Salmon spawning in an artificial stream

Yeah, that’s “artificial stream”… at least the presenter has a sense of humour about this.

I have seen more charts and graphs, ridiculous equations, and covariant-variant factors today then a highschool kid will see in a year of calculus. Now the worst part about this is that every one of these has been in a dreadful PowerPoint presentation. And I mean dreadful… worse yet… the room is dimmed to make those PPoint presentations even worse.

In the spirit of presentations today, I have graphed my “temporal” and “spatial” frustration to the right (using PowerPoint) — these two quoted words being terms I have heard often, today… too often.

Every time I glance around the 300 people or so I see at least two yawners at any moment. Sitting in a dimly lit room reading bullet points (along with the presenter who is also reading them out – some who know how to speak into a microphone and some that don’t). Actually I just looked around and I count five people sleeping – yup, head bobbing, drool soon to follow… (I’m not lying).

No offense intended to many of these well-meaning individuals presenting here (or at other scientific conferences); however, someone has got to kill PowerPoint — or give scientists a course in using PowerPoint and presenting effectively. I suggest Garr Reynolds and his book Presentation Zen and check out his blog — he’s got a great post on Visualizing the consequences of sugary drinks. (talk about effective)

Just because you have graphs and charts — DOES NOT mean you have to show all of them.

“Now in this graph you’ll see… Interestingly, now in this graph you’ll see… and here in this graph you can see…”

At several points I’ve been ready to yell out “hey, I didn’t see that… could you show me again.”

Maybe there should be a catch-limit on graphs per presentation?

Or, a “no graphs and charts after 1 p.m.” rule?

Just because you know how to use PowerPoint does not mean you have to use it. Just because the lights have a dimmer does not mean they have to be down all day…  dark means sleep! (especially after lunch).

Would these types of conferences be that much more exciting — or bad — if presenters had to sing their presentations?

I met a professor (in the school of mining) from the University of BC a few years ago that makes his Masters students sing their presentations. Yeah, that’s in the school of mining….

Seth Godin, marketing Guru, has a post on his site explaining an upcoming road tour.

My favorite concerts have always been the acoustic tours. Instead of fancy production, dancing rabbits and lip syncing, it’s one person, one microphone and a human-scaled interaction. (Or sometimes five people plus Jerry).

So that’s the way I’m approaching this tour. No slides, not so many carefully rehearsed bits, just me and a focused audience, talking through issues that matter. The goal isn’t to deliver twitter-sized sound bites, but instead to immerse participants in a different way of thinking about the work we do and how we spread our ideas. I want to urgently and persistently change the way you do your work.

… Talking through issues that matter…. Yes. This cannot, should not, and must not… be done by PowerPoint. Especially when it comes to salmon. These discussions should be done on rivers, lakes, streams and beside the ocean where salmon live. Please.

Reality?

A guy is riding in the first-class cabin of a train in Spain and to his delight, he notices that he’s sitting next to Pablo Picasso. Gathering up his courage, he turns to the master and says, “Senor Picasso, you are a great artist, but why is all your art, all modern art, so screwed up? Why don’t you paint reality instead of these distortions?”

Picasso hesitates for a moment and asks, “So what do you think reality looks like?”

The man grabs his wallet and pulls out a picture of his wife. “Here, like this. It’s my wife.”

Picasso takes the photograph, looks at it, and grins. “Really? She’s very small. And flat too.”

– this is in Seth Godin’s introduction to his latest book Linchpin: Are you indispensable?.

Bang on.

It fits with a comment on a recent article in the Tyee magazine on The Rise of Citizen Science (something I have posts on as well). You can visit the article to read the less than ten comments. One individual in particular caught me off guard with two comments:

Trust in science? That thought should scarcely exist.

The basic concept of the open source science idea is far from new but seems to be still percolating to the surface of the common citizens mind. However useful it may be Engineering controls must be maintained in order to provide objective data to the REAL scientists who use the data. I say real scientists as it requires a doctorate degree in order to call yourself a scientist. This level of degree in science states that one is trained well and knowledgeable enough to expand their own philosophies and interpret others in a trustworthy manner.

To even give the notion that science cannot be trusted in this article not only degrades the lives and sacrifices of numerous humans throughout the last 2000 repressive years but continues that repressive thought.

This comment was followed up with a second comment:

Trust in science? That thought should scarcely exist.

Science is perhaps one of the only things in the world which can almost be fully trusted as it is peer reviewed by some of the most significant and influential minds of the current.

There are inherent flaws in the way in which information from science gets to the common person, but the overall scientific method is of the most objective and accurate this world knows. Statistics utilizing scientific data or raw data can be skewed and therefore used in dubious ways but should never be mistaken for scientific evidence.

If there is still reserved feelings towards science then I request all who feel that way to actually understand the philosophies and doctrines of it. Education is the key to unlocking our potential. Ignorance is throwing it away.

I was a little taken aback. Fair enough, and good on this individual for adding to the discussion. However, certainly a different view of reality than I tend to adopt.

You can see my responses at the Tyee website.

one opinion becoming everyone’s opinion?

MEMORY STICK NO. 3 (Series 1 - 12) twig, wire, jute, paper tag, ink by Simon Davies

The tag on this piece “Memory Stick No. 3” reads:

Collected from a pine tree on the high bog plain at Naikoon – 10/17/04. This stick holds 250 years of data in its cell structure – north pacific weather, cosmological events, supernatural occurrences, insect and animal movement – human history.

The high bog plain area of Naikoon – Northeastern Haida Gwaii – is a truly remarkable place. This area remained ice free during the last glacial advances – ice age. As such, there are various plant species there that exist nowhere else on the planet.

The trees in the bog are stunted, tangled, twisted little things. Some of the trees are head high and yet hundreds of years old. The muskeg is almost all pillowy moss where each step sinks knee deep in peat and sphagnum.

To access the bog plains, hike up a forest trail from the gravel road that parallels North Beach. The trail starts at the mouth of Klikkidamen – or White Creek. From the upper bog plains, on a clear day, one can easily see Southeast Alaska across the colonial named Dixon Entrance.

In years past – such as 250 years ago when cells from this twig were starting their first metabolizing – Haida people would paddle their 50+ foot cedar canoes across the Dixon Entrance to friends and family and communities on the islands to the north – now separated by an imaginary border, a barrier of political process.

In years past memory sticks were the stories and songs taken by canoe and given and received at potlatches – the central core institution to Haida society and many other Nations up and down the coast.

Now… a memory stick is a collection of silicone and microprocessors and computer chips that can carry stories and songs in a collection of 1’s and 0’s – binary code and the like. A memory stick is a small flat little piece of plastic that can carry thousands of images imprinted on its “memory” – images also full of stories and songs.

Now, instead of traveling hundreds of kilometres across stormy, choppy, current-filled Straits and Entrances – stories and songs in the form of 1’s and 0’s travel as fast as a memory-flash from Haida Gwaii to Hong Kong.

Now, urban and rural communities are beginning to be linked in one community – the online community. Several years ago the Canadian federal government began an initiative to ensure every community in Canada – no matter how isolated – has access to high-speed Internet. In some ways this has been happening.

I told a story in a post a few weeks ago about working in a northern BC First Nation community accessed by plane (landing on a gravel runway) or five hours by gravel roads from the nearest highway.This community has high-speed internet delivered through satellites. Sometimes the reception is a bit inconsistent and evenings can be really slow as kids get online to play video games with kids from Newfoundland or Florida or South Africa.

Today in the Globe and Mail newspaper there is an article about how the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is pressuring the telecom industry to improve their wireless and high-speed internet services to rural communities – rather than just focusing on urban communities.

I am also reading Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone is Connected. Connect Everyone to your Business. Joel has a blog on the topic. You can probably guess that this is connected to the idea of six degrees of separation.

In his ending to the first chapter, Joel states:

The big idea in a world of Six Pixels of Separation is to embrace community as the new currency. Understand and believe that your business and how it is perceived in the marketplace are going to get increasingly complex in the coming months. How you are positioned, how people see you, and how you speak back to them are going to be the global validation for your growth. In a world where we’re all connected, one opinion quickly turns into everyone’s opinion. How you build trust in your brand, your business, and yourself is going to be an important part of how your business is going to adapt and evolve. (author’s emphasis)

I don’t know if I fully agree with the sentiment of embracing community as the “new currency” – communities have, and always will have, currency, or “transmission from person to person” as one dictionary defines currency. However, I do agree with the idea that one opinion can turn into everyone’s opinion.

I hope that many organizations recognize this in a world becoming more and more connected (over 1.5 billion people now online) – for example, organizations that exist solely to provide consumers with tools to make more conscious decisions when purchasing, such as “eco-labelling” and “eco-certification”. Or organizations marketing certain products such as farmed salmon or wild salmon.

I was quite amazed the other day to look through Seth Godin’s blog – one of the most popular in North America with hundreds of thousands of followers and daily visitors. For example, he released a book last week Linchpin – it’s already on the New York Times bestseller list. Godin has suggested in a couple of blog posts to stay away from farmed salmon. He also highlighted – in his book All Marketers Are Liars – a story about a test conducted in New York which tested fresh whole salmon from various local markets labeled “wild”. Turns out a significant amount of the salmon – some sold at $29/lb – labeled “wild” were in fact farmed salmon.

Whoops….

Impressively, in comments on Godin’s posts were comments from farmed salmon associations with links to webpages and health “facts”. Seems maybe the salmon farming industry gets this new social media, this “community”. Not surprising when three quarters of the over 300,000 metric tonnes of salmon consumed in the U.S. is farmed.

no more blueprints…

A little while back I had a post exploring the concept of “conservation” . I quoted Edward de Bono (innovator of Lateral Thinking and Six Thinking Hats)  in his definition of concept as a: “convenience package, a grouping, a clustering, an assembly for a purpose…”

As well as providing a dictionary definition of “conservation“:

2. a. Preservation or restoration from loss, damage, or neglect.

b. The protection, preservation, management, or restoration of wildlife and of natural resources such as forests, soil, and water.

I also quoted the definition of “conservation” provided in Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Wild Salmon Policy:

Conservation is the protection, maintenance, and rehabilitation of genetic diversity, species and ecosystems to sustain biodiversity and continuance of evolutionary and natural production processes.

In as much as the DFO definition is full of a lot of bumpf – I can sympathize somewhat. The concept of conservation is a complex one. As I mentioned in some comments to posts, I don’t think the answer to this complex issue is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ definition – or blueprint solution.

Conservation, as suggested in the Wild Salmon Policy, applies to natural systems, or ecosystems. Natural systems are complex systems; which means uncertainty, unpredictability, and unforeseens – look at natural disasters such as Haiti, Hurricane Katrina, tsunamis, etc.  And hence, my riff yesterday on suggestions from DFO scientists that more scientific models and equations are required. I suggest maybe a little more actual standing stream side – rather than office exercises that can never account for all variables.

Now, here’s the most important variable that is left out of DFO’s definition and concept – the social-human variables. And this is where there’s a gaping void.

The first principle of the Wild Salmon Policy, and DFO’s overall fisheries management approach, is “Conservation” . The second principle is Aboriginal Fisheries (food, ceremonial, etc.), then Commercial and Sport Fisheries.

OK, so if the second two principles are clearly social principles – then why isn’t the first principle laid out as a social principle or concept?

This goes back to my questions:

  • What are we conserving?
  • Why are we conserving?
  • And, maybe even most importantly, by who’s definitions are we conserving?

There is a difference between denotation (the stated part) of a document, word, or principle; and the connotation (the various understandings) of a document, word, or principle. Connotations are virtually impossible to control. (See my post on the front yard-back yard analogy)

In the Wild Salmon Policy, unfortunately, the stated definition (denotation) of conservation is flawed, which will continue to create serious issues with public connotations. The definition sticks strictly to the natural systems view of “conserving” things – unless DFO sees the human elements that are implicit in “continuance of evolutionary and natural production processes” when it comes to wild salmon.

Wild salmon and humans have co-evolved and co-existed around the Pacific Rim for eons. Humans have been intimately connected to wild salmon “evolutionary and natural production processes”. Even more-so now as humans have developed the ability to largely wipe out a creek’s entire salmon run, with little more than a few seine nets at the mouth over a period of a decade or two, logging out a watershed, or building a new suburban neighborhood of bread box, chip-board homes.

So, if the second and third principles are about human consumption – then why not state clearly in the first principle that “conservation” means: conservation so that humans can continue to harvest them – instead of a bunch of bumpfy, bafflegab language that doesn’t really denote anything specific at all about very complex, unpredictable things.

Or, better yet, why not clearly state that conservation and things like biodiversity are distinctly social systems, as much as natural systems?

For example, one of the most common methods of “conserving biodiversity” practiced worldwide is to create “protected areas” or national parks – which are in turn controlled and ‘managed’ by national governments. Creating national parks is a distinctly social practice, social issue, with levels of natural and social complexity.

Creating parks are often heated, controversial, and complex social arrangements that create tensions for years – and as many folks suggest, in turn, may not really do much for the natural systems they purport to “protect”. As some have suggested, creating national parks or protected areas is a ‘blueprint solution’ with a top-down enforcement model.

And then of course there are questions and concerns that highlight the gaps between blueprint policies and actually enforcing them. (speed limits or bike helmet laws mean anything to anyone? If someone is speeding on a highway and there’s no cop there to measure it – is she still technically speeding?).

So what if we looked at, and worked with, the concept of conservation as a distinctly social principle, as well as a principle for guiding our activities as part of natural systems?

Certainly, many indigenous societies have. When it comes to wild salmon, indigenous societies had to have conservation principles – it’s simple really: kill too many fish, and die (or move to a new territory, someone else’s).

And, again, really, the Wild Salmon Policy and DFO policies are about ‘fisheries management‘ – not just the actual fish. Fisheries are implicitly social institutions with multiple levels of interests and hence, complex social systems as well as complex natural systems.

Thus, blueprints like the Wild Salmon Policy, will never work without acknowledging the complexity and interrelated natural and social systems. And if those of you working in this field remember, the Wild Salmon Policy evolved directly out of a document titled: “Blueprint” for Pacific salmon. Plus the Minister for DFO in 2005 discussed:

The blueprint to reform Pacific fisheries focuses on four main themes…

Let’s leave the “blueprints” to constructing buildings – stable, static things – not for dealing with complex social and natural systems.

And why is it that government policy often operates on assumptions that human well-being and ecosystems are separate distinct things?

They are intimately connected – humans are not separate from ecosystems, as climate change is clearly showing us. Or, as someone such as myself who grew up on islands six hours by ferry from the mainland has learned intimately (on several occasions – 6 metre waves mean anything?). Humans are part of natural systems, with all our muti-layers of social, community, and institutional interactions.

And to be fair, there is language in the Wild Salmon Policy that talks about linking local and traditional knowledge, linking to stewardship groups, and the principle of “open and transparent” processes (go to DFO’s website and search around for documents and such related to the Wild Salmon Policy and tell me how “open” and “transparent” you find it…).

Another gaping void: between words on paper and action on the ground.

The world is getting a little flatter (in a figurative sense) as suggested by author Thomas Friedman. Globalization is hard at work, and things like wikinomics, open-source software, and growing access to the Internet are shifting how we relate and interact with each other. I have incorporated some of these things in other posts and will continue to do so.

Corporations now have interns that search through social media looking for comments – positive or negative – and try to utilize those, or fend them off. Obama utilized social media and networking quite successfully in his presidential campaign. Open-source mapping programs like Ushahidi are working wonders in disaster relief in Haiti – or in violence related to the elections in Africa (where the program originated). I worked in an isolated B.C. First Nation community six hours by backroads away from the nearest highway – and yet they have high speed internet and laptop purchase and use is growing exponentially (along with Facebook use in the community).

As such, complex issues like wild salmon ‘conservation’ (which includes harvesting) that cross natural and social systems will require networks of people, networks of knowledge, networks of learning, networks of joint problem-solving, and networks that span from federal government offices in Ottawa to community homes on the coast of British Columbia. (and many networks of conflict resolution)

These networks must be international, global, and yet still local. Biodiversity is a global, international, and local issue.

This mean activities that are multi-varied and multi-leveled. It will also require better distribution of power and resources – and much better processes that: “look first to understand, then be heard” .

No more blueprints for complex natural and social systems.

how social media could change the salmon world…

This past week I drove down to Vancouver, BC for a meeting. It’s an approximately eight to nine hour drive – sixteen to eighteen return trip. Thankfully the roads were great. Here are three stories regarding social media that I heard on the radio as I drove.

The first story was about an Australian man who found a camera washed up on a beach in Queensland – Australia’s east coast. Surprisingly the memory stick in the camera was still intact. This fellow was able to take a look at the photos and then took it upon himself to try and track down the camera owners. He studied the pictures for any clues; a bunch of the pictures had snow and beer in English. Through online research he started to narrow the camera owners down to most likely Canadian. There were also pictures of the Eiffel Tower – so he started to think maybe French Canadian.

Using Facebook, this guy started a page, posted pictures to that page asking if anyone recognized these folks. He then started targeting French Canadian folks – he explains how he made sixty new French Canadian “friends”. Eventually, his Facebook campaign worked and someone recognized the photos got word to the camera owners and the camera and its owners were reunited.

The most impressive part of this whole event – it took less than six weeks.

The second story I heard surrounded the devastation in Haiti. Again, Facebook has been employed for people to post pictures of missing loved ones and to communicate out to loved ones that they are alive. Some of the stories of the effectiveness of this are remarkable.

The third story was one that was initially quite depressing. CBC Radio was interviewing a 40-year expert on disaster response. He basically said – every time there’s a disaster (Pakistan earthquake, Southeast Asia tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, etc.) the response and coordination is terrible. This was on the heels of stories of planes circling the Port-au-Prince airport for multiple hours because there was no space to land, or park once landed. There were also various stories of aid agencies and various countries disaster response teams stepping on each others’ toes.

And yet, once I was able to get online I was able to find pretty incredible examples of the Internet, mobile phones, and social media working wonders for raising money and serving as communication platforms to get word out. For example, with as simple as a text message to the Red Cross people can donate $10 a text.

I also found this non-profit company Ushahidi. As the folks at this company explain:

The Ushahidi Engine is a platform that allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS, email or web and visualize it on a map or timeline. Our goal is to create the simplest way of aggregating information from the public for use in crisis response.

Check the website – this open source software is used in a variety of diverse circumstances – to mapping wildlife interactions in Africa, to crime in Atlanta, to the violence in Kenya, to now mapping situations in Haiti. Pretty impressive.

As one digs deeper into these social media mediums there are all sorts of examples of the changing field of crowdsourcing, building ‘tribes’, building followers and so on. Obama utilized the technology brilliantly in his presidential campaign. There’s the eBird example I posted yesterday. And in other work, I am seeing various technology companies with proprietary software or tools starting to lose market share to open source solutions that are often built by the masses as opposed to source code deeply protected and buried deep in some concrete vault (e.g. Windows).

In the salmon world, and especially the Pacific salmon world, the range of these fish is growing smaller in the sense of people. There are now various cross-ocean initiatives – for example, Portland, Oregon based Wild Salmon Center is doing work on the Kamchatka peninsula of Russia and connecting people around the Pacific Rim with things such as The Atlas of Pacific Salmon.

What’s going to happen when social media tools are fully employed?

My own humble opinion is that the ‘business’ of how we look after salmon will certainly be pulled from the clutches of the many bureaucratically buried scientists and fish ‘managers’ and returned somewhat to the masses of people who’s lives are everything salmon…

Famous scientist Carl Sagan suggested:

We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements […] profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster.