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McKinley Elementary School's Eco-Team.

10 Oregon Schools Expand Classroom to Include the Great Outdoors

By Cindy Hudson

Winter and spring in Oregon can be cold, wet and muddy, but thanks to seed grants from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), 10 schools in the Portland area are learning the joys of getting outside and getting their hands dirty despite weather conditions.

Part of the NWF's Eco-Schools USA program, the $1,000 seed grants are funded by the Gray Family Foundation. The grant is used for green school projects like the one at Beaverton School District's McKinley Elementary School. In fact, McKinley is one of only three schools in Oregon to be awarded native tree seedlings through the NWF's Trees for Wildlife program this year.

"A lot of students at our school live in apartments," said ESL teacher Debbie Abel, who works with fourth and fifth graders on several projects. "For some, this is the only opportunity they have to explore outdoors."

That exploration has included digging for worms and learning about slugs—fun! Students are also identifying native and non-native trees on campus and writing up tags with facts about them. Each tag contains a QR code linked to plantsmap.com, where anyone interested can find out more information.

But the school's biggest project is yet to come. McKinley is using the seed grant to purchase native plants such as wildflowers, ferns, herbs and shrubs as well as plant tags, ID books, soil, mulch, garden chairs and a mason bee condo. In honor of Earth Day later this month, students, parents, staff and volunteers will be planting 200 trees on the school's extensive grounds as part of their efforts as a Certified Schoolyard Habitat.

A few miles away at French American International School, science lab instructor Molly Hamill said pathways available through Eco-Schools USA are helping teachers provide the curriculum that connects students to the outdoors and tie together the whole community.

When third graders explore the wooded trail on the school's property, they are asked to look for signs of wildlife among the trees. Deer, owls, snakes, salamanders, frogs and even coyotes! And yes, all of these species have been spotted in the natural area.

"At the beginning of spring in the forest, the sound of birds is incredible," said Hamill, noting that they can identify five different kinds of woodpeckers in the area. Students are excited to improve habitat for wildlife like birds and more by planting more than 50 tree seedlings awarded to the French American International School through the Trees for Wildlife program.

Hamill also said information from Eco-Schools USA makes it easy to tie in what's being taught in the classroom to further learning. "We have freedom to pull in ideas and involve kids and go from there," she said, explaining that it's a lot more interesting and effective when you can teach kids about the parts of a flower, and then help them plant milkweed and watch the butterflies show up when those flowers bloom.

Yet some of the biggest buzz on campus, said Hamill, was generated by a project the seed grant made possible. Fish Eggs to Fry, a program administered by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with help from the NWF's Oregon affiliate, the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, provided Hamill with trout eggs to nurture until they hatched and could be released into a local waterway.

In February, Molly Orr, AmeriCorps member with the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, and NWF delivered 500 rainbow trout eggs to the 20-gallon aquarium the school purchased with grant funds. For two weeks, Hamill said the aquarium became the most popular site on campus, providing learning opportunities for both students and adults. "We had kids checking the pH, temperature and the conditions of the fish," said Hamill. "First graders journaled about the progress and recorded changes in what they saw." Those first graders, she said, also learned that not all fish grow up to be clownfish, like Nemo.

The interest extended to the headmaster and other staff, who Hamill said stopped by the aquarium regularly, and parents who came in when they dropped their kids off in the morning.

When the trout were large enough, staff released them into a local pond approved by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Now that the school has the equipment, Hamill hopes to sign up for the program again in the fall, when Chinook salmon eggs will be available.

That kind of enthusiasm and continuity of learning is exactly what Morgan Parks, Oregon education coordinator for the NWF, loves to hear. "School budgets are stretched thin," said Parks. "Because the (Eco-Schools) pathways are linked to curriculum standards, it can help take the load off teachers."

Parks said other schools receiving grants are working on a variety of pathway projects, including removing invasive species and replacing them with native plants, creating monarch butterfly gardens and community gardens, performing energy and waste audits and developing a bioswale on school grounds.

Photo credit: Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association

Incredible Super Bloom Turns Desert Into Enchanting Wonderland

By Breena Kerr

March marked the first time in a drought-parched decade that Anza-Borrego Desert State Park—located in the Colorado Desert about two hours outside San Diego—saw 10 inches of rain. This is according to Norb Ruhmke, acting district superintendent for the Colorado Desert District. In a normal full year, he said, the Anza-Borrego desert gets six inches.

Park guide Sally Theriault added that it was the first time since she moved to Borrego in the early 1980s that she could remember visitors arriving before employees, filling the parking lot by 8 a.m. It was also the first time she could remember highway patrol officers shutting down the S22, the main highway leading into town, because traffic was so bad.

That's because for a few weeks this March, all that rain triggered an unprecedented spring "super bloom" of annual wildflowers, including sunflowers, sand verbena, dune evening primrose and ocotillos. The onslaught of visitors to the park, Theriault said, had the feel of Disneyland, overflowing with tourists in shorts and sneakers, cameras in hand. "There were people arriving in their cars and asking where the rides were."

Anza-Borrego is no theme park. It's an arid, sandy desert with the Borrego Valley at its center. The park is surrounded by the Vallecito Mountains to the south and the Santa Rosa Mountains to the north. The sun is shadeless and punishing and for the majority of the year, shrubs and rocks dominate the landscape.

Many of the visitors who turned out for the super bloom were flower enthusiasts—some came from as far away as Washington State, the East Coast and even Japan, according to Theriault. Many had never been to Anza-Borrego before but had seen reports of the super bloom via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and afterward hopped in their cars to see the phenomenon for themselves. Some out-of-towners, unaccustomed to the wildness of park roads and overly trusting of technology, followed GPS imperatives into sand-filled ditches and required help getting out.

Ruhmke said park officials posted updates on its website about where to find flowers, in hopes that flower pilgrims would spread out across the park. But most came straight to the visitor center, which saw 90,000 visitors in March—between 2,000 and 5,000 every day. In years past, Theriault said, that number has been closer to 30,000 annually; during summer, when the temperatures can spike well beyond 100 degrees, only a couple hundred people tend to visit each day.

"The word seemed to get out faster this year and more people seemed to be coming to the visitor center," Theriault said. "We were really just about at capacity."

According to Theriault, the super bloom did indeed live up to its hype—at least for a couple of colorful weeks. By now, most of the flowers have dried up, but Theriault said it was the biggest bloom she could remember since the spring of 2005.

Ruhmke said that while most people congregated at the visitor center during the bloom, the "most majestic" flowerscapes were in Coyote and Henderson Canyons. "For me to enjoy the desert," he said, "I really have to get away from the crowds." But, he's confident that those who came during the bloom found what they were looking for.

"There's nothing better than when you're driving down to Montezuma Grade and dropping down into the desert floor," he said. "It's beautiful."

Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.

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Photo credit: Terje Rakke/Nordic Life, Visitnorway.com

And, the Happiest Country in the World Is ...

By Andrea Germanos

Norway now holds the title of the world's happiest country, according to a new report that also outlines how Republican proposals to gut safety nets, enact tax windfalls for the rich and attack public education—as well as bipartisan failures in terms of the global war on terror and campaign finance—are making happiness further out of grasp for those in the U.S.

The finding comes via the fifth edition of the World Happiness Report, which ranks 155 countries on the variables of income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity. It was produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a United Nations initiative and was released Monday, the International Day of Happiness.

Norway now holds the number one spot, booting Denmark from the ranking it held for three of the past four years. Norway came in at number four last year.

Joining Norway in the top ten slots are, in order, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. It's the same group that made up the top ten countries last year.

Like the other top four countries, Norway ranked high in caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.

At the other end of the spectrum sit Rwanda, Syria, Tanzania, Burundi and the Central Africa Republican, which rank lowest on the happiness index.

According to lead author John Helliwell, also an economist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, Norway is "a remarkable case in point."

"By choosing to produce oil deliberately and investing the proceeds for the benefit of future generations, Norway has protected itself from the volatile ups and downs of many other oil-rich economies. This emphasis on the future over the present is made easier by high levels of mutual trust, shared purpose, generosity and good governance. All of these are found in Norway, as well as in the other top countries," Helliwell said.

As for the U.S., it has slid down one spot from last year, coming in at number 14 and the country, the report says, is "a story of reduced happiness."

Study co-author, economist and Sustainable Development Solutions Network Director Jeffrey Sachs wrote that the U.S. suffers not from an economic crisis but a "multi-faceted social crisis."

It is made clear, he writes, by "worsening public health indicators"; "plummeting" trust in government; and "astronomical" income inequality, with "the rise of mega-dollars in U.S. politics" and the "deterioration of America's educational system" helping to fuel "destruction of social capital."

Further abetting that destruction has been the country's reaction following the Sep. 11 attacks, which, Sachs wrote, "was to stoke fear rather than appeal to social solidarity" and begin "an open-ended global war on terror, appealing to the darkest side of human nature."

Though the country's "social crisis is widely noted, [...] it has not translated into public policy." Rather, he continued:

Almost all of the policy discourse in Washington, DC centers on naïve attempts to raise the economic growth rate, as if a higher growth rate would somehow heal the deepening divisions and angst in American society. This kind of growth-only agenda is doubly wrong-headed. First, most of the pseudo-elixirs for growth—especially the Republican Party's beloved nostrum of endless tax cuts and voodoo economics—will only exacerbate America's social inequalities and feed the distrust that is already tearing society apart. Second, a forthright attack on the real sources of social crisis would have a much larger and more rapid beneficial effect on U.S. happiness.

Addressing the crisis entails enacting campaign finance reform; reducing inequality by expanding the social safety net and funding of health and education; "improv[ing] the social relations between the native-born and immigrant populations"; moving beyond the post-9/11 fear campaign (which he writes, President Donald Trump's "Muslim bans" have been a manifestation of); and making a commitment to improved quality education for all.

"As demonstrated by many countries, this report gives evidence that happiness is a result of creating strong social foundations," Sachs said to the Associated Press. "It's time to build social trust and healthy lives, not guns or walls. Let's hold our leaders to this fact."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

Politics

15 Lawmakers Plotting to Privatize America's Public Lands

The U.S. holds more than 600 million acres of stunning public lands in trust for the American public. These beloved places, ranging from the granite spires of the Black Hills National Forest to the mystical Mojave National Preserve, are home to diverse native wildlife, inspire wonder in people from around the world who visit them and provide clean air, clean water and unsurpassed recreation opportunities to our communities.

Despite the irreplaceable value these places hold, in recent years, a concerted effort has been driven forward by certain senators and U.S. representatives to seize, dismantle, destroy and privatize our public lands. These lawmakers are backed by fossil fuel corporations and other extractive industries that already squeeze massive profits out of America's public lands and only want more.

In order to realize this goal, every year these corporations push millions of dollars toward federal lawmakers to motivate them to introduce and pass legislation that would have the effect of either fully privatizing public lands or opening them up to unfettered extraction and development.

The Center for Biological Diversity issued a report that analyzed 132 bills that were introduced in the past three congressional sessions, between 2011 and 2016, and identified the lawmakers who authored and cosponsored the greatest number of these bills. The list of "Public Lands Enemies" that emerged includes nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives and six U.S. senators from eight western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

These 15 Public Lands Enemies are:

1. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)

2. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah, 1st District)

3. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

4. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz., 4th District)

5. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)

6. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah, 2nd District)

7. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska, At Large)

8. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)

9. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho, 1st District)

10. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah, 3rd District)

11. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev., 2nd District)

12. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

13. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M., 2nd District)

14. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif., 4th District)

15. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)

In bending to private industry interest, these lawmakers actively spurn the majority of American voters, including in their states, who polls have shown want to see public hands left in public lands and preserved for future generations.

With the West already losing to development one football field's worth of natural areas every two and a half minutes, these shared lands are more important than ever. At the start of the 115th Congress, we want to bring attention to these Public Lands Enemies and their plans to seize and privatize public lands. Everyone who cares about our national forests, wildlife refuges, deserts, national parks, national monuments, wild rivers, wilderness and areas of historic, scientific and cultural significance needs to be watching these elected officials vigilantly and opposing their actions every step of the way.

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Photo credit: Quadrum

Gorgeous Hotel Constructed From Shipping Containers Leaves Landscape Untouched

By Amanda Froelich

From transforming shipping containers into homes to reassembling them into vivacious greenhouses, there is a lot one can do with the apparatuses. But construct a gorgeous hotel? Why not.

Building a hotel with shipping containers is exactly what architects Sandro Ramishvili and Irakli Eristavi did and the outcome is extraordinary. Named Quadrum, the creation maintains a minimalist style and is located approximately 2,200 meters (1.36 miles) above sea level. In fact, it is the first boutique hotel located in the Upper Gudauri, Republic of Georgia. Built into the sloping terrain, the shipping container rooms cascade down the mountain.

The aim of the project was to "safeguard the environment from the harmful effects of work and leisure." Not only has the landscape remained untouched, all materials used to build the hotel are environmentally friendly and were sourced from local businesses.

Copter shared images of the exciting project with Bored Panda and we think you'll be just as blown away by the shipping container hotel as we were.

Reposted with permission from our media associate True Activist.

SpaceX to Fly Two Tourists to the Moon in 2018

By Sydney Robinson

Private space exploration company SpaceX has announced its most ambitious mission yet—a plan to orbit the moon in 2018.

The company headed by scientific and tech mind Elon Musk claims that their mission is on-target, including having recruited two astronauts that have elected—and paid a hefty chunk of change—to have the privilege of going into space.

If everything goes as planned, the two space tourists would launch in late 2018 in a Dragon 2 capsule launched by SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket. They would float past the moon before being pulled back in by gravity and returned to the Earth's surface.

If SpaceX is successful in their venture, the two volunteers will be the first of humanity to take the trip in more than 40 years. Since the successful trips around and on the moon more than 40 years ago, no man (or woman) has made it anywhere close to the big cheese in the sky—mostly due to the fact that scientists felt they had gathered enough information and could not justify another expensive and dangerous trip around the moon just for the sake of doing it.

Still, SpaceX clearly has something to prove and taking a trip around our small orbiting crater is an important next step. SpaceX has announced plans in the past to take humanity all the way to Mars in the next few years, so this trip will be considered a vital prerequisite for that ambitious project.

Meanwhile, some are skeptical that SpaceX is attempting too much too soon.

Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, said in the New York Times:

"It strikes me as risky. I find it extraordinary that these sorts of announcements are being made when SpaceX has yet to get crew from the ground to low-Earth orbit."

While the tourists would be trained, they would mostly be relying on automated systems during their trip, meaning that they would have nowhere near the survival training that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronauts experience. If something were to go wrong, they wouldn't be much help in saving themselves or their spacecraft.

This new venture of private companies tackling the space race is a test for the government and society. If SpaceX can prove its worth by safely transporting these tourists and returning them back home, safe and sound, it will go a long way in proving that the private tech and space company has what it takes to get us to Mars.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Ring of Fire.

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Kelly Slater Is Not an Enemy of Sharks

What caused Kelly Slater to so radically change his views about sharks?

Or perhaps he did not change his views after all.

In 2014, Kelly was quoted in the Australian media saying in response to Premier Colin Barnett's plan to kill sharks in Western Australia:

"I think it's kind of silly. Humans want to control everything. We try to control (beach) erosion, we try to control sharks … we just try to control everything on this earth and it's just crazy. We kill 100 million sharks a year or something crazy to make (shark fin) soup. We throw them back finless and dying. It's like we've lost all feeling for other creatures on some level and I think that's kind of sad. If I got eaten by a shark, I'd be honoured."

So when I heard that Kelly had sent an Instagram message to the notorious shark-killing advocate Jeremy Flores on Reunion Island, my first reaction was disbelief. It had to be fake news. The message was in contradiction of everything that Kelly had ever said about sharks.

In his message to Flores on social media, Kelly said:

And of course Flores took that message as ammunition to go on the offensive against conservationists including Sea Shepherd and myself personally.

I don't think that Kelly anticipated the tsunami of a response from both sides of this issue. The shark kill advocates were elated and quickly took to social media to thump their chest for bringing Kelly over to the what marine conservationist see as the "dark side." Many shark advocates reacted with anger and accusations. The nature of the internet is immediately unforgiving by millions of people who tend to react with instantaneous condemnation without verification of the facts.

I don't think that Kelly anticipated that his words would ignite violence on Reunion or that the next day would see a fire bomb attack on the offices of the marine reserve because one of the goals of some of the shark haters on the island is to shut down the marine reserve and to reopen fishing including shark hunting.

I don't think that Kelly anticipated the death threats against Jean Bernard Galves, the representative of Sea Shepherd on Reunion Island, and the collective NGO's advocating the end of the cull and the protection of the marine reserve.

Nor could he have anticipated the extreme hate directed at any person who defends sharks as this posting by surfer Christophe Fontaine to the Association de Sauvegarde des requins, illustrates:

"All my friends died in a shark attack. You won. Now we are going to burn everything to the ground to avoid more young to die because of your bullshit. The Marine Reserve already got hit and if they have not understood it's their children who we will burn. The prefect's children too. They want to kill us. Then we will kill.

"Dude, I don't know if you understood the message. People like you allowed my friends to die eaten. Whether you get it or not, we don't give fuck. You come here, we'll kill you. We'll kill your children, your family and we'll piss on your grave and the one of your dear ones. Cause that is what you have been doing to us since the beginning.

"Also send the message to the 2 little Zoreil (people from France) walking around with Sea Shepherd t-shirts in Boucan, provoking us that we will feed them to sharks. Let them all sue us. We went to Court, it did not protect us from death. It won't protect you either. It's your turn."

I don't think that Kelly anticipated the wave of anger and feelings of betrayal his words would spawn and the ire of so many of his admirers and fans directed towards him on social media.

Inadvertently, Kelly handed them the confidence to unleash their hateful accusations and to fuel their violent rhetoric.

At first, I was disappointed, but not angry with Kelly. He is a dedicated ocean conservationist and he has spoken out against shark culling for years so it was a shock for me to hear that he actually said what he reportedly said.

Kelly is a compassionate man and he was reacting to the death of a young surfer and I believe that was his initial gut reaction to the tragedy. I don't believe that this statement negates the incredible efforts Kelly made over the years to raise awareness of what we as a species are doing to destroy biodiversity in the sea.

I did reach out to him and he responded that he was indeed sympathetic to the surfers who have died there, that the incidents of shark attacks are greater there than any other place on the planet and that although he opposes culling of sharks in general he believes that Reunion is a unique situation because of the number of shark attacks.

His response to me gave me some insight as to where he is was coming from. The pain of losing friends and family, the suffering from shark inflicted wounds are things that provoke anger and a desire for revenge or as in Kelly's case, a desire to find some solution.

There is no doubt that this is a highly emotional issue—the death of so many surfers in a relatively short time in one particular place. I think Kelly reacted intuitively to these tragedies and because he felt that the situation at Reunion was unique and unusual.

It is indeed clear to me that Kelly did not anticipate the backlash. He sent me this message yesterday:

"I would like to address my comment about the recent bull shark attack in Reunion Island. I did not think my words through. It is easy to get emotional given the recent history with sharks that the local community has suffered, especially when young lives are lost. However, killing anything in hopes of a solution is not in line with my philosophies about life and I don't believe are a long term fix to an ongoing problem. This is a good time to put energy and intelligence into finding a solution that works for everyone ... utilizing technology, science and human emotion. I know a solution can be found that works for all parties. I'll continue to learn about and put energy towards efforts to defend and protect our oceans.

Sincerely, Kelly Slater"

Sea Shepherd wants to work with Kelly and with anyone on Reunion who wants to find a real solution to these attacks. Kelly wants to work with us, with the surfers and with the scientists to find a solution.

I believe that the surfers on the island, if they truly wish to find a solution must understand that culling does not work, it has never worked and the remedy must be a restoration of the marine ecology, the encouragement of the return of reef sharks, the increase in marine biodiversity and until these solutions can be found these beaches must be closed until restoration is completed. The defense against bull sharks is a healthy population of reef sharks and a rich diversity of fish populations in a well enforced marine reserve.

So I do not see the point of condemning Kelly for expressing his sincere feelings with regard to the human fatalities. He is human, he is extremely close to the surfing community and what he said, he said from the point of view of a man and a surfer who cares about the lives of people who share his passion for the waves.

And we should make no mistake in believing for one moment that this man does not care about the ocean, about biodiversity and about the atrocities committed. I know Kelly, he cares, he cares deeply.

I am looking at the positive side of this controversy. Perhaps what Kelly said was not okay on the surface but it brought to light the reality that this is a very misunderstood situation and the only solution must be an objective scientific review with real ecologically based solutions. A cull is not one of these solutions.

The situation at Reunion has been caused by humans. Pollution, overfishing, negligence and a refusal to use plain old common sense backed up by some serious understanding of ocean ecology. And as Kelly has often said in the past, culling simply does not work.

U.S. surfer Mike Coots, who lost a leg in a shark attack agrees that culling is not the answer. "I think culling a species is fundamentally wrong: Science has shown that it doesn't work," he said. "It actually can make the situation worse. I think we need to focus more on coexistence between humans and sharks."

During the latter half of the twentieth century, shark culling was carried out in an attempt to make the waters of Hawaii safer. From 1959 to 1976, the state of Hawaii culled 4,668 sharks. The Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology and the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources concluded that culling was "ineffective" because the incidence of shark attack numbers remained the same.

The Reunion islanders have overfished the area and the reef sharks that once held that territory were wiped out, not by bull sharks as Jeremy Flores falsely claims but by fishermen. With the reef sharks removed, the bull sharks moved in.

And herein lies the problem. Not only does shark culling not work, it actually contributes to the environment where bull sharks are more aggressive and thus more dangerous.

More than 200 sharks have been killed already around the island and this onslaught of vengeance not only took out bull sharks but many tiger sharks as well and tiger sharks have not killed any surfers. How many more do they wish to kill? Are they talking 100 percent eradication? Because complete eradication is the only way to guarantee safety for surfers.

Is extinction of the bull shark the price the surfers demand in return for enjoying their sport?

This is what happens. A shark kills a human. In revenge numerous sharks are slaughtered and instead of solving their problem their actions have intensified it.

Why is it that the highest incidence of shark attacks in the world happen where shark culling is practiced? Specifically Reunion, Queensland and Western Australia.

And the reason for this is that the removal of sharks from their established territory creates a vacuum and thus an invite for replacement sharks and these replacement sharks are seeking to establish the vacant territory as their own and this makes them far more aggressive than the sharks they replaced. Culling creates a black hole and it will draw in replacement bull sharks from Madagascar resulting in more aggressive shark attacks and more mass killings of sharks. It's a vicious circle of shark culling and attacks on humans.

Kill them and the door opens for new replacements and the only logical outcome of such a radical scheme is complete and utter eradication and that is something that Kelly Slater absolutely does not endorse.

Stirred up by Jeremy Flores and his cohorts, the Journal de l'Ile de La Reunion has called Sea Shepherd and all the scientists and NGO's opposing a cull as "NAZI's animal rights fanatics" and claim that we are responsible for the deaths of the surfers because we oppose a shark massacre. From our point of view the cause of these frequent attacks is the culling itself and thus Flores and the government of France are very much complicit in the circumstances that have seen 20 attacks since 2011 of which eight attacks were fatal.

What Sea Shepherd has been advocating is a strong marine reserve that will allow the reef sharks to return so that the ecological balance can be restored. Towards this end, the beaches where shark attacks occur should be closed to the public.

Kelly has assured me that he supports this approach.

Let's take a closer look at the victims.

The last attack took place at the exit of a river on the east coast after heavy rains. The river carried a great deal of waste into the muddy water. The rains had modified the bottoms of the mouth of the river, creating a "perfect" wave. Tempting indeed, but the fishermen of the area had repeatedly warned the surfers of the enormous shark risk, well known to be aggravated by the rains. Swimming was forbidden and signs were posted, although many of the signs had been vandalized. The man who died was a former shark lookout and fully aware of the risks. Nonetheless, he chose to take the risk.

A statement from his family said:

"Our family does not want the death of Alex to be used to justify this or that act. Nor do we wish that one accuses wild animals for the death of Alex. Alex was a great enthusiast and was fully aware of the risks he was taking."

The incident in April 2015 involved a 13-year old boy. The day before a shark look-out system had been set up, but on that day the look-outs were not deployed due to poor visibility and poor sea conditions. The training session was canceled. Despite the ban on surfing, the boy and some of his comrades decided to surf. They were perhaps confident because of the installation a few hundred meters away of a drum line 12 days before. This shark line had been installed against the advice of scientists. They warned of the risk of baiting near beaches.

Currently 15 scientists from the Marine Reserve Science Council—despite enormous state pressure and the constant threats and insults—unanimously said that it was dangerous to bait near surfers and drum lines should not be installed in the reserve and near the beaches.

This entire situation has been created by human activity due to overfishing, elimination of reef sharks, pollution, and the dumping of sewage, fish guts and animal offal. Regular heavy rains have compounded the problem and it has already been proven that culling does not work, but instead contributes to more occurrences.

Flores and his group of shark killing advocates are trying to cast the scientists and conservationist like myself and Sea Shepherd as people-haters, willing to sacrifice young people to save the sharks.

In reality, we are trying to stop the shark attacks by working to restore the ecological integrity of the area with the Reunion Island Natural Marine Reserve. Yes, we want to save the sharks but in doing so we see this effort as saving human lives as well. It is not a question of either sharks or humans, for us it is a question of protecting both the lives of humans and sharks.

What Flores is advocating is simply not okay.

I was a surfer in California and Hawaii in my younger days in the '60s and '70s and I have always viewed surfing as a near religious experience which is one of the reasons that I hold Kelly Slater in such high regard. All surfers should be ambassadors for life in the sea and in fact Kelly has and continues to be an incredible advocate, educator and role model for young people around the globe.

As a surfer I was always aware of the risks, from being dashed onto a coral reef to almost breaking my neck at Makapuu Beach, but I always viewed the risk of a shark attack as the least of my worries. This is not to say there is no risk, but that it was an acceptable risk because on average about five people die annually from a shark attack and considering the tens of millions of people who enter the ocean every day, that is an extremely small percentage.

In fact, it is more dangerous to play golf because more golfers die every year than surfers from everything from bee stings to being struck by lightening.

As Kelly Slater once said himself, "If you're afraid of sharks, stay out of the ocean."

That is a sentiment he still holds today. Nothing has changed.

Stand-Up Paddler Breaks 3 World Records, Completes Solo Atlantic Crossing

It's official! Chris Bertish has completed a journey of a lifetime—a world-first to cross the Atlantic Ocean unaided on a paddleboard.

Chris Bertish, a 42-year-old professional adventurer, has already traveled 83 days in his attempt to become the first person to stand-up paddleboard across the Atlantic Ocean from mainland Morocco to Antigua.

Just 16 days after he began his adventure, Bertish reached his monumental 34°W mark, passing the line of the easternmost point of mainland South America, giving him the world record for a solo, unsupported and unassisted open ocean expedition. And, if that wasn't enough, Bertish set a new world record for his 24-hour solo, unsupported and unassisted, open ocean distance of 71.96 miles on Feb. 15. This is the third World Record that he has achieved so far on his epic ocean adventure.

As EcoWatch reported in December, Bertish is on a solo paddle, paddling an estimated 4,500 miles of open ocean on his 20-foot craft in four months. He plans to arrive at the Leeward Island of Antigua in the Caribbean in early March.

"The main goal of this project is to push the limits of what's possible for the sport and for what the human spirit can endure, while inspiring others to believe in themselves and what's truly possible," Bertish said. "We are changing the lives of millions by paddling smiles across the faces of less fortunate children in Africa and South Africa, with the money we raise for this incredible project."

You can track Bertish's journey here:

The SUP Crossing

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