Environmentalism Lost at Sea

In between pool volleyball and the Electric Slide, I’m sure the conference attendees on this floating temple to humanity’s excessive indulgences will be hard at work finding ways to be more consumptive in a more sustainable manner. I’m certain that something good will come out of the event, because Chip Giller, Grist’s founder, will be there, hobnobbing with

lots of smart, highly successful, digitally wired superstars, all with an interest in making the world a better place.

As I was saying here, a bunch of us working these precincts in the blogosphere like to tell you when we’re heading off to rad events and luxe destinations. I forgot to mention that we also like to tweet the moment when we’re there. So just in case you’re not “following” any of the attendees gathering on the planet’s behalf in the middle of the sea, here’s the hashtag, where you can receive wish you were here sentiments, like this one:

sorry folks, but this summit is incredible.

If you browse the twitter feed, you’ll see why it’s so incredible, with tweets like this:

according to the PA, yoga with Russell Simmons is happening on the main deck

I guess not everybody on twitter got the tweet on this NYT article about the hazards of flaunting.

But back to Giller and Grist. Besides the all-you-can-eat midnight buffet, what is he hoping to get out of the cruise?

For me, the opportunity is to talk with many leading tech and social-good entrepreneurs about how to tackle climate change, the foremost challenge of our time — how to make true strides to cut back on emissions, surmount the communications challenges related to the issue, and push back against political intransigence. And also to discuss new ways to shine a light on all the amazing innovations occurring in the fields of energy, food, transportation, and design. Sometimes I feel as if a revolution is taking place, but not enough people are aware of the momentum and the revolution hasn’t yet been named.

Hmm, I bet more people would get with the revolution if they could attend posh events like this one.

Giller also informs us that he’s going aboard the mega-liner with eyes wide open:

…being the curmudgeon that I am, I’ll also try to bone up on the cruise industry and its environmental record.

If Giller wants to really know what the industry is all about–especially as it relates to the cruise line he’s traveling on–he ought to read this definitive Harper’s article by David Foster Wallace. It goes down best with the conch fritters and slippery nipple.

28 Responses to “Environmentalism Lost at Sea”

  1. Pascvaks says:

    But really Keith, these people are looking out for OUR best interests.  Little people need BIG people to tell them when to wash their hands and face, what to eat, where to NOT worship, how to blow their nose, and who to “have fun with”.  Right?  You can’t blame them for wanting to do all this great work AND have a little “fun” on the side, right?  We really must sit back and shut up while they decide our future, there’s no other way!  The sky really is falling!  Everyone is in a panic!  They will save us!  Won’t they? (SarcOff)

    PS: Do they get a tax write-off for this stuff?

  2. Gaythia says:

    Given these statistics for the Celebrity Century Cruise Ship:

    Century propulsion

    The vessel is propelled by four MAN B&W L48/60 four-stroke diesel engines. These engines drive two controllable pitch propellers, providing a total power out put of 31,130kW.
    http://www.ship-technology.com/projects/celebritycenturycrui/

    I think Giller just put a whole new spin on the Grist slogan:
    A beacon in the smog“.

    My reading of the link provided by Giller is that Celebrity only got a D+ rating from the Friends of the Earth.  This includes a F for air pollution reduction and the following statement on operational integrity:

    “While Celebrity operated two ships with advanced sewage treatment systems in Alaska in 2009, it chose to discharge sewage from those ships outside of Alaskan waters, thereby avoiding Alaska’s strong water quality standards by discharging outside of those protected waters, giving Celebrity an “˜n/a’ for water quality compliance in Alaska.”

    http://www.foe.org/cruise-report-card-grade-methodology-2010#Celebrity

    He should also note: My quick Google search reveals a considerable number of travel websites warning that the Celebrity Century reserves the right to impose an additional fuel surcharge on passengers.

    Is this any way to save the planet?

  3. Keith Kloor says:

    Hilarious, Gaythia! That is indeed an appropriate new spin on their tagline, at least for Giller’s post.

  4. Gaythia says:

    Ok, just to be accurate,  it is Celebrity Cruises overall that got the final rating of D+, the rating for the Century is C-, but that does include the F for air pollution.  Not sure for which ships they got caught dumping the sewage.

  5. bigcitylib says:

    Sounds like somebody didn’t get an invite.

  6. Gaythia says:

    With a reputation like this, maybe those not invited, or those who turn the Celebrity Cruise opportunity down, are the fortunate ones!
    http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Celebrity-Cruises-fined-100-000-for-dumping-1220084.php
    2006:  “A cruise ship company that dumped more than 500,000 gallons of untreated wastewater into Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca was fined $100,000 by the state Thursday.  It’s the first such fine ever issued in Washington for a violation of this kind, and the maximum allowed.”

    …”This summer more than 100 of its passengers and crew were sickened with a flulike virus, and one of its captains was arrested for being drunk before a Seattle departure.”


    “Those operating the Mercury were unaware that they were in state waters when they released the waste, according to a spokesman. That’s a weak excuse, some said.  …  “”Most mariners should be able to read a nautical chart.””

    Note the 2006 statement in the link above:

    “”Celebrity Cruises takes full responsibility for these discharges and has taken corrective actions to prevent them in the future,” said Dan Hanrahan, president of Miami-based Celebrity Cruises Inc., in a statement.”

    This would appear to be refuted by the 2009 Celebrity Cruise actions in Alaska noted in the Friends of the Earth rating I quoted @2.

    By way of contrast, there are apparently better, although not great, cruise lines.  Holland America, and Norwegian Cruise lines for example, both have a FOE rating of B-.

    I think it might be interesting to investigate the booking of this cruise.  Is Celebrity engaging in environmentalist aided cruisewash?

  7. Jeff Norris says:

    Keith
    You should check out this view of the series from forbes.
    http://blogs.forbes.com/stevenbertoni/2010/11/20/names-you-need-to-know-in-2011-summit-series/

  8. Keith Kloor says:

    Bigcitylib (5)

    Just to be clear: I’m definitely envious. Who wouldn’t be? But that’s’ my main point (the hypocrisy is secondary, and Gaythia is fleshing that out nicely here in the thread).

    If I had an employer that paid for me to travel to Miami and attend a glitzy three day cruise to network in the name of sustainability, I’d be there in a heartbeat. (not a seven day trip, though–too long to be away from the kids). I’m no Mr. No Impact Man. I like to live life. (I hope Grist is paying and he’s not getting a junket.)

    Here’s the difference between me and Giller: If I went, I wouldn’t have written the gaudy post flaunting my attendance at the event before the ship even sailed.

    I’d attend, come back with the obligatory tales of excess, navel gazing, and highlights–but mixed with a serious dose of self-flagellation for my obvious hypocrisy.

    One other thing: I don’t know Giller, but I admire what he’s created with Grist (though I wish it would have stuck to journalism and not become just another blog clearinghouse for green-tinged commentary).

    Some disclosure, too: around six years ago, I met Chip in Brooklyn to discuss one of their job openings at the time. As I recall, somebody had recommended me (I think it was my friend Mark Dowie) and Chip emailed me to see if I was interested. I said sure, and we met and talked. It never went anywhere and I think I probably speak for David Roberts and Chip that they are relieved and glad that my ass stayed put in Brooklyn.

     

  9. Gaythia says:

    For the record, I do not covet a cruise.  But having just read the series pointed out by Jeff Norris @7, I certainly would like to be 20-something again, and see if I could do it with this much audacity:
    http://blogs.forbes.com/stevenbertoni/2011/04/06/summit-series-how-to-build-a-floating-sxsw/
    I would want to use my prowess for something more worthwhile than creating rain forests with hot springs on cruise ships and building out concert venues on secret islands, however.
    And as for courage, I don’t think that exotic cruise vacations really live up to the Summit Series International waters slogan:
    “You can’t discover new lands until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
    Although, I suppose that depends on the sort of new lands we are searching for.   Los Vegas melded with the Caiman Islands and Monte Carlo, perhaps?
    Sustainability is obviously not a requirement.

  10. bigcitylib says:

    I think if you were to come back having written anything that was “obligatory”,  you would be on the wrong track.

  11. Gaythia says:

    Oh, my goodness!
    Ok, who is the computer expert out there?
    I received an e-mail message from Grist saying that there was a response to my comment there.  Standard enough. My comment there was an abbreviated version of my #2 above.  So I clicked on the e-mail link to go back to Chip Gillers story on Grist.
    Instead, what I get is a message I’ve never seen before, in bright red, saying this webpage at grist.org is a reported attack page that has been blocked on my security preferences.  I certainly didn’t block them, does this mean they blocking me?
    I also tried the “will be there”  link above, which I’ve used before.  Same result.  I can type in Grist.org but then, again, when I try to click on the Chip Gillers story, same result again.  Big red warning message, no ability to get to Grist.
    Suggestions?   Should I be concerned about the state of my computer?
    The e-mail, presumably really from Grist, gives the following (I don’t agree with it, but then it is a certainly reasonable enough response)
    @Gaythia

    I didn’t say they were perfect; I said they came a long way. Let’s put
    this in perspective here: you have a city of a thousand or two thousand
    people and hundreds of crew. All need power, food, and they poop. Just like
    any city, they have an uneven pooh discharge record and if you track back
    the electricity, any city is dirty as heck especially with coal power.

    Now you can get all over the cruise industry but people are going to
    consume energy and water and then poop and pee somewhere, right? By your
    same logic, we should ban all restaurants?

    I will refrain from talking about the real bad actors, which are the
    tankers and bulk ships that get to “clean holds” in international waters
    as long as the discharge meets MARPOL regulations. Even in the US, tankers
    get to clean holds if they are over 50 miles off the coast. There are many
    hundreds of tankers and toxic bulk ships of 15,000 to 350,000 tons but only
    a few dozen super-cruise liners in the world. Misplaced priorities maybe?
     
    If I could respond, what I would do is cite the Washington State link above, and state that I assume that the fact that they assessed Celebrity the maximum penalty is that they did think the matter was quite serious.
    Also, I expect all restaurants to run their effluent through a designated properly licensed sewage treatment facility.

  12. Jeff Norris says:

    Gaythis

    I am not an expert but I play one on the internet.  I think Grist may have been infected by the Liza doom virus.
    http://newenterprise.allthingsd.com/20110401/thousands-of-web-sites-hit-with-new-twist-on-old-sql-injection-hack/?mod=googlenews

  13. Gaythia says:

    Jeff, maybe, but only the Chip Giller post?  I can access the rest of the site.

  14. Jeff Norris says:

    Gaythia
    Remeber I am not an expert but I think it attaches to specific web adresses all the way down to specific pages.  Then again this could be the actions of that Nefarious Group referred to by Mr. Tobis.

  15. Eli Rabett says:

    <a href=”http://backseatdriving.blogspot.com/2011/03/all-that-is-necessary-for-evil-to.html”>Brian Schmidt</a> has this sort of thing nailed and <a href=”http://rabett.blogspot.com/2011/04/rhetoric-of-rejection.html”>Eli</a> has a short comment

  16. Jack Hughes says:

    Hi people!
     
    We don’t need the facts and figures about diesel engines to spot the 100% hypocrisy of these assholes.
     
    Why can’t you lot get some leaders and spokesmen with personal integrity?
     
     

  17. Hannah says:

    Gaythia, that made me laugh :o) but apart from that, give the guy a break. He is clearly just a geek who is a bit over excited about the prospect of being in the vicinity of people who are half well-know (I am afraid that I had to press the links for half of the people he name drops) and a couple of hot babes. Bless.

  18. Gaythia says:

    How can you convince the public that you are serious about correcting our environmental damage to the world  when you are partying on a luxury cruise liner like a bunch of frat boys?
    Eli’s comment @15 does provide an interesting way to expand the conversation.   I would argue that saying “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to fear hypocrisy” is rather extreme.
    Obviously, one can’t strive to change the world while simultaneously retreating to lead an extreme, monk like, zero carbon footprint lifestyle.
    At the same time (as Grist generally advocates) there are steps that individuals can take which do, collectively at least, apply some economic pressure to those in power.  This sort of economic evaluation is in fact the very purpose of such grading lists as the one published by Friends of the Earth.  In the FOE evaluation (and Giller not me, is the one who first accessed this), Celebrity Cruises is clearly identified as having serious ecological issues.
    In this case, Giller and the rest of the passengers have a choice.  Do you succumb to the allure of a really great party?  Enticing, as Hannah (@17), points out.  But, this is also open to creating a backlash by the Jack Hughes types (@16).  And, I figure, it is also an opportunity for Celebrity to burnish it’s environmental record in a way that doesn’t actually involve doing some serious reforms of its own operations.
    Just maybe, all of these great leaders, activists, entrepreneurs, and other creative minds could have figured out a meet-up mechanism that was a little less indulgent and a little more conducive to also conveying the urgency of climate change to the public at large.
    Something that really did take courage, and really did exemplify an ability and a willingness to move in new directions.
     

  19. Sashka says:

    @ Keith (8)

    Am I alone here who thinks that self-flagellation is not a balance for but another form of obvious hypocrisy?

    Could you explain what is it that you admire about Grist? What is not to admire you already said, that part is clear.

  20. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    Sashka, I don’t think Keith Kloor was suggesting it is a balance.  It doesn’t somehow make the hypocrisy go away.  It just shows he would be aware of his hypocrisy, and it would bother him.  It’s normal to have done plenty of things which bother us in our life since rarely do all our goals fall in line with each other.

  21. Jeff Norris says:

    @ Gaythia (18)
    Well said.  When reading Keith’s original post I could not help think how events like this could easily be turned into negative messaging by opponents of CAGW with a James O’Keefe style video.  Truthfully this event IMO was more about networking than the environment.  As Jack Hughes commented  on another thread…”In fact the AGW bandwagon is already in that place: a coalition of people with very different interests. Some people desperately want to do something worthwhile in their lives and others just want a slice of the money.”
    @ Keith
    I admire your honesty about being envious but isn’t there something more you are trying to say besides that and pointing out the hypocrisy?  Perhaps the  concern of journalists getting to close to the subject or sources.  Not trying to start a war but would you as a journalism professor warn your students about participating in the party as oppose to covering them.  Giller did point out the cruise lines past history, but what will he say about Sir Branson or  Beth Comstock from G E?  Journalists are supposed to be uncool.

  22. #21 indeed. The confab doesn’t seem to be particularly about environmentalism.  And Grist/Giller don’t represent all of environmentalism — it’s just a friggin’ blog about environmentalist issues.  So why isn’t the headline something like ‘Environmental Blogger at Sea’?  or even ‘Journalist at Sea’?
     
     
     

  23. Jeff Norris says:

    @Steven Sullivan
    Here is an official description about the event. 
    http://sea.summitseries.com/ocean/
    Please note the environment theme.  Were other bloggers or any enviro journalist there.  Don’t know?  Perhaps Mr. Geller will tell us.  My question to Keith and now to you is.  Do you think journalist or bloggers lose their objectiveness by getting to close to the subject?

  24. Sashka says:

    @ Jeff
     
    Sorry – what’s the point of asking Sullivan?

  25. #23 “Please note the environment theme.”
     
    To say it’s about ‘environmentalism’ when it’s specifically about ocean impacts, is lazy.  And so, does a cruise like this represent hypocrisy re:
    “gross over fishing, coral bleaching, and industrial-scale pollution — crippling challenges that stand to drastically alter life as we know it.”  ?
     
    “Were other bloggers or any enviro journalist there.  Don’t know?  Perhaps Mr. Geller will tell us.”
     
    Who cares?  They can’t be a journalistic stand-in for something as broad as ‘environmentalism’, except to reporters looking to be provocative, or just being lazy.
     
    “Do you think journalist or bloggers lose their objectiveness by getting to close to the subject?”
     
    Automatically?  No.  Do you think it’s possible to gain deep knowledge of subject *without* getting ‘close’ to it?

  26. Jeff Norris says:

    @Steven Sullivan
    I think the Keith chose environmentalism based on Giller’s orginal post.  Does substituting Ocean Conservancy change my question of  the appearance conflict of interest?  If   Giller was a business reporter  would him going out on a cruise with these same people cause you concern about the appearance of COI
    You asked.
      Do you think it’s possible to gain deep knowledge of subject *without* getting “˜close’ to it?
    I was unclear.  I should have used source or sources instead of subject.  Journalist should learn and try to gain deep knowledge about the subject or topic they cover. 
    Mr. Sullivan do you think these statements our a good policy for a journalist or even a blogger?
    Though this topic defies firm rules, it is essential that we preserve professional detachment, free of any hint of bias. Staff members may see sources informally over a meal or drinks, but they must keep in mind the difference between legitimate business and personal friendship. A city editor who enjoys a weekly round of golf with a city council member, for example, risks creating an appearance of coziness. So does a television news producer who spends weekends in the company of people we cover. Scrupulous practice requires that periodically we step back and look at whether we have drifted too close to sources with whom we deal regularly. The test of freedom from favoritism is the ability to maintain good working relationships with all parties to a dispute

  27. Jeff Norris says:

    Steven Sullivan
    I was wrong. Based on this tweet events like this are a perfect place for journalists and individuals to learn about the challenges facing the ocean and work with leading scientists, explorers and conservationist to understand and addresses these challenges.
    Summit Series is packed! The drinks have been flowing since 11am, my crowd tonight is gonna be lively to say the least!

  28. Gaythia says:

    I also posted this at http://www.grist.org/article/2011-04-07-saving-the-planet-one-cruise-at-a-time, which seems to be accessible this morning, in response to another comment there:
    I most definitely would hope that any restaurant that I chose to patronize would have their waste stream connected to an appropriate sewage disposal facility.

    For the details on the ecological impact of Cruise ship wastewater, I think that the following EPA fact sheet is highly informative:

    http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/vwd/wastewaterfactsheet.cfm

    Of course, if the tea party were to succeed in defunding the EPA, the Cruise ships will have nothing to worry about.

    Misplaced priorities? No.
     

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