Monthly Archives: June 2014

how positive thinking can bring change to the forest


You will be forgiven if you have the impression that our blue log is narrowly focused on what swims in the ocean, what sails on the seven seas or just how two hydrogen atoms bonded to a single oxygen atom reflect light from the sun….

Please do forgive us for having pointed to these basic facts first since water is indeed what sustains life and makes up more than half of our body weight. Blue is how man observes his environment: the sky is blue, the ocean is blue and the earth seen from the universe is as blue as can be. So the previous entries into our log were mainly concerned with the waters that cover three quarters of the surface of the planet and that form the world’s single largest ecosystem. As the oceans play a central role in supporting life on earth we shall regularly return to the subject but once again: in our worldview the term ‘blue economy’ as recently adopted by many governments and organizations has nothing to do with what can be extracted from the sea. While blue thinking did certainly develop from a green foundation it goes several steps further. The central plank in the platform of traditional green environmentalism has always been that mankind should simply cut back on energy use and do what is necessary to reduce air and water pollution. However the environmental challenge of today is not merely a matter of mitigating levels of carbon dioxide to reduce global warming. That will neither repair our habitat nor remediate the damage done in the past. Open source blue environmentalism searches for solutions. It is imperative that we bring about fundamental change in our lifestyles and apply solutions-oriented thinking to limit the damage and build sustainable systems for the future. That is really what the term blue economy is all about.

Today we make our ‘landfall’ on Kalimantan, the third largest island in the world after Greenland and New Guinea. Its rain-forest has been there for 130 million years, making it the oldest in the world, 70 million years senior to the Amazon. Kalimantan, or Borneo, as it is called by the rest of the world, is home to some 15,000 species of flowering plants, 3,000 species of trees, 221 species of terrestrial mammals and 420 species of resident birds. It is the only remaining natural habitat for the endangered Bornean Orangutan.

Unfortunately over the past quarter century huge areas of Borneo have been subject to massive deforestation. Rain-forests have been cut and degraded by a voracious global demand for timber, palm oil and coal. The palm oil industry has been one of the biggest drivers of this deforestation and close to half of the original natural forests have been converted to palm-oil and timber plantations, mainly financed by wealthy outsiders. In addition illegal logging has become a way of life for some of the local communities, with timber being taken from wherever it is accessible, sold to collectors and processed in huge sawmills. In the absence of sufficient alternative economic development, this remains an irresistible lure for these local communities. As part of a billion dollar carbon swap agreement with Norway the Indonesian Government has imposed a moratorium on further exploitation but there are loopholes in the law and the moratorium only covers primary forests and excludes existing concessions. Because of corruption and weak law enforcement the burning of key peat-land areas continues unabatedly, mainly to clear land for agriculture and plantations.

The news from this environmental battlefield is always rather gloomy but in the last couple of days we did receive some reports of a more positive nature.

About a year ago Google alerted us to the birth of the Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve adjacent to the Tanjung Puting National Park near Pangkalanbun on the Kalimantan South coast. is a project of Hong Kong based NGO InfiniteEARTH . By leveraging REDD+ carbon credits they embarked on a project to save over 640 square kilometers of peat swamp forest from the encroaching palm oil industry. We just found out that they are doing well:

Another story that really warmed our heart was a report from Clare McAlaney
This describes the work of Dr. Kinari Webb. As an undergraduate biology major, Webb had first come to West Kalimantan fifteen years ago in order to study the orangutan in his native habitat. She had seen with her own eyes how the forest was slowly deteriorating because of the incessant illegal logging. At the same time she found out that to the loggers themselves the rape of the forest was merely a matter of survival and of supporting their families. Webb also noticed that the general health of people living in a decaying forest was extremely poor and it became clear to her that the human and environmental health problems were linked. The forest people were trapped in a vicious circle, trading expensive timber to the outside world against equally expensive western medicines.  Seven years ago Webb returned to West Kalimantan with a vision that has proven to be both stunningly simple and spectacularly successful. Her brainchild was a comprehensive program that tackled the problems of environmental and human health with integrated solutions. It goes by the name of Health in Harmony and is based on the principle that healthcare can be a powerful tool enabling communities to be free from disease while using their natural resources in sustainable ways. High-quality healthcare is offered through conservation-oriented barter deals or at a very low cost. Key ingredients in the program are education, community involvement and capacity building. Loggers were promoted to Forest Guardians. Organic farming and sustainable agroforestry programs that provide an alternative livelihood make up for the loss in income and have led to a 68% decline in illegal logging. Villagers can exchange woven mats, manure, baskets or seedlings for healthcare and the collective income is sufficient to cover the cost . Read all about it here:

Health in Harmony is a brilliant example of blue thinking at its very best.

Join Mission Ocean

Today there are fewer fish in the sea than ever before…


On June 23 the Global Ocean Commission, an independent initiative made up of 17 leaders from around the world, released a blood-chilling report. In the second alinea of the introduction the authors come straight to the point:

“Our ocean is in decline. Habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, overfishing, pollution, climate change and ocean acidification are pushing the ocean system to the point of collapse. Governance is woefully inadequate, and on the high seas, anarchy rules the waves. Technological advance, combined with a lack of regulation, is widening the gap between rich and poor as those countries that can, exploit dwindling resources while those that can’t experience the consequences of those actions. Regional stability, food security, climate resilience, and our children’s future are all under threat.”

The report describes in detail the madness that mankind has embarked upon in the last 25 years. Without subsidies, the high seas fleets would not make a profit. Citizens of countries providing subsidies to their high seas fleets pay twice for their fish: as tax payers and as consumers. According to the commission even Indonesia spends 235 million dollars a year in fuel subsidies to a tuna fleet that brings in 463 million dollars of catch (and then the Government officials call this ironically ‘the blue economy’..)

The full report, or a summary, can be viewed or downloaded on Most importantly the commission makes eight specific proposals that include calls for mandatory tracking of all vessels fishing in the high seas, a ban on the transshipment of fish at sea, measures to end pollution from plastic waste, and binding standards for the regulation and control of offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing on the high seas has significant negative ecological, economic and social impacts, and disproportionately affects developing countries. To effectively combat IUU fishing, the illegality of the practice needs to be uniformly established, the likelihood of being caught needs to be increased and market access for IUU fish needs to be cut off.

MY Sustainable Solutions urges you to join the mission and sign the petition that asks UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to propose new laws for high seas protection in September 2014

about the last wild animals we eat

For most of the time since modern man stood up up and walked out of Africa we have been hunters and gatherers but nowadays for most people fish is the last wild food they ever eat. Apart from mushrooms, that is…

Mankind has been foraging for food in rivers and off beaches for about 150,000 years and we developed the first actual fishing techniques some 90,000 years ago.  Roughly 10,000 years ago came the switch to farming and the domestication of animals but until the 20th century there remained a single source of animal protein that throughout the ages seemed absolutely inexhaustable: the fish we were able to catch in the wild.


The advent of the industrial revolution did have an early impact on fishing stocks but that was merely local. In the North Sea, steam ships equipped with trawling nets reported catches more than six times greater than those of sailing ships. It is now understood that industrial fisheries require only 10–15 years to reduce fish populations to one-tenth of their pre-fishing size.

Yet it is a relatively recent development of only the last 50 years that mankind engaged in a mad scramble to ruthlessly over-exploit all that has been living much longer than us in the oceans anywhere on planet earth. Despite warnings of a slowdown in the marine catch in the 1970’s and 80’s, the global industry has continued to increase fishing efforts and technology kept advancing.  Boats are more powerful, fish are located electronically through sonar, larger trawling nets are used and longline hooks are dangling at greater depths. Industrial factory ships are going further offshore and have now even extended their operations throughout the vast expanses of the southern ocean.

Of course this is purely driven by the economics and the rampant overfishing is a direct result of the huge demand from the seven billion potential seafood consumers who are alive today. Worldwide, per capita consumption of seafood  has doubled since the 1960s and the inhabitants of the US now eat almost five times more fish than they did 100 years ago. In Asia, about 1 billion people rely on fish as their primary source of protein.

However the realities of the global fishing industry are mind boggling and the inefficiences  are bordering on the absurd. Today fishing fleets  are twice the  necessary size. The industry could go back to the smaller, fewer boats of 1970 and still produce the same yield. The overcapacity is global: Norway’s fleet  is 60 percent  larger than necessary, while the European Union is 40 percent over the top.  Meanwhile European fisheries are so depleted that in several member states it has been estimated that the cost of fishing to the public exceeds the total value of the catches. That means that more money is spent to keep the industry afloat than comes in from the resulting yield.

In the old days fishermen would return to harbor mainly with the fish they had targeted. Some specialized in herring or cod; others in tuna. Modern fishing methods are much more random so there is usually a large bycatch of other species. Drift nets are a spectacular example. These monster nets (50 feet by up to 65 km) kill all that they encounter. They are banned by every fishing country within its own territorial waters. However the combination of Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese drift nets cast every night in international waters reaches about 48,000 km–enough to encircle the globe.

The greatest paradox is in the fact that nowadays 36 percent of all captured wild fish is processed into fish meal. This in turn is partly used for fishfarming or other types of aquaculture  but ultimately the practice is inefficient. Farmed salmon consume more wild fish than they generate as a final product. Other negatives  regarding  the long-term sustainability of aquaculture include disease, genetic weakening of stocks and coastal habitat destruction. In the end the combined nonhuman appetite for fish equals our own. Chickens and pigs consume two times more seafood than the Japanese, six times more than the Americans…

The expansion of fishing activities into deeper waters is unquestionably one of the principal threats to the world’s ocean health.  Most deep-sea fisheries are unsustainable not only for target species but also for non-target fauna and their habitats. Unless some radical changes in governance and management are being made, damages to deep-sea ecosystems will soon be irreversible. The United Nations have recognized this issue and urged governments and Regional Fishery Management Organizations to assess the impact of deep-sea fisheries on vulnerable marine ecosystems.

Currently, more than 99% of the world’s oceans are open to fishing; this should be reversed, and the open ocean should be closed to industrial exploitation. The continental shelves and coastal waters should be the privileged reserve of the small-scale fishermen who use low-tech gear and are coast-bound.  It is estimated that the small-scale sector has the capacity to catch roughly the same amount as the industrial sector but it employs nearly 25 times more people.

Fishing should be the privilege of the poor rather than a right of the rich.

It is up to the Governments of the fishing nations to abolish subsidies and negotiate international agreements instead. Their common goal must be to downsize fleets and set catch limits. All we can do ourselves is to try and make a small difference by being well-informed consumers. Don’t buy species of fish that are over-exploited. If you have the time and patience for a long lecture on the subject  you will find it here:







Turning Blue Indonesian style

The Jakarta Post reported on a special presentation on the sidelines of the current five-day session of the 140-member FAO Committee on Fisheries that just got underway in Rome. On this occasion Indonesia presented the blue economy concept as part of its campaign to convince the market that it is striving hard to implement sustainable fisheries. Here is the message it sent into the world : the Blue Economy Development Program in East Lombok and Nusa Penida features an integrated, upstream and downstream approach and covers tuna fisheries, aquacultures, marine tourism, salt and pearl industries.


Achmad Poernomo, Chief Research and Development of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries emphasized that the Lombok project, implemented in cooperation with FAO, is based on the principles of sustainability, nature’s efficiency, zero waste and social inclusiveness. Poernomo explained that fish exports to Europe, Indonesia‘s second largest market after Japan and the United States, have been put under increasingly stringent scrutiny, subjected to sustainability certification.

One may wonder why such scrutiny is so selectively applied to only 15 percent of the fish that is flown out of the country but sustainability is not the issue. To the Indonesian Government the term Blue Economy refers to economic growth from the exploitation of the sea…

FAO Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources Indroyono Susilo, who chaired the special session, further declared that Indonesia’s decision to pursue the blue-growth concept in marine fisheries was quite strategic. “The rationale of this blue economy concept is that three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans and seas, which are both an engine for global economic growth and a key source of food security,” he pointed out.

We do not doubt a moment that these gentlemen are well meaning people but we must note that these official declarations show a presumption that the ocean is an endless resource where new fish can always be found. Not a single word is being said about protecting areas where fishing should be limited to make sure fish populations will grow back.

Indonesian policymakers and bureaucrats always manage to master the necessary jargon but they are equally prone to self deception. Indonesian schools turn out graduates who are perfectly task oriented but never learned to focus on results. Once the goals have been identified and an agenda of grand designs has been announced, problems are considered to have been resolved already. Since the road map is there the destination has been reached.

Meanwhile industrial long-line overfishing remains a big problem. All year long huge quantities of tuna are airlifted to Japan but nowadays the small scale fishermen from  our own village who go to sea in their traditional outriggers  return with a catch that is too small to even feed their own family.



The Blue Planet Odyssey

The crew of MY Sustainable Solutions has now been living ashore for many years but we are no landlubbers and with many ocean miles under our keel we keep a keen eye on what
is happening at sea. We would like to draw your attention to an important event.


The Blue Planet  Odyssey is a three year round the world sailing rally for cruising yachts. The first participants will set sail from London on July 20 where the rally is scheduled to finish in July 2017. It is an epic voyage that will be undertaken with the specific aim to raise awareness of the global effects of climate change.

Blue Planet Odyssey is the brainchild of cruising icon Jimmy Cornell, who has sailed 200,000 miles in all oceans of the world since he launched his first Aventura in July 1974. He has completed three circumnavigations and made voyages to Antarctica, Alaska and Spitsbergen. During his four decades long cruising career Cornell has visited countless isolated island communities in all oceans of the world.

Climate change is a reality that can no longer be denied and like few others Cornell has witnessed how several populations and places are already being impacted by the increasingly noticeable effects of climate change such as the melting of the Arctic icecap and the rising sea levels that result in loss of land in low-lying Pacific islands.

In contrast to the sailing races such as the Volvo Ocean Race and the Vendée Globe that follow the fastest possible route around the world by making use of the strong westerly winds in the roaring forties of the southern ocean, the routes of the Blue Planet Odyssey have been chosen to take advantage of the prevailing easterlies in the more temperate zones.

Most participants are expected to follow the traditional southern trade wind path around the world but some of the routes do pass through the least travelled parts of the oceans and include stops or detours to areas where the effects of climate change are already affecting the lives of their populations such as Tuvalu in the Pacific and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Significantly one option is the transit of the Northwest Passage over the Americas, which has only recently been judged sufficiently safe to sail through.

During the Blue Planet Odyssey’s three-year span the participants will gather environmental data and transmit these to oceanographic institutes and research centers. During stopovers they will engage in educational programs and community projects. For more details on the rally including the route map, please visit

With the extreme conditions of the BPO in mind Jimmy Cornell had a new aluminum 45 footer built that was specifically designed for both high latitude and tropical sailing and was launched only a few weeks ago.

Aventura IV has just completed her maiden voyage and a few days ago she arrived in the Orkney Islands

From our  temporary anchorage  on the Island of the Gods MYSS  wishes all BPO participants favorable winds and a superbly safe voyage.

8°38’45”S – 115°06’49”E Blue Planet