The Ocean’s Future Could Hinge on One Woman

Sylvia Earle is fighting to protect the ocean.


JAN 25, 2016

Though the Paris agreement produced in December 2015 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference is generally considered to be more ambitious than cynics expected, one subject’s absence from the agenda particularly raised Sylvia Earle’s eyebrows: ocean conservation. “It’s baffling,” Earle told The Huffington Post last week. “At the conference, the headline was, ‘What is the future we want?’ That’s still the question.”

Earle, affectionately nicknamed “Her Deepness,” has been asking the question for as long as anyone. The 80-year-old marine biologist started studying marine science in the 1950s and earned her Ph.D. in phycology (the study of algae) from Duke University in 1966. Over the next two decades, she logged thousands of underwater research hours, led the first all-female team of research divers, set diving depth records, and founded Deep Ocean Engineering, which pioneered the future of underwater research submarines. In 1990 she became the first female chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The sea coast everywhere has changed,” Earle told the Academy of Achievement in 1991 after taking the job. “What do we do? How do we make it right? One of the things that increasingly has become clear is that we are losing the standards, losing the models, losing the basis for good health of the planet.”

The concerns Earle expressed then about pesticide use and the growing hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic weren’t new, but they were under-researched, partly owing to technological limitations. “It is fundamentally essential that we have access throughout full ocean depth from the surface to the sea floor,” she said at the time. Toward that goal, Earle left NOAA in 1992 to start a deep-ocean research equipment company, and in 1998 she joined National Geographic to lead a five-year study of the United States National Marine Sanctuary. Time named her its first-ever “Hero for the Planet.”

In the same period, her anxieties over the future of oceanic ecosystems proved more and more urgent. After receiving the TED Prize in 2009, she told the crowd, “I’m haunted by the thought of what Ray Anderson calls ‘tomorrow’s child,’ asking why we didn’t do something on our watch to save sharks and bluefin tuna and squids and coral reefs and the living ocean while there was still time. Well, now is that time.”

Earle used the $100,000 prize to start Mission Blue, a nonprofit that builds public support for Hope Spots, places designated as critical to the health of the ocean and recommended for marine protection. About 12 percent of the world’s land is under some form of protection, compared with less than 4 percent of the oceans. Mission Blue hopes that number reaches 20 percent by 2020.

Even though world leaders ignored marine conservation in Paris, Earle is optimistic. “For the first time in all of our history,” she said, “children are growing up in a world where we know what we’re doing to the planet.”

2009 TED Talk by Sylvia Earle:

By Tosten Burks is a contributor for Passion of the Weiss. He has written for The Fader, GOOD, Grantland, and VICE.  Bio
(Image: Courtesy YouTube)

Gun ‘buyback’ event returns to Newport

BY DENNIS ANSTINE   For the Newport News-Times January 29, 2016

NEWPORT — In an effort to reduce the number of guns in Lincoln County, Ceasefire Oregon will hold its second annual “buyback” event on Saturday, Feb. 6.   The “Voluntary Turn-In of Unwanted Guns” event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Newport Police Department, which is a cosponsor.  

Last year, 138 firearms were turned in for gift cards, according to Monica Kirk of Central Coast Ceasefi re. Several Oregon cities annually hold similar events.   “We were surprised at the amount that were turned in last year, and we’ll see what happens this year,” said Newport Police Chief Mark Miranda. “We have no idea what we’ll get.”  

Kirk said there will be no background checks — “no questions asked” — of people turning in guns during the voluntary event.  

Grocery store vouchers will be given in exchange for military-style rifl es ($150), handguns ($100) and long rifles ($50), with a limit of three per person. Functional firearms will be melted down.  

Kirk said the majority of the guns turned in last year were handguns, “but we received all kinds of weapons,” including two sawed-off shotguns and two museum pieces.   Cynthia Jacobi, a member of Central Coast Ceasefire’s steering committee, said the goal “is simply to get dangerous guns out of people’s homes and off the street in order to save lives.”  

Ceasefire asks that people place the guns they wish to dispose of in the trunks of their vehicles until approached by Ceasefire volunteers , who will accompany them into the police department.   Police volunteers have agreed to assist with crowd control and traffic management at the department, which is located at the north entrance to Newport City Hall.  

During last year’s event, there were people outside of City Hall seeking to purchase guns from those who were turning in weapons.   “People can still come and try to buy guns,” Miranda said. “But there’s now the issue of background checks which, since the first of the year, are required to ensure that a purchaser is eligible to possess a firearm.”  

Email for more information. To contribute, go to, Guns For Gift Cards, A Community Gun Buy Back.

Obama Moves to Expand Rules Aimed at Closing Gender Pay Gap

JAN. 29, 2016


President Obama at the White House last week. New rules proposed by the administration would expand on an executive order he issued nearly two years ago that required federal contractors to submit pay information for women and men. CreditZach Gibson/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will move on Friday to require companies to report to the federal government what they pay employees by race, gender and ethnicity, part of a push by President Obama to crack down on firms that pay women less for doing the same work as men.

The new rules, Mr. Obama’s latest bid to use his executive power to address a priority of his that Congress has resisted acting on, would mandate that companies with 100 employees or more include salary information on a form they already submit annually that reports employees’ sex, age and job groups.

“Too often, pay discrimination goes undetected because of a lack of accurate information about what people are paid,” said Jenny Yang, the chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which will publish the proposed regulation jointly with the Department of Labor. “We will be using the information that we’re collecting as one piece of information that can inform our investigations.”

The requirement would expand on an executive order Mr. Obama issuednearly two years ago that called for federal contractors to submit salary information for women and men. Ms. Yang said the rules would be completed in September, with the first reports due a year later.

“Bridging the stubborn pay gap between men and women in the work force has proven to be very challenging,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, noting that the median wage for women amounts to 79 percent of that for men. “We have seen progress, but it isn’t enough.”

White House officials said that the requirement was intended to bolster the government’s ability to penalize companies that engage in discriminatory pay practices and to encourage businesses to police themselves better and correct such disparities.

Marc Benioff, the chief executive of, whom the White House enlisted to help make its case for the rules, said that while he “never intended” to pay women less than men, he had discovered that his company was doing so after two female employees approached him about it.

“We’re never going to solve this issue of pay inequality if C.E.O.s like myself and others continue to turn a blind eye to what’s happening in their own corporations,” Mr. Benioff said in a conference call organized by the White House, adding that he was spending $3 million to close the pay gap at his firm.

Mr. Obama was also planning on Friday to renew his call for Congress to pass a measure allowing women to sue for punitive damages for pay discrimination. Republicans have repeatedly blocked such legislation, arguing that it would lead to frivolous lawsuits.

Republicans have sharply criticized Mr. Obama’s moves on pay equity, saying that gender discrimination is already illegal and that additional steps are not necessary.

WIN-WIN When Google increased paid maternity leave, the rate at which new mothers quit dropped 50%

The tech industry often points to a pipeline problem when talking about its gender gap. There simply aren’t enough women studying computer science, some argue, and as a result, many companies suffer from a gender imbalance, especially in technical departments.

But companies interested in narrowing the gap might also want to do a better job of keeping women who already are in the pipeline from leaving it. According to a 2008 Harvard Business Review report, 52% of women in science, engineering, and technology jobs ultimately depart from their respective fields.

Yet as Google demonstrates, a little bit of generosity can go a long way toward retaining female talent—while also ultimately improving a company’s bottom line. According to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who has five kids of her own, by increasing paid maternity leave in 2007 to 18 weeks from 12 weeks, parent company Google (now Alphabet) halved the rate at which new mothers quit.

“It may sound counterintuitive, but the research—and Google’s own experience—shows a generous paid maternity leave actually increases retention,” she wrote in a Jan. 27 blog post for the Huffington Post. “When women are given a short leave, or they’re pressured to be on call, some decide it’s just not worth it to return.”

The US is the only OECD country that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave. Just 12% of American workers have paid leave to care for a baby or sick parents.

But the tech industry is beginning to gain recognition for bucking the trend. Last year, Virgin Group and Netflix extended paid leave to a year for new parents. In November, Amazon expanded its benefits to 20 weeks of paid leave for birth mothers, with the option to share six weeks of paid leave with a partner. Gaming company Unity said earlier this month that new parents will be offered 12 weeks of paid leave, with the ability to work part-time for eight weeks while earning full-time pay.

These changes do more than to make new mothers feel welcomed in the workplace. Because turnover is costly for businesses—by one estimate itcosts 20% or more of an employee’s salary to replace him or her—companies, too, benefit from keeping female employees and their expertise.

Ultimately, quitting a job to focus on motherhood—or to take up a less-demanding career—might come down to the mother’s own choice. But companies might be wise to make sure the decision isn’t so easy.

When Google increased paid maternity leave, the rate at which new mothers quit dropped 50%

On the Seventh Anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, NOW Calls for Congress to Take the Next Step

Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill 

January 28, 2016

Washington, DC – Seven years ago, President Obama signed into law his first piece of legislation. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that undid the damage of a 2007 Supreme Court decision that made it nearly impossible for women to enforce the Equal Pay Act against employers who paid them less than their male counterparts.

The Lilly Ledbetter Act is an important milestone — but it’s only half a solution. What’s needed now is the Paycheck Fairness Act, which makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who share their salary information, and give women additional tools to fight pay discrimination. NOW applauds President Obama for his consistent support for pay equity and his commitment to fairness for all workers.

The gender wage gap has women, on average, making only 79 percent of what men earn. But the widespread piling of racial bias on top of sex discrimination results in a gender-race wage gap that leaves African American women with only 63 cents, and Latinas only 54 cents, to the dollar earned by their white male counterparts.

NOW chapters around the country are working tirelessly to build support for the Paycheck Fairness Act. It’s unacceptable for women to earn a fraction of the pay they deserve, and it’s just as wrong to tell us we’re entitled to only a fraction of fairness and justice.

For Press Inquiries Contact

Tamara Stein,, (951) 547-1241