Guilty Planet

Vertical Agitation in Action

To make a real difference, we’re going to have to change patterns of consumption at levels higher than just households. This vertical agitation can take lots of different forms, but I want to highlight some of the great work being done academically and on the ground. Last year, an article in the International Zoo Yearbook by Heather Koldewey and two colleagues pointed out that zoos and aquariums should be leading the way in the push for sustainable seafood. Indeed, as the authors, point out, some already are.

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, for instance, has teamed up with a culinary school to provide them with course content, training, and information on sourcing and marketing sustainable seafood. The Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Vancouver Aquarium both have programs to team up with restaurants and get them to remove fish that are on their ‘avoid’ lists. But there is still lots of room for improvement and most zoos and aquariums are still selling and supporting the seafood status quo. In just a quick search, I found the San Diego Zoo, for instance, serves tuna, lobster quesadillas, fish tacos, fish and chips without specifying if any of their meals are bought with consideration for the wildlife.

Zoos and Aquariums can also take a stand to protect the habitat of the wildlife they are promoting. This happened last year when the Auckland Zoo stopped selling Cadbury’s chocolates because the candy maker’s decided to start adding palm oil to its chocolates and was adding to the destruction of important wildlife habitat. This sends a strong signal to the Cadbury’s and more zoos and aquariums should get on board with such tactics, which reach a broad and fairly concerned audience — and universities and eco-conscious supermarkets, also ripe for social change, should join them.

As an example in this realm, professor Amanda Vincent at the University of British Columbia teamed up with Andrew Parr, Director of UBC Food Services and “a shining example of collaboration”. As of May 2007, the partners involved agreed that UBC food service would avoid: shrimp products that were not from local trap fisheries, wild bivalve shellfishes and non-native farmed species, snapper or rockfish, tuna caught via long-line fishing, rainbow trout and steelhead reared in net pens or floating cages, swordfish, monkfish, and sevruga caviar. They are currently working on a nuanced recommendation for salmon purchasing (let’s hope they take a firm position on Fraser River sockeye). I hope to hear (and report) on the measurable reductions soon. However, most universities still have shrimp,sea bass, and swordfish on many menus. It would be great to see a broad conservation initiative that targeted university catering and food services to get them to change their ways. Local students at each university could volunteer and it could be organized primarily via Internet, similar to My Barack Obama. Vertical agitation could get very active, indeed.

Comments

  1. #1 JerryM
    January 25, 2010

    Per your vertical agitation post, would communicating the ‘good deeds’ of an establishment make the visitor less likely to do good themselves?

    Or is the point perhaps only giving ‘good’ options, thus not giving the visitor the opportunity to choose the ‘good’ option, and so not giving them the excuse of already having done some good for the day?

  2. #2 Douglas Watts
    January 25, 2010

    Thank you for writing this. As a matter of habit, I tell people I’m with and around not to buy or order swordfish or tuna or just about any other sea fish from the Gulf of Maine and Cape Cod. It’s not much but it’s a start. Word gets around. All of these fish pops. are in terrible condition and need to be left alone for many years to rebuild themselves. We should endeavor to be like the Penobscot Indians who take only one Atlantic salmon a year from the Penobscot River in Maine purely for religious and ceremonial purposes. And even the Penobscot themselves have not done this since 1988, although their treaty rights allow it. If the Penobscot can refrain in the interest of letting the fish rebuild themselves, then the rest of us can do so as well.

    I would rather explain to my nephew Danny why an Atlantic salmon leaps, than have to explain to him why there are no Atlantic salmon leaping.

  3. #3 romunov
    January 26, 2010

    I feel dr. Pauley’s advice is still sound – vertical pressure works far better than horizontal. However, an institution will not get funds for a project to influence to change laws. The establishment will, however, throw peanuts to the people, but hardly anything can be done with that and in my opinion, is money wasted. I of course speak from my experience and this case my be different from country to country, but this is what is happening here in Slovenia. The government gives out some resources (through a lengthy and painful process) and after receiving a few thousand euros, you’re suppose to save the world. On the other hand, this counts as “nature conservation” in the bureaucrats mind, but is hardly adequate to fill the gas tank.

  4. #4 Chris Martell
    January 26, 2010

    Indeed, never underestimate the power of V.A. to shake up the human capacity to remain in a state of complacency. News Flash: Target Stores eliminates the sale of “Farmed Salmon.”

    http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/target-eliminates-farmed-salmon-from-all-target-stores-82677657.html

  5. #5 Marah
    February 4, 2010

    Hi there Jennifer,

    I was blogging about the new Fish2Fork (http://fish2fork.com/apps/welcome) initiative by Charles Clover and couldn’t help but think about this piece you had written. I think this effort to target restaurants and shame them into better practices is another good example of employing the vertical agitation approach. Thanks for making me aware of it!
    See you in San Diego…

  6. #6 Söve
    February 8, 2010

    I feel dr. Pauley’s advice is still sound vertical pressure works far better than horizontal.Thanks.

  7. #7 MadScientist
    February 12, 2010

    We also need governments to put severe restrictions on wild aquatic harvesting and encourage people to farm their seafood. At the moment all governments seem inclined to allow fishers to operate until the global stock is decimated. Policy simply does not match what is known – it seems to be a case of appearing to be concerned while allowing fishers to do what they please. It’s Monterey Bay all over again but on a global scale.

    It doesn’t help any that there are some silly people saying things like “cows emit methane; help stop greenhouse gas increasing, eat fish instead”.

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