LOS ANGELES/LA JOLLA, CA. (February 25, 2003) -- Two-thirds of the earth's surface is covered by oceans but despite their rapidly deteriorating state, the issue is not even a blip on the public radar. Shifting Baselines, a new partnership between marine biologists, ocean conservationists, underwater cinematographers, and Hollywood filmmakers, has been formed to provide a single, clear description of the state of ocean decline that is not limited by concerns about market share or membership. The project is based on the recently coined term, "shifting baselines." Today's launch of the Shifting Baselines website at www.shiftingbaselines.org is the first major event in what will be a slow-building media campaign, which will also include a celebrity-driven public service announcement series.
The Slow-Motion Decline of Kelp Forests
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"Shifting baselines is the slow-motion decline of our oceans that's easy to overlook," says Dr. Randy Olson, filmmaker and former marine biologist who is directing the campaign. "Ocean decline has hit a point where it is the number one priority with almost all of my marine biologist colleagues, and yet the general public seems to have no idea of the severity of the situation. For whatever reason, even the BBC chose to show the one episode of their acclaimed series, "The Blue Planet," that dealt with human impact on the oceans separately from the rest of the series, and that episode did not even air in the U.S."
Gale Anne Hurd, producer of such classic Hollywood blockbuster movies as Terminator and Armageddon, knows of the problems well and is a founding member of the project. Since producing the deep-sea movie The Abyss, she has been an avid diver, particularly fond of coral reefs, but deeply concerned about their plight. "The destruction and impact on coral reefs around the world is truly heartbreaking and a very serious problem," she says. For the Shifting Baselines campaign, she recruited two of the biggest names in Hollywood special effects, Industrial Light and Magic and Illusion Arts, who donated their resources to create computer animated "before/after" sequences showing a coral reef and a kelp forest in 1960 versus today. Both sets of images are key to the campaign and to understanding the concept of "shifting baselines." They illustrate dramatically what's changed -- the big fish are gone.
The Slow-Motion Decline of Coral Reefs
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Another of the founding members of the project, Dr. Jeremy Jackson of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, spent more than three decades studying coral reefs in the Caribbean, but has now turned his focus towards alerting the world of their demise. "Every ecosystem I studied is unrecognizably different from when I started," he says. His landmark scientific paper in Science magazine in July 2001 drew worldwide attention to the role of over-fishing in these problems. The paper was covered in more than 200 media outlets and contributed to his being appointed to the board of directors of the World Wildlife Fund.
The Shifting Baselines project is being sponsored through a partnership of The Ocean Conservancy, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Surfrider Foundation. The website launch is the first major event in what will be a slow-building media campaign. It features a slide show on shifting baselines (backed up with 30 pages of detailed information), a four-minute video of the group's recent "Roundtable Discussion," and a one minute animation about the potential bleak vision of the future ocean titled, "Jellyfish and Bacteria."
For more information visit www.shiftingbaselines.org. For a printed transcript of the "Roundtable Discussion" or video of the slide show and highlights of the "Roundtable," please contact Kate DiRanna, mPRm Public Relations (323-933-3399).