Shifting Baselines – by Rebecca Mayer

”Shifting baselines are the chronic, slow, hard-to-notice changes in things, from the disappearance of birds and frogs in the countryside to the increased drive time from LA to San Diego.  If your ideal weight used to be 150 and now it’s 160, your baseline – as well as your waistline – has shifted.” – Randy Olson, Founder, Shifting Baselines, a partnership between ocean conservation efforts and Hollywood

Suzan, who directed Bag It, grew up snorkeling in the Carribean.  She recently attended the Waimea Ocean Film Festival, and in between screenings and winning the Audience Choice Award (woo hoo!), she was able to spend an hour snorkeling.

“I was shocked,” she said.  “The diversity and color of the coral and aquatic life were so diminished.  Comparatively, the reefs looked dead, or dying.”

“This will be the standard now,” she went on.  “Kids growing up snorkeling will think that this duller seascape is the norm.  It’s the same with plastic packaging.  When we go into schools and try to explain to kids that our plastic culture is very modern, that barely anyone used plastic until the 1960’s, we get a lot of questions.  They can’t imagine what it would have been like.”

It is time to imagine.

Environmentalists use the term “baseline” as a reference point for measuring ecosystem health.  Overfishing would be the most significant alteration to the oceans, according to

“Humans have had such a strong effect on the oceans for so long that, in many locations, it is difficult to even imagine how full of life the oceans used to be.” –  Randy Olson

Olson suggests asking these questions:

  • What did the oceans used to look like?
  • What are we putting into them?
  • Where did these fish we are eating come from?
  • Are my food preferences jeopardizing the health of the oceans?

About bagitmovie

Bag It is a documentary film following the world wide use of plastic bags, plastic's impact on the environment and human health.
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