Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Help Fight Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing

Posting a response I received from Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton's office about the fight against IUU Fishing.

Join the fight to save our delicate fisheries, marine resources, and the communities that depend upon them by clicking here:

Put Pirates Out of Business

Recently you requested personal assistance from our on-line support
center. Below is a summary of your request and our response.

Thank you for contacting the State Department.

Take action on IUU issues

Discussion Thread
Response (Support Agent) - 03/31/2009 01:55 PM
Thank you for your message to Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton regarding illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and the damage it does to both the sustainability of the world’s marine resources and the communities that depend on them. We share your concern.

The United States has led efforts in the last decade to fight IUU fishing; we supported development in 2001 of an International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate IUU Fishing through the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and, pursuant to this, adopted our own National Plan of Action five years ago. We have also championed the establishment of schemes within regional fisheries management organizations to identify and penalize IUU vessels, limit port and market access by nations that fail to curb IUU fishing, and provide strong monitoring, control, and surveillance of all fisheries.

The United States strongly supports initiatives now underway to develop a global record of fishing vessels - including transport and support vessels - that includes information on beneficial ownership, to negotiate a strong binding agreement on port State measures that will be widely ratified, and to strengthen and harmonize schemes to track trade in high-value fish like tuna.

The Department of State recently joined our colleagues in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard in supporting proposed legislation that will strengthen U.S. abilities to penalize those who violate both U.S. fisheries laws, as well as conservation and management measures adopted by regional fisheries management organizations. We take seriously our commitment to comply with the measures we have agreed to, and we welcome new tools to act against those that do not.

The United States cannot do this alone. We are also working with other coastal countries to improve capacity to manage their own fisheries and to combat illegal fishing by other nations in their waters. Part of this means building awareness and will within these countries to devote resources to these issues, but we are also facilitating access to information, equipment, and expertise from U.S. government agencies and from our partners in other countries and non-governmental organizations.

Thank you for contacting the U.S. Department of State.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

how to sail on H-1 freeway


Q: How do you sail a ship from Ko'Olina deep water harbor to Honolulu Yacht Club on the H-1 Freeway?

A: Very Carefully, with very large machinery, and with great care...



OK OK OK , just kidding... it was too wet and too windy to capture any footage or images on the 4-hour sail home from Ko'Olina... and the boatyard operations were so interesting I couldn't resist!


Anyways, Country Boy is back in the water after much-needed repairs...we sailed back in time to join the fleet coming in from the Friday Night Beer Races...





The winds on this day are 20-25 knots, with gusts up to 34 knots recorded... we are sailing with a limited crew, and the seas are choppy; the boat bucks and pitches through the whitecaps as our Skipper slices deftly though the waves.

We round Campbell Industrial park, and a big US Military plane thunders overhead - a Submarine-Catcher, according to our First Mate. The big four-engined turbo prop will continue its maneuvers for the next 4 hours, repeating the same loop which takes it directly over and over and over and over us again and again for this leg of our journey: landing gear down on final approach to runway, black exhaust fumes trailing, extended tail radar gear ominously watching us. 3 out of 5 of us hold foreign passports, and we joke that they are keeping tabs on us.

There is a massive yellow buoy that looks more like a miniature oil rig off the coast here, that most Oahu residents are unaware of. 90% of Hawaii's energy needs depend upon imported petroleum. A massive tanker is tethered to the buoy, a web of gossamer ropes of each side is anchored to a small armada of tugboats whose job is to keep the tanker steady in the choppy seas so that the pipe does not break and cause an oil spill.

Being out in the ocean on a day like today, with the gusty wind and seas breaking over our bow and marinating us in briny seawater, only highlights how precarious the energy situation in Hawaii is.

Possible solutions? Click here:

"The State's combination of abundant renewable resources, high fossil fuel prices, limited geographic area and recognized expertise in hydrogen research and development makes Hawaii an ideal leader for hydrogen production. "
-from the book "Winning the Oil Endgame", Rocky Mountain Institute-

Download the two reports entitled "Energy for Tomorrow" for more information.

We pass Pearl Harbor approximately 3 nautical miles offshore, and the massive Evil White Dot glares at us from its perch in the middle of the harbor. I've heard that the equipment it houses can detect a mosquito farting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I didn't know mosquitoes could make it that far out into the ocean; and I didn't know mosquitoes farted, for that matter... That being said, if the equipment housed in that thing really is that powerful, how come it couldn't help keep that silly battleship off the reef outside of Pearl Harbor one month back??

Anyways...on with our sail...the Travel Poet graces us with a beautiful acapella song over the roar of wind and waves, and a flock of seabirds appear, frolicking and wheeling playfully on the wind swirling just above the waves. We are all wet by now; no amount of skill can keep the boat dry in seas like this. First Mate Hugo tells us that on the open ocean, they would be riding over 20-foot swells that roll like the hills of New Zealand, graceful and flowing; not like the washing machine-like conditions that often arise in the seas around the islands.

A pair of whales' spouts, followed by a pair of whales' tails arch out of the water 500 feet or so ahead of us, straight off our bow, and we watch in awe as they continue their journey towards deeper, colder water as their calving season draws closer to its end for this year.

I lick my lips and taste sea salt as I prepare to bite into a poppy seed muffin that is being passed around the crew. The wind is whipping our hair, the boat crashes loudly through the waves breaking around us, and we are all calmly munching on a snack as nature pounds us all around. There is a rythm to sailing that sets in once the initial flight-or-fight response kicks in soon after you clear the harbor and hit sloppy seas, an adrenal high that gradually fades ince you step off the boat and back onto bring, stable, quiet [relatively speaking] dry land.

The sun, which has been muted by the pastel blue ocean and grey clouds all day, bursts through on its final sprint towards the other half of the world, casting a sunset-orange spotlight on all the buildings of downtown Honolulu and Waikiki as we near our destination and nonchalantly join the tail end of the fleet that is out racing this evening. You can almost hear the Honolulu jazz music wafting from the romantically lit buildings gleaming back at us...

We sail the boat all the way into its slip [the engine is still broken], and head back to the clubhouse with satisfied grins on all of our faces to enjoy a cold beer with each other.

Country Boy is an old friend to many sailors in and around Honolulu Yacht Club, has sailed in Hawaii's waters for the last 30 years... and she's baaaaaaaaaaack......

# # #

Thursday, March 26, 2009

break on through...


Today I went to the other side. Literally. Physically. Metaphysically. Let me explain:

A couple months ago while visiting Olomana Gardens in the foothills of Waimanalo, I followed along with an impromptu group hike and found out about a hidden trail that follows the water flumes which wind through the mountains and provide all the irrigation water for the agriculture in the area. We came across a tunnel about 4" high that disappeared into an almost sheer face of mountainside and was told that if we were to go through it, we would come out to the Lost World on the other side...


Today I went back. Today I went th
rough the black, and came out on the other side.

We peer into the entrance and can only see blackness 30-40 feet in. The cool water rushing around our ankles gurgles impassively, and my stomach twitches as my mind starts to paint macabre pictures of creatures that lurk in deep, dark places, and of pale gaping faces floating in the night.


Adrenaline kicks in and I can feel the glint in my eye brightening. The Traveling Poet's gaze meets mine, and our glinting eyes smile in agreement that we are actually going to go in.

The 9-LED flashlight, a gift I received only the day before, can only light the way 20 feet ahead before being swallowed by the blackness. It is a strange feeling, knowing that there are tons and tons of dirt, rock, trees, and who knows what else pressing in all around you. It is perhaps an even stranger thing to knowingly descend into these dark places of the earth; once the mind starts chewing on the your fears, the chatter is difficult to stop:
  • "What if the light goes out?"
  • "What lives in here?"
  • "Remember that creature in Star Wars that dragged Luke under the muck in the garbage compacter? I wonder if that thing lives here..."
  • "Now I know how Gollum must have felt; no wonder he went insane...."
  • "Don't drop the flashlight."
  • "What lies ahead?"
  • "What was that?!?"
  • "I don't want to see any faces. Or dead bodies. I don't do dead bodies. Or floating apparitions. No floating apparitions please."
  • "What if this doesn't come out on the other side?"
  • "What was that that just brushed my ankle?!"
  • "Don't drop the flashlight!!"
And on and on and on and on.....

On and on we press, losing all sense of time and space, save for what the flashlight can show us for the next twenty feet, the next 30 seconds. The tunnel walls are cold and roughly hewn, and beads of water glisten on the walls like pearls in the gray sky.

The water seems to simply appear out of thin air. The ceiling bears down upon us, seeming to get lower and lower with each step...then it toys with me, opening up every now and then enough to let me stand up straight.

Thankfully, The Traveling Poet starts singing. It is haunting and surreal and macabre and beautiful and strangely comforting all at the same time...


We pause for a moment and turn off the light.
The cool water rushes around my ankles, like busy commuters rushing and gurgling to make their trains. The walls press in around me, and my unseeing eyes blink naievely, desperately groping for light.

There is no difference between keeping my eyes open or closed. Panic rises in my stomach, and I smile broadly to laugh silently and keep the fear at bay.

The screen of my mind and the screen of my retina are one and the same, both inky blank canvases awaiting inspiration and direction...

We press on, the rythym of our sloshing footsteps keeping pace with my quickening heartbeat. I force my mind to stay on the light at the end of the tunnel, though it does not come. On and on into the next 20 feet of darkness we slosh, the water no longer gurgling but relentlessly going the other way, passing silent judgment on the decision to walk against the flow.

My life has become a cliche, and I am loving every minute of it: fear mixed with wonder mixed with anticipation shaken in mountain spring water and pressed by a hundred million tons of sheer-faced mountain

It is no longer my imagination, the ceiling is getting gradually lower and lower now. Up ahead at the edge of the flashlight, I can make out a different shape, and I cringe....it looks like the roof has caved in, and I don't want to think about the implications of that.

As we get closer, the tunnel turns almost 90 degrees to the left, and what I thought was a cave-in is actually an older tunnel that has since been sealed. The water seems to have quickened its pace and is much louder here, and the cave ceiling keep getting lower.

Now, we are duck-walking, arse-deep in the water, and I am wondering if we will keep going like this until we shrink down and down and down into the size of m&m candies, like Alice in Wonderland, on our way to smoke hookahs with giant existentially philosophic caterpillars...

Up ahead in the distance, I see a simmering light...

It's not the Hotel California, it's the Exit to the Tunnel...and I can breathe deeply again. My thighs are aching from duck-walking the last 100 feet, but it doesn't matter now, I can see the end.

The Travel Poet emerges first, fourty feet ahead of me, and when I finally emerge blinking in the sunlight, a whole new world ... the Lost World ... comes into focus...

We are Sam Neil and Laura Dern, we are the only two humans left on the planet, we are the first two human beings on the planet...we are
Adam & Eve. The other side is lush, vibrant green, a living, breathing soundscape of nature...


With newly refreshed eyes and ears, each sight, sound, smell, touch is heightened, and we explore this wilderness we have discovered with childlike wonder, taking our shoes off and squishing through the mud, running up the valley walls and whooping with joy.

As the nature-induced ecstasy fades, we bask in the afterglow and settle back down next to the Exit, out portal back into the world we just escaped. Not ready to return yet, we hunker into our packs and much on organic energy bars and vegan apple cakes given to us that morning by our genius rockclimbing/smoothie-making friend [Badass Harvard Laureate]...and the Traveling Poet strums Martin [her guitar], and bursts into song again...

She is taken by the moment, channeling words and chords and melodies that speak to the moment we are sharing... I sit at her feet and am 6 years old again, close my eyes and am lifted with her voice, swirling with the notes up through the trees... she tells me later that when this happens, it is as if her soul is speaking to her through her own music. I am witnessing a faerie singing her heartsong in the wilderness with my own eyes...


# # #

...Today, I sat under a mountain, and in the complete absence of light, became a thought.

A bodiless, floating thought. As if the tunnel had collapsed, and my consciousness was ascending through the layers of rock and dirt through the mountain to gain a better view...and in that moment, I experienced peace.

Peace, knowing that if I had indeed died, that I had died while adventuring, doing exactly what I want to be doing - something I love... and absolutely living in the moment.

Peace, knowing that few humans had ever trod into the heart of this mountain...and fewer still had taken the time to stop, turn off their flashlights, and savor the experience.

Peace, melting into the walls of the tunnel, becoming one with the 'aina.

Peace, knowing that the world is what you think it is.

Peace, in communion with nature.

Peace, reconnecting with the source.


# # #

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

barber shop chair wars!

Defending Champ: Matthew Lynch, World Famous Adventurer and Travel Writer
Lucie Voelcker, Germany's Travelling Poet
Score: Champ - 2, Challenger - 0

Round 1

Challenger gets off to a [very] slow start...

Round 2

In which the Champ demonstrates that he has spent way too much time honing this skill...

The Equipment: vintage cast iron / red leather barber shop chairs circa 1940s...reclaimed from barber shop on Maunakea Streeet in Chinatown Honolulu...

....I'm gonna miss these chairs!!!

# # #

Monday, March 23, 2009

motorcycle diary


Every Monday should start with a ride through Waimanalo and around Makapuu Point and home to Diamond Head.... even though this morning started in Traffic Court:

Me: " No Your Honor, I did not have insurance on my bike, Yes Your Honor, I have insurance now but only for 3 months because I'm skipping the country so please just sentence me to the gallows now...."

His Honor: "OK, send me a postcard, this job blows....wish I was going around the world!!"


The wind is in my hair, the salty sea spray on my face, the thwop of wind and bike in my ears....*bliss*.... as a grin creeps across my face, I realize that the grimace I see on the faces of other motorcyclists is actually a smile, cleverly designed to keep the mouth closed, and flying bugkill out.

I pass through 'Nalo town and fill up my $3 tank at the gas station while a busload of tourists wanders around the parking lot, clutching their McDonald's coffees and looking for an authentic local tourist experience in the parking lot of a strip mall in Waimanalo. It is surreal.

The road stretches out long and straight along the beach as I clear the town and head towards Sea Life Park. The wind is blustery, the ocean is grumpy and the salty gusts blow the bike all over the road.

The fun begins at Makapuu Point, where the road starts to twist and wind its way around the coast.... I round the lookout point and stop for some pics, then hit the blacktop again towards Sandy Beach, where the road gets really fun:


On a clear day, you can see clear across the channel to the shadows of Molokai and Haleakala looming even larger on the horizon behind, but today the horizon is a haze of whitecaps and seamist.

I crest the hill near Haunama Bay, and the swamplands of Hawaii Kai stretch out before me, now a concrete suburbia crowded around the man-made marina and back into the valleys and ridges of this ahupua'a. Give me the wild, windswept landscapes of the coastal road anytime over a return to civilization and homogenized Costco parking lots.

The rest of the ride home is an asphalt tunnel surrounded by rows of stucco houses and standing seam rooftops hiding behind rock walls with ornate faux hawaiiana gates, Hawaii's own concrete wetlands.

As I pull into the driveway, my welcoming committee scratches at the door to go pee... and then claim his rightful throne.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

letter to The Victorian

Names have been changed in the following excerpt to protect the innocent:

...did u hear the one about the harvard grad, buddhist monk, the atheist, and the 3 born-again christians? me neither, but they have been staying with friends of mine over the last week... some people should just have cameras following them around so that they can broadcast their entire quirky lives for the world to see...

....perhaps one day soon, my life will also be interesting enough to warrant a podcast / vodcast... for now, i am still in the bittersweet limbo of leaving a place i so dearly love and venturing off into the metaphorical wilderness of this wide world....

which seems to get smaller every single day. you'd be amazed at the people i've met in the last few weeks that have connections and resources they are willing to share in the parts of the world i am interested in:

potential opportunities to teach at a university in thailand, work on an orphanage in bhutan, live on a farm in rural japan, participate in human rights' movements at the UN in geneva, stay with crazy architect's brothers in sydney, party on with friends i've not seen for 17 years in jakarta . . . !

can u tell that i am no longer in hawaii? the departure date draws closer each day, and it is so tempting to shirk the few remaining responsibilities i have: selling my house [let the bank eat cake!], completing an architectural model for a friend's development, and saying farewell to friends and colleagues who have supported me here through the years i was building my business....

...i am planning to escape into the [literal] wilderness of Maui for a week before I leave and run around naked in the valleys to connect with the 'aina one last time before i leave the beauty of this place... hopefully, i don't get arrested! =p

your words still ring in my head: "you must do this. for all of us. for all of us who have hoped and lost, built and lost, loved and lost." ...it kinda makes me feel like i am on a mission to save humanity, or at least our sanity.

which is good, because i have no idea how i am going to fund all of this.... which is the point, i guess.

it's an experiment on my life, and the thesis is: how much more fulfilling can my life be when i focus on adventure and service, instead of money?

departure draws nigh, doubts run high


My departure date draws nearer each day, and I find myself constantly amazed at the doors that are opening to me - sometimes it feels as though the universe is conspiring to fulfill my dreams...

I am meeting writers, filmmakers, activists, volunteers, philanthropists, visionaries ...the world gets smaller each day...and, on other days, the world seems vast and inaccessible...

...these are the days when my electricity gets shut off and I have to come up with $400 that I don't have to pay the entire bill and turn it back on; the days where I speak with the buyer of my house and can hear the doubt in his voice as we drag this transaction further and further along in this limbo we "in the biz" call
"escrow"....3 months now, and the guy is having difficulty getting financing from the bank, even though he has perfect credit and is putting 50% down, yes five-zero....HALF OF THE PURCHASE PRICE...towards the purchase of this home....

These are the days when the chatter starts in my mind:
  • "WTF am I doing??"
  • "How the hell am I going to pay for this??"
  • "Who do I think I am anyways, who am I kidding?!?"
On these days, this blog seems like a bad mistake, an out-house of misplaced dreams and hopes, a mish-mash of unconnected ideas and threads that make sense to no-one but me....and maybe the 4 people or so who read this [thanks Mom]. The whole idea seems absurd, how the hell can you travel around the world without any money??

Is TheGreenBackpack a travel log? a journal? a spiritual diary? a "green" resource? Are these personal rants relevant? Does anyone even care? Am I writing for an audience [that doesn't even exist yet], or am I writing for me?

One of my best friends left this for me the other day, with the handwritten note
"for your blog" scrawled across it:
"Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations."
- Earl Nightengale-

Why did he leave this for me? What about it grabbed him that made him think of me? I'm thinking it's something along the lines of "To Think Is To Create", but there is something else about it that is toying with me, tugging at my mind like that shadow that disappears when you turn your head...

Especially after having spent much of the week with a guy who has decided to devote his life to the fight against climate change, funding trips out of his own pocket to China and India and all over the world to educate people. Passionate, angry, and driven, a reformed Financial Planner with a top 10 firm and later a Professor of Statistics [in former lives] ....and now, he is a self-proclaimed Eco-Soldier.

Tears well in his eyes when he comes to certain parts of his Al-Gore-Inconvenient-Truth-inspired presentation that he shares with me, and the conversation breaks off in moments of despair as he pauses to gather himself when the data gets too heavy.

I can't remember the last time I was that passionate about something.

Comments like
"If we're still here" and "If it's not too late" pepper our dialogue, and he speaks with such fervor that I find my own temperature and concern rising.

Why am I concerned with things like art, and photography, and literature... when the glaciers are slipping off of Greenland into the sea? Why am I frolicking in the mountains and valleys of Oahu while humanity is poised to destroy itself, and Honolulu may very well be under 10 feet of water within a few years?

Is global warming a product of our mass consciousness' attitudes and expectations? And if so, then what does that say about the race of humanity....and our chances?

Am I really about to set off to travel the world while the impending doom of our species and planet lurks around the next decade?

Will I embark on a journey of trivial discovery, or can I really use my Ninja skills to help save humanity?

My life has turned into a surreal dream of late, each conversation I have is from two perspectives: talking me, who is engaging in said conversation with subject, and observer me, who watches the whole thing with a bemused smirk and the detached air of someone who is watching a really bad soap opera.

Of course I met this person now, just before I am about to depart. Of course, they have a contact in [insert exotic future destination here] that they would love to introduce me to. Of course, of course, of course, it's all synchronicity, isn't it?

Especially when you risk it all in search of your dreams....who am I kidding, I've got nothing left TO risk ...one of the perks of "losing it all". And, look what I've gained access to:


...if we can keep it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009



Ummmm, so yeah. *Ouch.*

Access = Denied. Sigh.

I quote:

Sorry Matthew,

Your video application for Island Caretaker has been rejected.

Your application was rejected your video exceeded the maximum length of 60 seconds. [You Dummy.] (1 min 11 seconds).

Unfortunately applications have closed, but you can still be involved. Visit islandreefjob.com from March 2 to see the short-listed candidates and vote for your favourite.

Kind Regards [You Idiot],
The Tourism Queensland Team

So in all honesty, this email came to me within 48 hours of submitting the video...2 hours before the closing deadline.....after 2 months of "yeah I'm gonna go for this"....and I have only brought myself to write about it just now....

To quote another friend from the blogosphere who has inspired me:
"I procrastinate. More on this later."
-she-who-shall-remain-anonymous [you know who you are!]-
After putting my stomach back in its place and picking my bottom lip up off the ground and staring blankly at the wall for, oh, six hours or so [I jest...tho not really]...I pluck up the, ahem ?courage?, to watch the Short-Listed applicants that have made it for the wild-card voting...

Here's my shortlist of personal favorites:

because I love Bollywood accents...
....gotta love Japanese Anime props.....did i mention I *heart* accents??
Austin Powers soundtrack + kungfu movie dub chinglish = WINNER.

...coz how fun would it be to watch a pale, beer-drinking, cigarette-smokin' Irishman livin' it up on the white sandy beaches of Queensland?!?
Once upon a time, we had a roomate who lived on our couch. He didn't move from the couch very much. At all. He became known as "Man-on-Couch"....his nickname when he was around became "Manon"....so my vote is Manon for Island Caretaker.
....hey, her video was over 1 minute too, how come she got on the short-list....oh yeah, she's HOT....shoulda busted out my bikini....
this guy would rock!! seriously....vote for Change, vote for Felippe...not your average video application; pleasantly quirky!
holy cow, this is talent...i want this guy's job....he really has been doing this stuff his whole life....

...which plants a seed in my newly fertilized creative mind....I had so much fun doing this....I am allergic to "jobs which entail working for others" anyways....so why not make up my own "job doing what I want to do when I want to do it" ...

...traveling and writing and blogging and making crazy videos and living and exploring and learning and meeting new people and having new adventures ....this blog was created to supplement my application for Queensland Tourism's brilliant "Greatest Job In The World" publicity stunt.....though that job it is not meant to be for me......

Which doesn't need to stop me from writing about my travels and

...I've always dreamt about being a freelance travel writer, sipping a latte in the kewlest cafes around the world as I tap out my latest story for Travel & Leisure or Esquire or Playboy...

....so here goes!

Prepare to be enthralled, amused, dumbfounded even by the shenanigans that shall ensue...[wow, spellcheck picked up "shenanigans"?!?]...flabbergasted, fixated, and frustrated....disgusted, demented, and debaucherous....ok maybe I am getting a little carried away....

Prepare to read about my upcoming journey and misadventures that will unwind along the way... and just come along to enjoy the ride...wherever it takes us....

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Later....I write to Supermom and tell her the news of my decision to create my very own Bestest Job In The World ....she promptly responds with an introduction to a family friend, who has been doing this stuff, quite successfully, for years.

And so the hunt is on for a cheap airfare that will get me back to Melbourne in time to grab a cup of coffee with her and pick her brains about what it takes to become a successful freelance travel adventure writer....before she heads up North for her next adventure on April 22nd!!

I am
...no longer

Matthew Lynch.
Freelance Travel Correspondent.
Livin' Life.


Coming Soon to a blog near you:

Stay tuned.