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mcwhale
run, moby, run
by sigbjørn lund olsen
2.18.02
general


Whaling is coming back.

Japan and my own country, Norway, are currently aggressively pursuing lifting the international ban on whaling. Both nations are still whaling, the latter doesn’t even try to apply the thin disguise of it being ’scientific’ like Japan does. Should the ban be lifted, it would have a terrible impact on a population of animals that has been exploited for decades, and which is also notably slow to recover, due to the life cycle of whales.

Commercial whaling has simply never been sustainable in terms of how it affects whale populations and the ocean ecosystem as a whole.

Humanity has negatively affected the population of whales ever since we began commercially exploiting whales through hunting them. Industrialization has also affected whales in more subtle ways, where toxins have disrupted the ocean ecosystems, causing poisoning of food sources and cases of reproductive failure. Some scientists suspect that noise pollution is also disrupting the whales’ ability to communicate. Of all these problems, eliminating whaling is the easiest and cheapest way to preserve the whale population.

Heh.

I hope you have enjoyed my digest of the Greenpeace whaling website so far.

Now consider this - whales are magnificent creatures in size and splendour. They are mammals who give birth to and raise their own children. All the ingredients for giving the whales an almost godlike aura are present, and so is the ingredient that makes it possible for anti-whaling organizations to frame whaling as "blasphemy" against these magnificent creatures. But most importantly, whaling is not practised in the countries where the environmental organizations are strongest. Attacking the whaling industry does not affect the urbanized inhabitants that fill the coffers of Greenpeace and other anti-whaling organizations.

The Green Giant, Greenpeace, has over the years focused especially on banning whaling. In fact, Greenpeace has over the years thrown in enormous amounts of resources to stop whaling, and frankly, the amount of effort put in has absolutely no correlation to the environmental 'danger' whaling constitutes. It does, however, have a very obvious correlation to the amount of money Greenpeace can earn from such campaigns...

Imagine what would happen if suddenly there was no whaling. Imagine what would happen if suddenly there was no enemy for the anti-whaling organizations. Imagine what would happen, both politically, sociologically and ecologically.

Since 1986, the world has enjoyed the presence of a moratorium on commercial whaling, though it has admittedly at no point been one hundred percent effective. During that time, the number of whales grew again, but some changes did occur that reveals the flaws of all-out bans... The number of blue whales, the great flagship symbol of the anti-whaling organizations, continued to decrease. The number of minke whales skyrocketed. Why? Minke whales filled the role of the blue whale in the food chain, in a stunning victory for Darwinism against anti-whaling. The international ban is in fact killing the whale the anti-whaling organizations most visually showed they wanted to 'save'.

Sociologically, the effect of a general ban on whaling was quite devastating. Many small communities had no other leg to stand on, and as a result were destroyed. People became unemployed, with all the stress that causes on the employees themselves and on their relatives and friends.

Politically, however, it gets really cloak and dagger... If nobody caught whales, and followed the ban, the anti-whaling organizations would lose their biggest source of income. They are very simply dependent on the enemy being present to earn the money they need to run the organization (and more in some cases...).

Every ban on hunting an animal that is in fact not as much in danger as the ‘green crusaders’ would like to have it, has shown that when you take out part of the food chain, another part will make the ecological 'balance' (such an oxymoron, really) even less balanced than it was before the ban. The very real fact about fishing in the North Sea is that the largest fisherman of them all is Mr. Seal. And I'm not talking about American Commandos, I'm talking about the fluffy and adorable animal which Birgitte Bardoux no longer wears around her neck. The cod population is currently approaching a low, but the quotas on seal hunt are still almost purely symbolic. And the irony of it all is that with minor modifications, my rant on whaling could easily be turned into a rant on seal hunting, with exactly the same points and exactly the same conclusion.

Organizations love to focus on one matter, taking it out of context and isolating it. That way they think they can get away with not having paid attention during classes in elementary ecology. Hunting has been a part of humanity ever since our inception as a species. There is one all-out ban on hunting I believe just may work, and that would be an all-out ban on, well, hunting. Period. Unless you remove something from all parts of the ecosystem when hunting, you will create ecological imbalance. So the only way to ban humans from doing this would be to ban hunting on every part of the ecosystem... Applying a ban to one species alone will only drastically escalate the damage done to the system.

It is also ironic that Greenpeace, so capable of explaining which environmental problems impacts whale populations, are so incapable of finding absolutely any reason explaining why not hunting whales has any positive impact on those problems. I call it trying to fight the symptom, but not the disease.

I am left with one feeling – that there is no argument based on ecology to ban whaling, whatsoever. So the international ban is there for one reason only. And it's economical.


ABOUT SIGBJØRN LUND OLSEN

Sigbjørn still maintains that he is going to be somebody ... carefully neglecting the fact that all the ninety-year olds still singing into their combs in front of their mirrors, they too knew that they were going to be somebody. It is slowly dawning on him that his shot at being a star kid actor may very well have passed, so as a backup plan, he's currently attending university in Trondheim, Norway, studying film.

more about sigbjørn lund olsen

IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...

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topic: general
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musik non stop
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by sigbjørn lund olsen
topic: general
published: 11.23.01





COMMENTS

tracey kelley
2.18.02 @ 8:45a

Aside from the obvious food chain link, is there any reason to save one type of whale over another? Meaning, how many of the species are actually endangered?

sigbjørn olsen
2.19.02 @ 5:34a

Not sure if I understand you, Tracey, but here goes... I would argue that there is a reason to save every whale species - it preserves the ecosystem's balance (if you can define such a property to an ecosystem). When Blue whales (which is endangered) are becoming pressurized by stopping the outtake of Minke whales (which is very populous) due to our *previous* outtake of Blue whales, I think it only right to hunt Minke whales so as to preserve the ecological diversity. Did that make sense?

tracey kelley
2.19.02 @ 8:31a

Yes - that was the clarification I was hoping for.

So - should we lift all bans and let nature take its course of sustaining or eliminating a species?

adam kraemer
2.19.02 @ 10:18a

Imagine what would happen if suddenly there was no enemy for the anti-whaling organizations.

But you can make the same argument against, say, dentists. If everyone took care of their teeth and never got a cavity, the dentistry industry would suffer, too, but that doesn't stop them from trying to promote good oral hygiene.

richard paul
2.19.02 @ 1:39p

Excellent, interesting column. Whale is not all bad. I was in Tromso, Norway a few years back (the Cutty Sark Tall Ship Race had just concluded in the city and there was a festival at the waterfront going on). Returning to my ship (I was on a cruise – not a tall ship), I saw a kiosk selling “whale burgers”. I had to try. Whale is an odd taste, not like chicken or burger. Kind of “whaley”. One could grow to like it!

adam kraemer
2.19.02 @ 2:12p

I would imagine it's an odd combination of mammal and fish. I would imagine that, anyway, as I'm unlikely to ever be able to bring myself to eat an intelligent species.

sarah ficke
2.19.02 @ 2:40p

Minke whales filled the role of the blue whale in the food chain, in a stunning victory for Darwinism against anti-whaling.

So, in order to achieve their objective of saving the blue whale, Greenpeace would have to allow the hunting of minke whales, which is essentially fighting Darwinism as much as human greed. Interesting.

there is no argument based on ecology to ban whaling, whatsoever. So the international ban is there for one reason only. And it's economical.

Well, the other reason would be that people think whales, and other animals, are interesting and beautiful and should be around for our kids to see. Then again, my great-great-grandkids probably wouldn't miss snowy tigers any more than I miss the dodo bird.





adam kraemer
2.19.02 @ 2:44p

I sort of miss the dodo bird. Sometimes, when I lie in bed at night, I can feel a small sense of loss that I attribute entirely to never having seen a live dodo. Or maybe I'm just hungry.

sarah ficke
2.19.02 @ 2:52p

Maybe you are hungry for the dodo. Maybe your ancestor was the one who ate the last dodo bird, and you are suffering from some throw-back memory...
As a kind of continuation of my last post, I think that conservation can partially be attributed to humans' talent for nostalgia. And perhaps a fear that we'll lose our place on the food chain too, you never know.

adam kraemer
2.19.02 @ 3:22p

I think it's all about collective human guilt.

roger striffler
2.19.02 @ 4:52p

I think it's definitely a matter of guilt, I think it's a question of whether the guilt is appropriate.

I would have to say that mankind is the first species with the ability to swiftly and drastically alter major ecosystems. I beleive that we are able to do this more quickly than nature can bring things into balance. As a result we are single-handedly responsible for the distruction of other species, lives, and even eco-systems. We don't have to care about these things, so a lot of people don't.

Will we someday pay the price, ecologically? That remains to be seen. For now, it's a matter of respect. For the other inhabitants of the planet, and the planet itself.

matt morin
2.19.02 @ 5:05p

...there is no argument based on ecology to ban whaling, whatsoever.

Sure there is a reason. It's called ecological diversity. This planet functions because all the life forms currently here were allowed to adapt into creatures who could survive. And if we speed up the destruction of any of those species, we're not allowing them the opportunity to evolve. And down the road, we have no idea how that will affect the Earth. Hell, really, right NOW we have no idea how the destruction of a species would affect things.

A professor once gave this example: Everyone hates mosquitoes. What if we could eradicate them? That'd be great, right? Wrong. Dozens of species of birds that rely on mosquitoes for food would die. Or they'd switch to eating a different kind of bug - which would lower that bug population and cause even more species of birds to die. And then the lizards and rodents who feast on the bird eggs would die. And so on and so forth.

It's way over-simplification to say another animal would just take its place.

roger striffler
2.19.02 @ 5:23p

I also think that to say we should just end the ban is overly simplistic. The ban was put in place to try to correct a previous error (i.e., the reduction of the whale populations).
Claiming that it didn't work is fine, but simply ending the ban is quitting and going home without cleaning up your mess. We've changed the balance through our actions; We need to work to restore the whale populations to their previous levels before deciding we should have left them alone in the first place.


adam kraemer
2.19.02 @ 5:29p

I think the important point that we're all missing is that in the future, when a giant orb heads to the Earth and tries to communicate with the whales, we don't want to have to rely on the crew of the Enterprise to head back to 1984 in order to save mankind.

matt morin
2.19.02 @ 5:35p

Yeah. Bones is already dead. There won't be any crew left by the time that orb shows up.

mike julianelle
2.19.02 @ 5:50p

From whaling to Star Trek. Behold the genius that is Intrpeid Media.

jason siciliano
2.19.02 @ 6:45p

I read an essay about extinction (in Best American Essays - a fantastic series!) that noted that there have been five major periods in which large numbers of species have been wiped out. Our current age, the modern age, has already nuked five times more than the period in which the dinosaurs were killed.

It also noted that cats, house cats, not humans, are responsible for killing the largest number of species in recent history. (Birds, including the dodo, have by far lost the most according to this essay.) Though humans are responsible for spreading the feline population over the world.

Which, once again, helps proves my theory that cats are evil, dogs are great, and whales don't make good burgers.

jack bradley
2.19.02 @ 7:52p

Cats are actually the scouts/emissaries of the alien overlords that are on the way here to turn all of us humans into burgers.

Unless someone out there decides that they should regulate the "catch" on humans, and bans "manning."

Or should I say..."personning."

Wow. Whaling-Star Trek-Cats are Evil-Alien Invasion-Sexism. As Mike said..."Behold the genius that is Intrepid Media."

jack bradley
2.19.02 @ 7:53p

"Behold the Genius."

Taggability: 7/10

adam kraemer
2.20.02 @ 10:02a

Well the problem with humans attempting reason and logic over nature has been going on for thousands of years. We're just putting Descartes before the horse.

roger striffler
2.20.02 @ 2:08p

Ouch.

matt morin
2.20.02 @ 3:03p

Adam, you've been working on that line for weeks, haven't you?

adam kraemer
2.20.02 @ 3:07p

I wish. No, it popped into my head last night as I was making dinner.

adam kraemer
2.20.02 @ 3:07p

In truth, if I really liked it, I would have saved it for my own column.

jack bradley
2.20.02 @ 6:43p

Descartes before the horse" popped into your head while you were making dinner?

I really don't want to know what you were having...


sigbjørn olsen
2.24.02 @ 2:32a

So - should we lift all bans and let nature take its course of sustaining or eliminating a species?

No, we should lift all *unecessary* bans. Some whale species need total banning, blue whale for instance, of which there are only around 5000 (this is a mid-nineties estimate, might be a bit inaccurate since things swimming beneath the waves are somewhat hard to count, but is probably fairly accurate, even today).

However, most species of whales could easily cope with being hunted on.

Putting an artificial ban on all wales is like putting a moratorium on all animals with four legs because the rhino's are becoming extinct.

sigbjørn olsen
2.24.02 @ 2:34a

richard paul, 1997? I was in Trondheim at the time, they had whaleburgers there as well :-P

Say, the guy selling the burgers wouldn't be a fat guy wearing a seal-skin vest?

sigbjørn olsen
2.24.02 @ 2:35a

I would imagine it's an odd combination of mammal and fish. I would imagine that, anyway, as I'm unlikely to ever be able to bring myself to eat an intelligent species.

Are you vegetarian then?

sigbjørn olsen
2.24.02 @ 2:40a

So, in order to achieve their objective of saving the blue whale, Greenpeace would have to allow the hunting of minke whales, which is essentially fighting Darwinism as much as human greed. Interesting.

Humanity breaks the rules of Darwinism, I'd say :-)

So the international ban is there for one reason only. And it's economical.

Well, the other reason would be that people think whales, and other animals, are interesting and beautiful and should be around for our kids to see.

If that is the case then it is a sadly mistaken view anti-whaling organizations have of hunter professions. The goal is to take out a number of animals while leaving the populations large and sustainable. This hasn't always been the case (dodo bird, snow tigers, blue whales), but again those are specific species, not a family.

sigbjørn olsen
2.24.02 @ 2:46a

...there is no argument based on ecology to ban whaling, whatsoever.

Sure there is a reason. It's called ecological diversity.

1) Hunting does not equal eradicating (though it has meant so in the past sometimes). We live in a modern global society, and we should be smart enough to set and know and follow the constraints on hunting so that the species survives. Not hunting down the entire species is like saving money - instead of spending it all on a posh jaguar, you buy a volvo and put the rest in the bank, where it grows, so in the future you can get more money.

2) The international moratorium on whaling is in fact killing the blue whale, since minke whales are eating from the same plate and they have been left extremely numerous comparatively, since the blue whales were drastically overwhaled.

sigbjørn olsen
2.24.02 @ 2:51a


I also think that to say we should just end the ban is overly simplistic. The ban was put in place to try to correct a previous error (i.e., the reduction of the whale populations).
Claiming that it didn't work is fine, but simply ending the ban is quitting and going home without cleaning up your mess. We've changed the balance through our actions; We need to work to restore the whale populations to their previous levels before deciding we should have left them alone in the first place.


Amen. Not sure if that got across in the article, but this is the view which I have. Though I think deciding we should have left them alone in the first place should the whale populations rise be quite difficult, as the whales are again part of a much larger ecosystem. If we want to gather 'krill' (not sure what that is in English) then having large populations of whales will be a problem. (Just like seals and cod in the Barents sea)

sigbjørn olsen
2.24.02 @ 2:55a

Jason: Cats are evil, and if you like being dominated by evil (like me) then they're clearly also the best pets. And you should try whale burgers - they are quite nice, a bit different from other forms of meat, but quite nice.

Adam: True, but we have more destructive capability now.

Joe: Fix the closing I tag please, my fault, everything went italic now :-/

*phew* 9th reply *lol*

sigbjørn olsen
2.24.02 @ 2:57a

Hmm, Joe, the w thingie was just someone changing my character encoding to cyrrilic, the bastards...

Anyway, 10th consecutive reply. Do I get a cookie?

adam kraemer
2.24.02 @ 4:44a

I haven't even read his many posts, but apparently Sigbjorn has officially gone out of his mind.

Welcome to the club.

joe procopio
2.24.02 @ 12:04p

It's about time. Edit option is coming.

sigbjørn olsen
2.27.02 @ 7:00p

And it's here :-)

(Do I get to shamelessly copy Jeff's bio now?)



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