How do we get out of this mess?
Igenerally try to maintain a happy, positive outlook on life, but three, seemingly unrelated events unsettled my equilibrium this week leaving me feeling more than a little despondent about our planet’s future. The first was the killing of an extremely rare blue whale – a seriously endangered species – by an Icelandic whaling crew. The International Whaling Commission outlawed the killing of blue whales in the 1960s. This was reportedly the first blue whale harpooned in half a century.
Iceland, you will remember, is one of only three nations still involved with commercial whaling – along with Norway and Japan. Iceland’s whaling legislation permits the killing of fin whales (also an endangered species – bizarre, I know).
Responding to mounting global outrage, Iceland’s whaling industry has offered a few lame reasons/excuses about why the blue was killed: it was an accident; they thought it was a fin whale; it was difficult to identify; it was a ‘hybrid’ fin/blue (as if that somehow mitigates the act).
In one of oddest bits of irony surrounding the fiasco, Iceland actively promotes its whale tourism industry. No, I don’t understand it either.
The second disquieting event was a just-released biannual report from the United Nations, providing a detailed ‘snapshot’ of the world’s fishing and aquaculture industries. The full document is about 170 pages – I’ve provided a précis on page 42. It’s not happy reading – and peering through the gloom, the prognosis doesn’t look good.
The third event was the toppling of a Captain Cook monument in the Coromandel. After a deluge of biblical proportions, combined with a king tide, the Mercury Bay monument sighed its last and capitulated, surrendering to severe erosion.
Cook’s ship Endeavour anchored in Mercury Bay in 1769. It appears the monument – erected in 1969 to celebrate the bicentenary of the visit – will be recovered and mounted in a safer place, one less exposed to Nature’s tantrums. But I’m more concerned about the sub-text here.
Did the monument’s architects – around 50 years ago – consider its original placement to be ‘risky’? I’m guessing not. But like everyone else living around the planet’s coastal areas, the haunting spectre of global warming/rising sea level has suddenly become all too real.
Individually, the deceased whale, the fisheries and the Cook monument are small, random incidents on the global stage – but collectively I fear they are warning markers carrying a sinister message.
Lawrence Schäffler Editor