Add a disregard for the extinction of a marine mammal species to the Bush-Cheney list of atrocities.
Whale of a job, Brownie
The administration of President Richard Cheney -- whoops, I keep saying that -- I mean of President George W. Bush, has opposed the findings of its own scientists again, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
This time, those National Defenders of Big Money Interests are blocking an international accord to put speed limits on freighters in the North Atlantic in an attempt to prevent collisions with North Atlantic right whales, one of the world's most endangered marine mammals, which calve in those waters. It's estimated that the numbers of this particular whale are down to around 400, and killing just one pregnant female could well affect the future of the species.
Now, I've always had a particular affinity for whales -- perhaps as only a boy in landlocked Northern Wisconsin could have. I've read many, many books about whales (my favorite is Mind in the Waters , assembled by Joan McIntyre and published in 1974), and once actually got to "meet" some California grey whales off the coast of Baja California. I can still see that massive eye as a whale turned on its side and looked directly at me, clinging to a large inflated raft. It gave me chills then, and the memory still does. I felt that we were clearly communicating on some level. They are remarkable animals, and we can really only guess at the sophistication of their emotional and intellectual lives.
In the case at hand, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studied the situation and found that a speed limit of 10 knots in these calving grounds at specified times of the year would greatly reduce whale mortality. They recommended that the United States put such speed limits in place.
According to documents released by Henry Waxman, the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the White House Council of Economic Advisors and the office of Vice President Cheney contested this finding. In the words of the Council, "The relationship between [vessel] speed and [whale] injury ... may not be as strong of a relationship as is suggested in published papers." They believe that this speed limit would not be worth the cost to the shipping concerns.
Isn't it comforting to know that Cheney's cronies are so well versed in marine biology? The message is clear: Profit is more important than whales -- or lots of other things.
Some time ago, I wrote an article about a squashed turtle on the road up here in the northwoods, and pondered the supreme egotism of far too many of us, who tend to regard God's wondrous creation as nothing more than something to pillage and exploit for our own profit and amusement. I tend to think that turtles and whales are every bit as much a part of the Divine Plan as we are -- whatever Dick Cheney thinks!
I'm sure that we're all making mental (or actual) notes of atrocities that this administration has perpetrated on the nation and the world. Those guys are going to have a lot to answer for some day. And, compared to the colossal and tragic mess in Iraq or the weakening of constitutional rights here at home or standing by and saying tsk, tsk, as people die in Darfur and so many other things this government is responsible for -- compared to all that, the future of some whales -- or a squashed turtle -- may not seem like much. But it is important.
It is all important.
May 4, 2008
post a letter about this article »
read letters on this article (0)
John Smart lives in Park Falls, is a member of the Wisconsin Governor's Commission on the United Nations, the board of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools and a frequent guest on Wisconsin Public Radio's Ideas Network.