13 July, 2008

Call for Action

This is the fifth and final installment of Hominids, the unedited version of the award winning article by Patrick Schwarz, founder and managing director of Scuba Seraya Resort in Tulamben (Bali - Indonesia).

The edited version of Patrick's article will appear to start with in the October issue of the Ocean Geographic Journal by the Ocean Geographic Society which is well worth checking out regardless. Worth considering subscription at the Premier level to have exclusive invites to OG's expeditions and events!!!
Call for Action:
So where does one start? Continue talk (and write) until our grand children find themselves hanging on for dear life on a sea spanning the globe devoid of fish on man made flotation devices as depicted by Hollywood in the movie Waterworld? Stop eating seafood altogether? Boycott Japanese goods? Certainly, though nothing comes to mind that would truly make an impact. Thinking about it more than fleetingly is enough to throw one into deep depression since there is no solution in sight. The organizations at our disposal – governments, NGOs, corporations and their CSR, the UN – are all about talk and mostly ineffective, restrained by political and capitalistic constraints. The cost to run the UN, for instance, to tax payers is mind boggling. Its programs are by its nature too concerned with problems directly relating to humanity to make truly significant efforts with problems concerning the very base on which humanity depends, the environment. Technology may be of help to a point, but that would require a level of coordination I believe humans are not capable of.
I was in a gloomy mood while thinking about nature’s doom some weeks ago when I sorted through periodicals along with paperbacks guests often leave behind at the resort when they check out. I was just about to toss a copy of The New Yorker into the round file, when, perhaps out of curiosity of what occupies younger American minds these days, I started leafing through it. A guy with long grey hair and drooping moustache caught my attention. “Naw”, I thought. The face reminded me of a wrestler I heard of some years ago who became governor of Oregon (or was it Utah?). Words like “asshole project” that stood out in the underlying text seemed to confirm this. Then I noticed that the guy in the picture wore a black jacket with four golden stripes and an anchor on his sleeve, and he stood in front of a big, interesting looking black ship with gold colour trim bearing the name Farley Mowat. Beneath that, more text stood out: “whales don’t die when we are around”, “whales are more intelligent than people”; “earthworms are more ecologically important than people”; “humanity resembles a virus, on the verge of killing its host, the planet”; “the indifference that people exhibit towards mass extinction of plants and animals”. It was an in-depth article on Paul Watson, one of the original founders of Greenpeace who later distanced themselves from him for being too radical. He set up the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society 30 years ago. Now, here is a man with a mission - a wild crusade rather - to save the oceans! And although he does talk a lot, speaking in candid language and unmistakable terms, he mostly acts. The article describes – besides the man himself – his almost pirate style forays into the Antarctic and the Galapagos marine park; his capability to weasel in and out of courts, getting away most of the time with what normally would be perceived as sheer acts of terror. Whether he has rammed and sunk 10 whalers as he claims, or 2 with 2 damaged as his opponents do, is irrelevant. Here is a man who knows it is late and goes out and does something about it and shakes up the talkers among us.
Watson’s thinking is perhaps best explained by quoting the following excerpt out of the New Yorker article, written by Raffi Khatchadhourian:
Watson believes that humanity’s impulse to organize its surroundings – no matter how benign–seeming or elevating – is inherently destructive. This impulse, dating as far back as the first hoe, has been considered beneficial, because people have assumed that altering the shape of nature does not have consequences, or because they have measured those consequences only in relation to how they affect humanity, or because they believe that they have a God-given right to do what they wish with plants and animals. Religion is an invention of an arrogant species that has spent too much of its existence attempting to remove itself from the animal kingdom”. This is why he chooses to call people Hominids
In the seventies, Watson became interested in the writings of Henry Beston, an early twentieth century naturalist, who wrote “The animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained.” He found similar ideas in the work of Henry Fairfield Osborne and William T. Hornaday, and in the Deep Ecology movement associated with Arne Naess, a Norwegian philosopher and mountaineer who argued that “no species was of greater worth than another”. Ecosystems should be protected for their own sake, not simply to benefit mankind. A “deep” ecologist would react like 5 year old Chaya featured in the Ocean Geographic Magazine’s inaugural edition when asked “What is in the Ocean?” and she replied that “…we look after the beach by cleaning it up so the sea creatures don’t get sick”. A “shallow” ecologist – and I am afraid that’s most of us – would say that we look after the beach to preserve it for future generations. Naess believed the two views can coexist; to Watson they are contradictory. There are only two currents that matter: anthropocentrism and biocentrism. They function like a Marxist dialectic: the anthropocentric view is dominant and amoral, fixated on the interest of one species only. It is inherently unstable, violent and therefore destined to collapse. The bio centric view, however, being held by a vanguard, is egalitarian and just. As it represents every specie’s interests, it will triumph.I got his point. Humanity will not survive as it will be unable to restore or even sustain its natural habitat if we don’t involve and respect all creatures equally. Among human groupings and believers, Buddhists are perhaps the ones closest to understanding this, though even they are not perfect, and they represent a diminishing minority. The more I think about it, I am unable to come up with even the slightest, most remotely feasible suggestion that might lead to a solution without brooding in utterly radical thoughts. Perhaps being a radical, even at my age, wouldn’t be such a bad idea, considering the magnitude of what is at stake? I don’t know. All I am sure of at this moment is this: I will never want anybody call me a Hominid.

07 July, 2008

Unmistakably Japanese

This is the fourth installment of Hominids, the unedited version of the award winning article by Patrick Schwarz, founder and managing director of Scuba Seraya Resort in Tulamben (Bali - Indonesia).
The edited version of Patrick's article will appear to start with in the October issue of the Ocean Geographic Journal by the Ocean Geographic Society which is well worth checking out regardless. Worth considering subscription at the Premier level to have exclusive invites to OG's expeditions and events!!!
Unmistakably Japanese:
Besides the regular slaughter of a thousand whales in Antarctic waters each southern summer, every January the bay at Teiji in southern Japan turns read with a flood of warm blood. Thousands of Bottle Nose Dolphins are being herded into the bay and their escape route back into the open sea cut off. There, “humans” slit their throats and awkwardly stab their chests in an often failed attempt to penetrate their hearts. Many of the Dolphins take hours to bleed to death.
I am not a sentimentalist. Pictures of dying, bleeding whales and their calves being towed up the stern-end ramp of a purpose built floating slaughter house and thousands of Dolphins bleeding to death shock, grieve, hurt and anger me no more nor less than any other warm-blooded being with a muscle beating inside that’s supposed to be more than just a mere pump. Yet these are emotions; feeble, finicky human notions that pass as quickly as falling stars in the night, latest by the time the next shocking news flicker up on our Sharps, Sonys, Toshibas, Panasonics or what have you. Sciences have come a long way over the last 3 decades. Their ongoing revelations necessitate an equally ongoing process of learning and re-thinking by all of us. It is scientifically proven that Whales and Dolphins are not just fish. They are extremely sensitive, intelligent, warm blooded mammals that have been around longer than we have. Take the x-ray of the fin of a Whale or a Dolphin and look at the bone structure; it is all too obvious to see where we came from. Take the countless – true – stories where Dolphins saved human lives. Or the proven therapeutic, healing effects swimming with and touching Dolphins have on humans. Or even that of a Whale re-surfacing a drowning snorkeller. Simply declaring anti whalers and opponents to the Dolphin slaughter sentimentalists totally misses the point.
Because of such indifference to new knowledge of these life forms, Japanese culture (to me) is an oxymoron. Japanese culture is based on Buddhism, the world’s most tolerant religion or philosophy. It respects nature and has finely tuned the ways and traditions how we humans relate to it and interact with it. Especially Zen Buddhism, the form of religion that is based on meditation rather than the mere study of religious text, produced a normally open minded, tolerant society. The Japanese view the world in dichotomies. They call it shikitari, which roughly translated means coexistence.
It is therefore especially difficult to comprehend Japans arrogance and official justification of the slaughter of Whales under the disguise of “research” and Dolphins as “inherent traditional rights”. This behaviour can not be condemned enough in the strongest possible language:
Whales and Dolphins are of superior, kinder and gentler intelligence that eludes us humans. Their slaughter is tantamount to murder. When the Japanese government tolerates, defends and even endorses these brutal mass murders that take place in the Antarctic and the Bay of Teiji, they behave no differently than they did in China and South-East Asia during Imperialistic times. The rest of the world has every right to protest and do whatever it takes to stop such irresponsible, ignorant and inhuman behaviour not fit for the 21st century.
To be continued with the 5th and final part... stay tuned!