Whaling and sustainability


in Economics, Politics, Rants, The environment

I have been reading Andrew Darby’s Harpoon: Into the Heart of Whaling and, while it tells an interesting story in and of itself, it also seems to say a lot about the relationship between humanity and the natural world. The story of whaling is a common one: people developed technology that allowed them to make big short-term gains at the expense of long-term sustainability. Even while it was happening, there were those who pointed out how senseless it was to do things like kill the most successful breeding females and leave their calves to die. And yet, the impetus for short-term gain overwhelmed the case for conservation, and whale populations around the world were brutally cut back.

Now, despite the lack of need for whale meat, and everything we know about the rarity and intelligence of the creatures, states led by Japan continue to allow their special interests to operate at the expense of humanity and the natural world at large, continuing commercial whaling under the guise of scientific research.

All this seems to relate to a common theme: human beings are smart in an abstract sense, but frequently behave in ways that are profoundly dumb and unethical. While, in a certain sense, climate change is a narrow technical problem subject to technical solutions, it is arguable that in order to build up the energy and motivation necessary to make those changes, humanity needs its mindset to evolve. With a few local exceptions, like urban air quality rules, we are burning through the biosphere like there’s no tomorrow. As soon as an environmental problem gets large enough, the will to deal with it becomes terribly weak. Then, only the most technical and minimal problems – those that can be addressed with little or no real societal change – can actually be addressed. Arguably, ozone depleting substances and persistent organic pollutants are evidence of this hypothesis.

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. April 19, 2014 at 11:53 am

IN ONE of Tokyo’s oldest whale restaurants, Kujiraya, the whiff of resentment lingers along with the cloying smell of fried whale meat as customers digest unwelcome news from The Hague. On April 1st the International Court of Justice legally skewered Japan’s “scientific” whale hunts to the Antarctic Ocean. The hunt is partly paid for by the sale of meat to high-end restaurants such as this one, which is why opponents brand it as illegal commercial whaling in disguise.

To the surprise of Japan’s small band of whale-meat lovers, the court agreed. Twelve of its 16 judges sided with Australia, which brought the case, saying that Japan had no scientific reason to cull about 1,000 Antarctic whales each year. The court noted that the research had produced just two peer-edited papers in a decade, in effect tugging away the figleaf used to keep Japan’s whaling programme alive since the international moratorium in 1986 which ended commercial hunts.

. October 26, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Japan pleads with whaling watchdog to allow ‘cultural’ hunts

Countries including US, Europe, Australia vehemently oppose small hunts by coastal communities but Japan says are unjustly barred from a traditional food source

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