Are Endangered Whales People?

Although a great family movie, the Big Miracle misses the big picture.

Although for some it is very old news, I saw the film “Big Miracle”, based on a true life story about three endangered Pacific Grey Whales trapped in Alaska and the rescue efforts to save them. The unfortunate thing is that the real message was watered down and overlooked!

As is usual with scriptwriters, the story was “much to do with Hollywood” and altered from the real story. The movie, although moving and portraying the mindsets of the people and cultures affected by the “whales plight”, did touch but touch upon the realities of current Inupiat life and the lust for power by oil barons.

The only ones not really represented or understood were the ones the story was really all about – whales!

A couple of points: Greenpeace, although a voice for animals and the environment, does not always look for a balance or should I say, presents a workable ideal that we are stewards of this tiny blue planet. Make no doubt about it that Greenpeace as a group does care about the fate of this planet and all that live here. However there is too much time spent in verbal rhetoric making others wrong for their actions. A better example is the “Born Free Foundation”, where in India, farmers are taught to grow plants that elephants don’t eat. It is an educational point of view and also allows Man and elephant to coexist.

As far as oil goes, the first thing to acknowledge is that there is no real oil shortage and has never been. Alternative fuel has probably already been discovered but never allowed into the world market, simply because the individuals at the top are now into the game of controlling masses of people. Recent oil prices rise purely on speculation and the consumer is completely at the mercy of these corporations, simply because our governments sit idly by while their own pockets are fattened.

Where the Inupiats are concerned, however, there were interesting comments made about whales which I wish to elaborate on:

The Paradigm of Inupiats Being an Indigienous Race has Changed

This picture was taken of an Inuit family over fifty years ago

Completely understood is the fact that these indigenous people have in the past relied on the ocean for food, which includes whaling. However that paradigm has changed with the introduction of oil companies who pay all the Inupiats money to drill on their lands.

A comment made in the movie by an Inupiat, was that not always would the Inuits have the money that came in monthly for the oil on their land. What would they do after there was no more money?

O.K., let me think with this. You get a lot of money and spend it on televisions, cell phones, CD’s and modern conveniences. What about figuring out how to sustain yourself in a harsh environment? Certainly some research and work to be done there. But no research or organizations exits to solve this problem or even work out a solution. Instead, the Inupiats sit back and take their money, just like unemployment. The cries to save the culture, although great for PR, misses the real change and the honest truth.

Although the original story takes place in Point Barrow, Alaska, this is what you see in ALaska now and how Inupiat and Inuits live. Do you see any igloos?

As I said, money received from the oil corporations buys food, televisions, cell phones, clothing and heaters. But also bought are luxuries and lifestyles that no longer look like igloos. Diets have changed and the ritual of killing whales have slowly diminished to the point that the older generation fights to keep the ritual alive, while the culture is adapting to watching “American Idol” or listening to the latest rock group. And the youth eagerly accept this change! The realities of a harsh environment exist still, but no longer is the horizon dotted with igloos, but homes with satellite dishes and modern heating, only to name a few modern conveniences.

So as Aretha Franklin sang her song, I say it here: “Who’s zooming who?”

How Do You Take Care of a Garden Called the Sea?

There was a comment made about the sea being the Inupiat’s “garden”. But what was more interesting was the fact that in my concept of “gardening”, one not only removes the fruits and vegetables that are a result of his labors, but plants new seeds and cares for the earth. At no time did I hear or see anything being done to protect the ocean or nurture life within the ocean. Truth be told, Inupiats are just as bad as the oil companies, simply because this planet is viewed as a resource where things are taken and never replaced. Neither cry at the present is for survival, simply because the paradigm of surviving Life has changed.

What also amazed me was that in the entire story, though focused around saving endangered grey whales, no one really noticed the sentience of the whales – minds like ours that had reasoning capabilities and intelligence to match. Since no one up there in Alaska knew how to talk to whales, how did the whales know to follow the trail of open holes to the open sea? I did not see any Sea World trainer jumping in the water and blowing their whistle, or clicking their behavioral clicker to get the whales to follow orders!

This is where Hollywood, oil corporations and the government closed their eyes and looked the other way. Yes, we did help save some whales and it was great PR for the Reagan Administration, the oil companies, Greenpeace, the Inupiats and the Russians, but the real message was missed – that we are dealing with a sentient species!

Endangered Whales: A Sentient Species?

A Pacific Gray Whale looking at you. Yes, he is looking at you!

It is that idea which I wish to focus upon. These creatures are sentient. Whales are aware. And because whales do not have two legs and two arms, whales and their cetacean species (dolphins, beluga and Killer Whales) have been deemed as food or a nuisance to Man, or worse – captured and held prisoner to groups that profit from them. The truth is, to consider whales as beings would mean a loss of income to circuses and oil companies, to fisherman and government, simply because the viewpoint of all of the above is that this planet has always been ours for the taking and for the consuming. We would call that an inconvenient truth.

Remember also that there is nothing in the definition of “resources” that says anything about replacing.

The truth is that as Man grows, his responsibility to this planet grows, whether he likes it or not. And it is also recognizing that while our knowledge and technology increases, we have to become more and more aware of other species of creatures on this planet who have existed far longer than ourselves. Surely those creatures have a right, just as we do, to live without fear and without loss of life.

It will be a great day for us all, when we embrace this planet as stewards, but also in accepting that responsibility, grant the right to live not only to ourselves but to all living things.

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Category: Whales | 74 Comments »

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