Monday, July 13, 2009

Blow it out your hole, Roberts!

Kudos to Charles Siebert for writing a wonderful article about whales for the New York Times rag. Siebert has previously covered other highly social and self-aware animals, such as elephants and chimpanzees, and he was interviewed yesterday on Fresh Air. There's a wonderful moment when Siebert starts talking about how, through research, we are beginning to appreciate the aliens right here on Earth, whose cultures are no less intricate than our own.

Boo-hiss to John Roberts and the United States Supreme Court for supporting Navy war games which terrify and kill endangered whales. Apparently Roberts thinks it's uber-important that we give our subs a lot of target practice... unfortunately, all they're blasting out of the water is a bunch of friendly whales.

3 comments:

YZF said...

If you're ever swallowed by a whale, a la Pinocchio, this blog will seem very ironic in retrospect.

lightofgod said...

Hmmm...did you even read the decision?

1) It's not for "target practice"; it's training in active sonar to detect diesel subs.

2) they're not "blasting anything"; there is a _possibility_ that the sonar is disrupting some marine life off the coast of California. "Since the Navy’s training program began 40 years ago, there has been no documented case of sonar-related injury to marine mammals in SOCAL."

Also, even assuming that the training was injuring or killing some whales, and assuming as well that these are critical exercises that are important for national security, how would you weigh the two against each other? Many scientists kill or maim animals in the pursuit of scientific knowledge--which may or may not accrue to some human health benefit...is this so different?

Lastly, of course, the Court was rendering a legal opinion, not their personal recommendation. They felt that a permanent injunction of this severity was not appropriate with the level of evidence given by the environmental groups. If Obama wanted to completely stop this type of sonar training, he most certainly could.

You can read the opinion here http://bit.ly/nuQdY

Samurai Scientist said...

@YZF,
If you're ever swallowed by a whale, a la Pinocchio, this blog will seem very ironic in retrospect.

Indeed!

@lightofgod, thx for your comments.
1) It's not for "target practice"; it's training in active sonar to detect diesel subs.

I didn't mean the term literally. But in the end of the day the raison d'etre of all our armed forces is target practice.

"Since the Navy’s training program began 40 years ago, there has been no documented case of sonar-related injury to marine mammals in SOCAL."

From the Siebert article:
At a 2004 International Whaling Commission symposium, more than 100 scientists signed a statement asserting that the association between sonar and whale deaths “is very convincing and appears overwhelming.”

I was skeptical of the evidence at first, too. But I'm now convinced that these giant, missile-shaped metal leviathans sending powerful ultrasonic blasts into the ocean is enough to scare a whale into beaching itself. Remember, the animals are mammals... they come from the land ancestrally, and it makes sense to me that they would beach themselves when terrified or injured.

Also, even assuming that the training was injuring or killing some whales, and assuming as well that these are critical exercises that are important for national security, how would you weigh the two against each other?

That's an easy one. Throw away the subs and use the scrap metal to build whale sanctuaries. They are not making us safer.

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