21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Environment

In deep blue trouble

Historically, the oceans were an endless supply of resources. For long, it was assumed that this resource could be exploited, plundered, and used as a dumping ground. But, no more. In the last few decades, the oceans have been throwing up enough evidence in the shape of bleached corals, decimated fish catch, falling species count and mountains of garbage to underscore the importance of protecting these rich, bio-diverse living lungs.

After all, every second breath we take comes from the oceans. Oceans, like forests, sequester carbon dioxide that we spew into the atmosphere ever so carelessly. These vast blue stretches of ocean provide half our oxygen. And form an important source of protein, energy and minerals. They foster a whopping 80 per cent of life on Earth – brilliantly-coloured coral, fish, turtles, dolphins, whales… It goes without saying, then, that without this global ocean, there will be no life on Earth.

It’s unbelievably ridiculous, then, that despite knowing this, we manage quite the contrary. The global ocean today, is in deep blue trouble. Greenpeace has been crying itself hoarse over the last few years demanding that we stop using unsustainable fishing methods such as bottom trawling and purse seine that are emptying our seas of species such as the bluefin tuna in the Pacific. Of carelessly junking trash into these life-giving waters and polluting them, of sieving clean our pirate ridden waters, and to ensure a long-term security, protect large swathes of water.

Speaking of that, Greenpeace welcomes the recent proposal to protect four large areas of international waters in the Pacific Ocean and keep it off limits to all fishing by 2010. Greenpeace now calls on the fishing nations and the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in December to support these much needed protected areas. This is a good move in the right direction, but we need to replicate this model and apply it to oceans across the world.

On the other hand, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), nations that have claimed continental shelf will be at liberty to excavate the booty – petroleum, oil, gas, gold and minerals, and even immobile sea life! That’s just the latest addition to the existing and unresolved threats our oceans already face. Countries will possibly exhaust their own resources or on the flip side take this as a step forward and push for conservation of these areas. Clearly, the benefits of keeping these areas brimming with life are far greater than killing the golden goose. But the million dollar question is, will they?

Given their extremely poor track record, countries such as Norway and Iceland, which continue commercial whaling and Japan, which continues whaling ostensibly for scientific research, reflect no behaviour patterns to suggest that they would go ‘out on a limb’ and steer towards conservation. On the contrary, Junichi and Toru, both Greenpeace activists who were prosecuted in August last year for bringing to the fore the Japanese Government’s underhand involvement in the Southern Ocean whaling, face the possibility of conviction and the risk of 10 years of imprisonment. The ‘Tokyo Two’ removed a box of embezzled whale meat, and presented it to Japan’s Public Prosecutor to prove the existence of corruption in the government-subsidised whaling programme.

All these months, the Japanese Government has been attempting to cover up the whaling embezzlement scandal, and thwarting Greenpeace’s attempts to highlight the evidence. This is violation of the first order. This is against the right of freedom to expression, which under the international law, Japan is expected to abide by. In this case, a conviction would do more to discourage individuals from exposing ‘theft’, than it would do to discourage ‘theft’ itself.

This minor transgression of law must be overlooked in the might of greater public interest. Take the case of Greenpeace India’s legal case on turtle carcasses – Greenpeace was attempting to highlight the toll of Olive Ridley turtles in Orissa, which is the result of many factors including fishing malpractices and destructive development along the shores,. The legal violation was condoned since there was no intent to commit a crime for personal profit, but rather to increase public awareness about ongoing legal violations.

So coming back to Japan and the whales, the Aomori district court delivered a setback to the Japanese government’s attempts to cover up the whaling embezzlement scandal. After all these months, the court has agreed to hear key evidence the prosecution has fought to keep out of the trial. That at least gives us half a chance. What needs to be emphasized here is that this should not be an anomaly, but the norm.

In a so-called democratic world, we are orchestrating Tiananmen Square Massacres (June 4), everyday. Just how many species will it take before we put a stop to this? How many North Pacific trash vortex’ will we create before we stop trashing the planet. How many planets will we bulldoze before we put a stop to this madness? In case you haven’t noticed, we have only one. Shivani Shah is a freelance writer, currently working with Greenpeace India
© shivani September 2009

More Comment


© Hackwriters 1999-2009 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.