Tag Archives: conservation

The scientific exception: A whale of a problem

Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eubalaena_glacialis_with_calf.jpgRecent news headlines have been splashed with stories of South Korea’s decision to begin issuing scientific whaling permits to its citizens. Earlier this month, South Korea publicly declared this choice; now, amid backlash, the country has indicated that it plans to reconsider.

The world over, societies have hunted whales for thousands of years. Historically, this was for the purposes of religion and survival. More recently, however, stories such as “Moby-Dick” have chronicled whaling as more a sport than a societal necessity.

In 1946, at a meeting in Washington, D.C., the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was inaugurated by nations across the globe. The purpose of the commission was to oversee and regulate whale populations, largely from the perspective of the commercial whaling industry, which had grown unsustainably large. Throughout the 20th century, however, as whale populations continued to decline, the IWC was forced to reconsider its position. In 1982, the IWC officially adopted an indefinite whaling moratorium, scheduled to go into effect in 1986. There were exceptions, however. Aboriginal societies were issued whaling permits, guaranteed as part of their cultural rights and heritage. Today, the North American Inuit population still whales for food and other heritage purposes.

Grads give Strawberry Creek a bit of attention

This past Saturday morning, a contingent of UC Berkeley graduate students awoke extra early, donned “play” clothes, and headed to campus to spend several hours giving our very own Strawberry Creek a bit of much-needed attention.

The grads enjoyed their morning in the campus sunshine, as they socialized with each other and uprooted invasive grasses. Later, the cleared area will be replaced with native plants, as part of a continued effort to return the creek to its natural state. Right now, the plants are just seedlings, being tenderly cared for in the Native Plant Nursery, by Giannini Hall.

Berkeley grads get “trashy” at shoreline cleanup

This past Saturday, I rose early from sleep and donned my very best work clothes and boots in preparation to join eight of my fellow graduate students and two rangers in a morning event that could best be described as “trashy.” The rangers that joined us were representatives sent from the East Bay Regional Parks District. Together, the eleven of us spent three long hours in the warm morning sunshine recovering trash from the Emervyille Crescent Shoreline, which is a part of the Eastshore State Park network. This special shoreline cleanup event was organized by the new Community Outdoor Cleanup and Outreach (COCO) project, funded and sponsored by the Graduate Assembly (GA) of UC Berkeley.

The new COCO project is the culmination of a year’s worth of effort on the part of concerned graduate student Dillon Niederhut, the GA delegate from Anthropology, and the GA Community Outreach Workgroup that he was pivotal in founding. This cleanup was COCO’s trial event, largely organized by fellow Workgroup member Christopher Klein, the GA delegate from Astronomy.

We can do it! Protecting the Earth in troubled times

“We are the stars burst into consciousness.” This is my favorite bit of wisdom from evolutionary philosopher Brian Thomas Swimme. His words are not simply metaphor; we truly are made of the stars. While stars are initially composed of just hydrogen and its fusion product helium, at the end of the star’s life carbon, oxygen, and all the rest of the elements are rapidly formed before the star’s last massive explosion into both nothingness and everything.

Swimme spoke at this year’s Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, CA after a screening of his new movie Journey of the Universe: An Epic Story of Cosmic, Earth, and Human Transformation.  (As a side note for those of you interested in environmental advocacy, conservation politics, and edge-of-your-seat epic adventures — think free-soloing El Cap and class V white-water in the crocodile-filled Nile — I highly recommend next year’s festival).  In just 57 minutes, Swimme’s movie highlights 14 billion years worth of history, from the Big Bang to the beginnings of life and finally to our current precarious place on this planet.  But as environmental pressures mount to historically severe levels, Swimme says in his post-screening talk that it is difficult not to fall into despair if you are an intelligent and aware human being.