We watched Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home last night. It holds up better than I thought it would. At the end, I found myself trying to imagine the conversation between the whales and the probe. Probably something like this:
— Hey! We’re still here! Or, we’re back, anyway!
— Oh, good! What happened to you? We’ve been trying to reach you for ages.
— Apparently the humans killed us all.
— Wait, they did WHAT?
— Well, some of them did. But some of them brought us forward through time to make up for it. They won’t kill us now.
— They’d BETTER NOT!
— I think we’re OK now.
— *sigh* OK, good to know. We’ll go report back. Keep in touch.
And I also imagined their reactions at the end, as they frolic in the 23rd-century ocean:
Wow! We’re in the open sea! And we talked to aliens! And the humans have stopped hunting us! And they’ve stopped polluting the oceans! This is AWESOME!
Well, except for the whole thing with us being the only humpback whales on the planet. But it’s not like we were really able to talk to much of anyone from the aquarium to begin with.
Seriously, though, it’s encouraging to know that, decades after the ban on hunting went into effect, the humpback whale population has rebounded so successfully that most populations are no longer threatened by extinction. I found articles citing a worldwide population of “over 80,000” and “just under 100,000” in 2016 — an order of magnitude more than the less-than-10,000 that were left in the 1980s!
Protecting the environment isn’t just about saving the planet. It’s about saving ourselves. It’s about being responsible custodians of nature not just for its own sake (though that’s important too), but so we can keep relying on it…instead of sucking the life out of everything we can like there’s no tomorrow, leaving a world that’s too inhospitable for us to live on in any sort of comfortable civilization.
Tens of thousands of years on, the planet will recover from just about anything we throw at it, as long as we stop messing things up at some point (like, say, dying back to subsistence level as famines and wars over the remaining resources kill us off). It may take longer for biodiversity to recover, but it will happen eventually, as it has after each great extinction event — though always taking new paths to replace the possibilities that didn’t make it.
But I don’t have 10,000, 100,000, or a million years to wait for things to recover, and neither do you.
I miss the optimism of the 1990s, when the message I got was “Things are messed up, but we can fix them.” Remember when we were more worried about running out of oil than about the effects of burning it? Now the message I keep seeing is, “Too late! We’re all screwed!” Especially with large entrenched interests trying to not just fight the gains we’ve made since the 1970s, but actively roll them back.
Maybe we can’t solve the problem completely anymore. But at least we can try to mitigate it a little.
“The Senate on Tuesday passed the most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade, protecting millions of acres of land and hundreds of miles of wild rivers across the country…”
It passed the Senate 92-8.
Weirdly, I’m on several environmental groups’ mailing lists and I’ve heard nothing about this bill from them except for one specific aspect of it: The Nature Conservancy has occasionally asked me to contact lawmakers in support of renewing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (both before and after it expired last year). On Wednesday they sent me a notice that the LWCF renewal had passed the Senate and asked me to contact my Representative when it goes to the House.
But they’ve said nothing about any other aspect of the over-600-page bill, which adds over a million new acres of wilderness, prohibits mining near Yellowstone, protects 620 miles of rivers, and expands and adds several national parks and monuments. And I’ve heard nothing at all — no news, no campaigns to support it, or reject it as a trojan horse, or amend it — from any of the other groups I follow.
I guess the fact that it’s non-controversial enough for a conservation bill to pass with over 90% bipartisan support even during this administration means it wasn’t a priority for activism. Especially with all the attacks on environmental protections from the executive branch to tackle on one side, and the Green New Deal to talk about on the other.
The other day I saw an argument that things like environmental regulations should be done locally, because if we don’t rely on the federal government, a change in administration can’t just roll back protections.
Ignoring the fact that pollution doesn’t stop at the city, state or national border, I can’t help thinking of crap like this:
California Escalates Battle With Trump EPA Over ‘Clean Car’ Rules
California agrees not to enforce its net neutrality law as Justice Dept. puts lawsuit on hold
where we are doing things at the state level, but the feds are still shutting it down.
Sessions, of course, used to be really big on “states rights” when he was representing a state, but now that he’s representing the federal government…
Not a surprise, given that people who talk about “states rights” rarely (if ever) seem to care about the principle so much as whether they can use it as a tool to interfere with civil rights.
I hate when any organization preemptively sends a membership card in the mail hoping to guilt you into joining.
But an environmental group?