Monday, December 26, 2011

A Calm Before the Storm

The Japanese whaling fleet is trying to evade the Sea Shepherd activists in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.  Things will come to a head when the Sea Shepherds finally encounter the the giant whale processing ship and its armed Fisheries Agency escort vessel. If Japan is going to resort to violence that will be the moment.

The American, Australian and New Zealand governments must act to prevent violence. If they don’t then they will share responsibility for any injuries or deaths that may occur.

If Australia and New Zealand refuse to protect an international conservation zone of which they are the natural guardians then they will walk away from this with their wings clipped, no longer masters in their own domain. If the United States abdicates its traditional commitment to uphold freedom of navigation then it will abandon a fundamental tenet it has upheld since the earliest days of the republic. We should not literally sell a basic principle in order to continue living beyond our means by dependence on Japanese loans. If the U.S. demonstrates fear by appeasing an aggressor it will lose standing. People instinctively despise weakness. Once you lose respect you lose everything. If these three nations abandon scores of their most idealistic citizens to armed assault in international waters then they will lose both international and self-respect.

If Japan overturns the Antarctic Treaty and extends its military jurisdiction over the Southern Ocean then it will mean the beginning of the end for a cooperative world order. Others will see that they too can grab what they want by force. In a shrinking world of diminishing resources only the rule of law protects us all from anarchy. Only effective international restraints on exploitation ensure long-term ecological stability. This is the test case of whether or not the world community will stand up for them in a serious confrontation. There’s a lot at stake right now in the Southern Ocean.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Time is Running Out

The Japanese whaling fleet and its armed escort have almost reached the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The illegal slaughter of whales, and possible killing of marine conservationists, is imminent.

For the first time in history, the U.S. government has declined to insist on freedom of the seas. Whether one likes them or not, the Sea Shepherds are a legal conservation organization upholding the law of the sea. Refusal to protect them from military attack in international waters means dereliction of duty and loss of standing. The closest nations, Australia and New Zealand, do not own Antarctica or its surrounding ocean. They do have a right to defend its integrity as trustees of a global natural inheritance. So far they have backed down from that responsibility. All of these governments seem to be intimidated by their entanglement in a web of debt to Japan.

However, nonprofit groups are paid to be outraged by ecological atrocities. Why have the big environmental organizations, with their millions of members and political clout, refused to speak out against Japan’s armed intrusion into a whale sanctuary?

Do they worry about ‘guilt’ by association with brave activists in peril upon the sea? Are they too ‘responsible’ to generate a public outcry that might lead to an ugly clash of wills between economic superpowers? Are they afraid of being blamed for cutting off access to more debt and thus bringing down the financial house of cards?

Japan will soon be poaching at gunpoint in a whale sanctuary. It openly intends to use force against nonviolent activists who literally get in its way. The environmental movement faces a moment of truth. It must either speak out against or acquiesce to violence. Silence implies consent.

The era of feel-good environmentalism is drawing to an end. A new normal of deadly confrontation over diminishing resources will dawn unless the world community demands respect for the law. This is the precedent-making test. Only the environmental movement has the motivation, organization and numbers to lead. Does it have the will?

I do not ask the environmental community to endorse the Sea Shepherds or their tactics. Only to speak out against Japan’s armed aggression on the high seas. And to demand that governments act effectively to stop it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Deafening Silence

The Japanese whaling fleet and its armed escort are now halfway to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

No government has publicly opposed this military takeover of an international conservation zone. The media have not covered Japan’s threat of deadly force in support of a criminal enterprise. Public opinion is not outraged because it doesn’t know what’s happening. The mainstream environmental movement remains silent. The Sea Shepherds, ‘the few, those happy few,’ who dare stand up to armed aggression at the end of the world seem to be on their own.

Japan is directly challenging the American, Australian and New Zealand governments. If the U.S. abandons nonviolent activists to armed assault in international waters it gives up its role as the ultimate guarantor of world order. Will it accept a diminished status and allow Japan to violently extend its jurisdiction over the Southern Ocean in return for a monthly payoff? Australia and New Zealand are natural guardians of the Sanctuary by virtue of geography and a high level of environmental consciousness. Yet they too remain passive despite Japan’s armed aggression in their backyard.

This is a serious political showdown. By sending an armed patrol vessel Japan has put its prestige on the line. It is inconceivable that they will stand by and do nothing while the activists shut down illegal whaling operations. Once the sword is drawn the issue defaults to a brutal contest of wills. Japan will surely stop buying, or start selling, U.S. Treasury bonds if the United States takes meaningful action to stop it. It won’t hesitate to bully its smaller trading partners, Australia and New Zealand. Will these countries submit to financial blackmail as a backup to armed aggression?

The possible takedown of marine conservationists in a remote polar ocean would mean that Australia and New Zealand accept the supremacy of Japanese law enforced at gunpoint over the Southern Ocean. And that the United States surrenders its traditional insistence on freedom of navigation. (The Sea Shepherds are a legal environmental organization  entitled to such protection.) More fundamentally, it would undermine a cooperative world order based on the rule of law. And mean the loss of any restraint in our exploitation of the oceans.

The world community must act to ensure that Japan renounces the use of force against those who are upholding international law. The real stakes here are much higher than those of power and pride. If Japan gets away with this it kills any hope for effective ocean conservation. It, then others, will just grab what they want. The degradation of a vital planetary ecosystem will accelerate. We will all pay a heavy price. Is the world so intimidated by Japan’s economic clout that it will allow this to happen?

Friday, December 16, 2011

'Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell'

We live in a period of economic turmoil. Millions are unemployed; many will never work again. Major governments teeter on the brink of sovereign default. Is this really a time to worry about saving the whales?

It is, because an ecological infrastructure underlies and supports the economic one. Our economy almost self-destructed because of crazed financial speculation. If a storm of ghostly electronic blips could cause such damage just think of what will happen if its natural foundations crumble. This is a slower process, and harder to correct. No President can veto the laws of nature. Congress cannot amend them.

Climate change, collapse of fisheries, destruction of rainforests, a loss of biodiversity amounting to the fifth mass extinction in Earth’s long history - these can’t go on much longer without directly affecting us. To survive and flourish we must redirect our priorities. More of the same won’t work. ‘Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.’

Instead we should move to an ecologically sustainable economy. The main obstacle is that a diffuse general interest in planetary health collides with intense special interests that will do anything to keep what they have. This difficult transition requires that we abide by the rule of law; that all parties subordinate their own interests to an agreed process for the common good. Japan now threatens the authority of law with armed force. What happens in the Southern Ocean will set a memorable precedent for global ecosystem management.

The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is a sanctuary. International Whaling Commission Resolution 2007-1 bans Japanese ‘research’ whaling. The Antarctic Treaty forbids sending paramilitary ships south of the 60th parallel (other than on supply or rescue missions). Either these are real and enforceable laws - or just well meant suggestions.

The Sea Shepherds demand respect for the law. Japan demands respect for its power. Now the world must choose.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

You Can't Put Beauty in the Bank

The Japanese whaling fleet continues on its way to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. It comes with an armed patrol vessel to suppress nonviolent marine conservationists upholding the Sanctuary’s integrity. Japan means to take what it wants by force, with utter contempt for the law.

We live in an overpopulated world with a rapidly depleting environment. Only respect for the rule of law can protect humanity’s general interest in a sustainable planetary ecology from the intense demands of special interests or powerful nations. Japan is now attacking the very foundation of that peaceful and cooperative world order. It asserts that its national will supersedes international law on the global commons. It seems to believe that its show of force will intimidate the world into letting it have what it wants.

Once the authority of law is successfully challenged then the international system loses all credibility.  If Japan can forcibly rape a whale sanctuary without penalty then others too will grab what they can. The oceans will be gobbled up in a feeding frenzy. We will revert to the law of the jungle, first at sea, then on land.

The Southern Ocean has already sustained tremendous damage. Krill, the tiny shrimp-like creatures at the base of its food chain, have declined by up to 80% since the 1970s due to global warming. Industrial fleets are decimating its fish stocks. Its whales, once numbering in the millions of several species, are down to a few hundred thousand of the smallest Minke whales. This ocean should be left alone to regenerate, not biologically strip mined at gunpoint.

Beyond these pragmatic considerations there is a spiritual dimension. Will we let an insatiable economic machine devour all that is beautiful and wondrous?

Our planet is 70% ocean. We share it with fellow mammals, the whales. All whales have bigger brains than ours (six times larger in the case of sperm whales). In some species the cerebral cortex, the site of intelligence and higher emotions, is more complexly convoluted than ours. Some also possess special ‘spindle’ neurons, a trait otherwise found only in the great apes and human beings.

Brains are metabolically very expensive. The three-pound human brain constitutes 2% of our (average) body mass, but consumes 20% of its blood sugar and oxygen. It seems unlikely that such an energy-intensive organ would evolve in the whales and have no purpose or value.

All of this is circumstantial evidence for cetacean intelligence. It would be inadmissible in any court of law. But it is suggestive. It seems entirely plausible that an advanced mammalian consciousness could have evolved in the oceans over the last thirty million years. (Humans, in contrast, have existed in their present form for only about 250,000 years.) Obviously such a consciousness would differ from ours. Perhaps these ‘armless Buddhas’ have developed a telepathic rather than a technological form of intelligence. We don’t know, but should respect the possibility.

Japan rejects the intelligence argument out of hand. It confidently insists that whales are simply a natural resource, basically cattle of the sea. Such lack of doubt in the face of inconvenient facts shows real arrogance. It parallels the arrogance Japan displays towards world opinion and international law.

Whales, at the top of the food chain, also regulate the ecology of the oceans. Yet Japan has officially stated that the small number of remaining whales should be culled because they eat too many fish, which could be taken by them. Essentially Japan advocates reducing a wild ocean into a managed fish farm. This is pure hubris. Are the Japanese intelligent enough to run a complex oceanic ecosystem? Is everyone else willing to entrust our planet’s ecological fate to its quack scientists and fisheries bureaucrats?

The Japanese government is serious enough to kill over this. Is the rest of the world serious enough to stop them?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Japan's power grab

The Japanese whaling fleet continues sailing towards the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. They are escorted by an armed patrol ship to suppress marine conservationists defending the Sanctuary’s integrity. So far no government has publicly opposed Japan’s threat of deadly force in support of an illegal enterprise. There has been no media coverage. The mainstream environmental movement remains silent. The world seems intimidated by Japan’s claim to a special status on the high seas backed by force.

Why has Japan chosen to assert its identity around whaling? It is an island nation, dependent on the sea for 40% of its protein. It sees effective protection of whales as the first step towards real regulation of global fisheries, including its own. It perceives this as an existential threat to its food security.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Unregulated exploitation is destroying the oceans’ productivity. Populations of top value fish, such as marlin, tuna and swordfish have dropped by 90% since 1950. The prestigious magazine Science has reported that, if current trends continue, every major fishery will collapse by 2048. A sustainable world fishery depends on international cooperation, adhered to by all nations. This will require substantial cutbacks. Japan, and others, should be developing ecologically sustainable aquaculture to compensate. This would generate far more production, and many more jobs, than destructive fishing practices.

As an exporting nation Japan benefits tremendously from a cooperative world order. It is now subverting that out of shortsighted self-interest. This is not essentially about money: Japan has plenty. Rather it seeks to establish a precedent: that Japan will make its own rules regarding the global commons.

Japan’s armed intrusion into an international conservation zone 6000 miles away sends a message that the world order has changed. Japan seems confident that the American government, financially dependent on its bond purchases, dares not oppose its assault on international law. It assumes, or has assurances, that Australia and New Zealand will not endanger lucrative trade and investment ties to protect the Sanctuary, or their own citizens. Thus Japan can violate the Antarctic Treaty, defy the law of the sea and ravage the oceans at will.

The fact that whaling is abhorrent to millions underlines Japan’s contempt for world opinion as well as its treaty obligations. What it loses in global sympathy it gains in its own sense of superiority. Japan is playing for very high stakes: a de facto acknowledgment that it is a privileged nation, standing above the law.

The US government owes Japan about $1,000,000,000,000 (a trillion). It borrows $12-14 billion more every month. Can a nation so addicted to debt defy its paymaster over a matter of principle? Will the United States effectively oppose Japan’s military takeover of an international conservation zone?

No government will jeopardize a cozy financial arrangement unless its public demands action.  Only real pressure from voters can counter Japan’s economic blackmail. Only the organized environmental movement, with its millions of members, can mobilize such pressure. Yet they too remain silent. Why?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hunger Strike Against Aggression


The Japanese whaling fleet will soon arrive in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, off Antarctica. It pretends to be conducting scientific research there. The International Whaling commission’s (IWC) scientific committee has rejected this cynical subterfuge several times. In 2007 the full IWC formally asked Japan to stop its lethal research (Resolution 2007-1, attached). Japan has said no.

For the 2011/12 season Japan has unilaterally decided to take 935 Minke and 50 Fin whales, in an ‘objection’ to IWC rules. A dead whale is worth about $200,000 on the meat market. This is actually a commercial operation, an industrial scale slaughter for profit.

Japan has also sent an armed Fisheries Agency patrol vessel to ‘protect’ this floating slaughterhouse from nonviolent activists defending the integrity of the Sanctuary. That is a breathtaking assertion of jurisdiction over the Southern Ocean, 6000 away. Its threat of deadly force in support of an illegal enterprise constitutes armed aggression.

Japan claims that its patrol vessel is there to ensure safety of navigation. This too is false. Whether one likes the Sea Shepherds or not, one fact is clear: in 30 years they have never caused a serious injury to the whalers or themselves. Their safety record is perfect. The real motive is to shut down these highly effective marine conservationists once and for all. To do so Japan will have to use violent tactics that put human life at risk and make injuries probable.

The possible use of armed force to suppress opposition in a protected conservation zone takes the whaling issue to a new level. This is no longer simply about the whales. It challenges the very concept of international law. Can one nation violently impose its will on the global commons in defiance of the recognized regulatory body (IWC)?

There are good reasons for the Sanctuary’s existence. The health of the oceans is vital to our planet’s overall ecology. Antarctica itself is a frigid, desolate ice sheet. The cold nutrient rich ocean surrounding it is spectacularly alive. Whales are its dominant life form. Yet most species have been hunted to the brink of extinction. Now Japan is going after the last and smallest survivors.

This issue also has an ethical dimension. All whales have bigger brains than ours, and some seem to be as complex. We cannot prejudge beings so high on the evolutionary scale as mere natural resources. Real scientists would wait to determine the truth about their intelligence before butchering them for food.

Another ethical aspect is whaling’s extreme cruelty. An exploding harpoon rarely kills outright. The wounded whale is winched to the killer ship’s side, stuck with a probe and electrocuted with thousands of volts. It often takes 15-20 minutes for the whale to finally drown. Such prolonged agony would not be tolerated in any slaughterhouse.

Few people care about the ecology of the remote Southern Ocean. Or the possibility of advanced consciousness in marine mammals. People do care about a stable world order governed by the rule of law.

In this case Japan has explicitly stated that it is exempt from the rule of law. It asserts the right to exploit the oceanic commons as it sees fit, regardless of others’ interests. And to physically eliminate anyone who stands in its way. That’s why it has sent a patrol ship.

The United States, with many other nations, has long voiced opposition to Japan’s illegal whaling. However, it has tolerated some state sponsored poaching in the Sanctuary because Japan is a major creditor that finances much of our deficit. Now its military deployment presents a direct challenge. It cannot be evaded. The threat of deadly force in support of a criminal enterprise constitutes armed aggression on the high seas.

By sending an armed escort Japan has announced its willingness to kill over whaling. It has invested its national pride in a resort to violence. Japan has deliberately created a situation in which either it, or the world community, has to lose face. There can be no win/win outcome here. We must put the rule of law above the intense drive of a proud nation to have its way.

Japan is unique but not privileged. It cannot make its own rules and enforce them by violence. The oceans are not Japan’s for the taking.

                                                Hunger Strike Against Aggression

Japan has sent its whaling fleet to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in defiance of international law. It has also sent an armed Fisheries Agency patrol vessel with them to suppress nonviolent activists upholding the law. The threat of deadly force in support of an illegal enterprise constitutes armed aggression.

I will fast until Japan withdraws its patrol vessel without engaging the Sea Shepherd activists.

                                                            About Tom Falvey

Tom Falvey, 62, is an environmental activist and writer from San Diego, Ca. He is not affiliated with any organization. He does not represent the Sea Shepherd activists. This is a personal statement of conscience.

You can contact Tom Falvey at:

Tel: (619) 618-5713

You can follow this hunger strike at:

                                                            About This Fast

A healthy person in comfortable surroundings can survive for at least 40, but not more than 60, days without food. I do not expect the public to take this fast seriously until I have entered that zone. Before that happens I hope that world governments will act to ensure that Japan does not resort to force. If they do not then I have started the clock.

The credibility of this protest depends on its sincerity. I will only drink water during this fast. If I fall unconscious, or into a coma, I refuse any feeding, even if death is imminent. If I develop any medical condition as a consequence, even a life threatening one, I refuse all treatment.

The only condition under which I will accept feeding or medical intervention is if Japan withdraws its patrol vessel from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary without engaging the Sea Shepherd activists.

                        International Whaling Commission – Resolution 2007-1

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has instructed Japan to stop killing whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary

As stated in Resolution 2007-1 below:

RECALLING that the Commission has repeatedly requested Contracting Parties to refrain from issuing special permits for research involving the killing of whales within the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, has expressed deep concern at continuing lethal research within the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, and has also recommended that scientific research involving the killing of cetaceans should only be permitted where critically important research needs are addressed;

the IWC is:

CONVINCED that the aims of JARPA II do not address critically important research needs;

the IWC:

FURTHER CALLS UPON the Government of Japan to suspend indefinitely the lethal aspects of JARPA II conducted within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Resolution 2007-1 (RESOLUTION ON JARPA) is located on the IWC's website at:

The IWC established the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in 1994

JARPA = Japanese Whale Research Program Under Special Permit in the Antarctic

This permit is issued by Japan to Japan.