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.

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