Swans Commentary » swans.com April 21, 2008  



Polar Bear Stand-Off


by Martin Murie



Pic: "Right Whale" - From "A Field Guide to the Mammals," by W. H. Burt. Illustrations by R. P. Grossenheider, Cambridge, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1952. - Size: 5k
Right Whale
From A Field Guide to the Mammals, by W. H. Burt.
Illustrations by R. P. Grossenheider,
Cambridge, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1952.



(Swans - April 21, 2008)   Kempthorne, remember him? Recipient of the Center For Biological Diversity's annual Rubber Dodo award. He is the director of the huge Department of Interior where a grand array of bureaus hold the keys to the kingdom, among them Fish and Wildlife Service, in charge of, among other things, endangered species, and Minerals Management Service, in charge of oil and gas leases. Well, you don't have to get into conspiracy theories to know damn well that Kempthorne confers with heads of those bureaus, lets them know where the policy lines are laid out, and that his refusal to appear before the April 3, 2008, congressional hearings on arctic affairs is intimately tied to that cronyism.

Our great corporatized news services haven't picked up on the polar bear as a key figure in all of this. Why? Don't they read Alaskan newspapers, where Pacific right whales, walruses, seals, sea birds, and, especially, salmon and other fish species, are given space? A right-wing state, Alaska, but its ocean waters have been exploited for king crabs, salmon, and other sea life for centuries, even before territorial days, and where the refusal of Exxon-Mobil to pay its fine for the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster are issues Alaskan media can't overlook.

And so, we have a fairly decent account in the Anchorage Daily News of the move by Marine Fisheries Service's decision, to list the right whale as endangered.

Step taken toward oil and gas leasing in rare whale's habitat. The Bush administration took a first step Tuesday toward allowing oil and gas leasing in an area of the Bering Sea considered important for the recovery of the world's most endangered whale.

The administration proposal opening up 5.6 million acres off the Alaska coast to energy development was published in the Federal Register by the Minerals Management Service. The area, which had been protected from drilling since 1990, is north of the Aleutian Islands near Bristol Bay. The administration lifted the ban last year.

Under the leasing proposal, the North Aleutian Basin lease sale would be held in 2011. Exploratory drilling could begin the next year. (Excerpt from story By Mary Pemberton's article, April 8, 2008.)

Does the plot thicken? Notice the date of sales: 2011, when the next president will confront a decision made by his/her predecessor. Will that president have the common gut courage to cancel the sales?

Let us also notice that it is apparently okay to list the right whale as endangered because that does not directly confront the effect of climate change on sea ice and tundra where polar bears roam. These bureaus know better: acidification of salt waters; reduction of plankton baleen whales' food; erosion of coral reefs, et cetera. I'm guessing they depend on the submissive media to hide those huge phenomena, or trim them with fake glitter and false smiles.

Back to Kempthorne and the habit of creatures at the apex of power to go totally blind to the Bill of Rights and, especially, the American undercurrents, never extinguished, seldom celebrated, to keep pestering all of us about those rights. We have to keep reminding ourselves and anyone else who will listen, that it is only those persistent undercurrents in our nation that keeps alive the spirit of resistance to tyranny.

Let us also know that other nations have their half-underground worlds of resistance. There it is, never extinguished, under the sea ice cold of official disdain, misrepresentation, disrespect, falsehoods, and compliant media.

Now, polar bears. In a recent dispatch to Swans, I mentioned that those bears are at the center of politics right now. On their fate depends the acceptance by US rulers that global warming is a fact and that if biologists -- never quite fully trusted by bureaucrats -- get the go-ahead to map out "suitable habitats" to preserve the bears, the plans of oil and gas corporate-government actions will be even more open to challenge. Even the media might notice.

So Kempthorne's refusal to testify to the congressional committee is understandable. Can the Donkeys possibly grit their teeth and force him to attend? No. The meeting is over; it's a week-old news event. Forget it.

It is true that the Shrubite era is probably the most blatant disregard of democracy we have seen in the short life of the USA. But we have to temper that with recognition that the Founding Fathers included such right-wing men as Alexander Hamilton, who climbed up from poverty to admire his own ruling position and closeness to Washington. And George Washington, too, a man accustomed to giving orders, a slave holder, though he did free his slaves in his will (Jefferson did not). Adams, another man who did not want to give the masses of Americans any loopholes for substantial change, and who disregarded his wife's admonition to "not forget the women."

What does this have to do with polar bears and right whales? Everything. The acts of tyranny perpetrated on those other magnificent forms of life are faithfully reflected in the acts of tyranny perpetrated on our citizens: arrests of protesters, killing of protesters (remember the students gunned down at Kent State in Vietnam War days?), torture of members of our own species, wanton killing... I don't have to go on.


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Internal Resources

Activism under the Radar Screen


Patterns which Connect

America the 'beautiful'


About the Author

Martin Murie on Swans (with bio).



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Different Gods - Aaron Karmin

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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published April 21, 2008