As a staunch environmentalist as well as a science writer, I applaud your focusing on climate change in your presidential campaign, prompting other candidates to address this vital issue as well. But now, as others are also jumping on the bandwagon and clamoring for some sort of single-issue debate, could be a great time to take a bolder stance by focusing on one issue that “puts a face” on climate change. A symbolic yet very real issue. One that challenges the status quo and offers chances to create new alliances. One that demonstrates the complexities of addressing climate change:
Call for an all out, multifaceted “Hail Mary” effort to save the orcas, to demonstrate the kind of interconnected efforts needed to help heal our planet.
Start with a contest that offers a significant prize for the greenest, most innovative way to silence every form of commercial waterway traffic, so that whales and dolphins can hunt. The results could be cargo ships powered by wind and sun. Creating days or zones of silence. Perhaps a newly designed ferry system for Washington and beyond. Surely some Seattle billionaire would be glad to fund such a worthy effort?
This provides s a way to show that we can take control of our technology, rather than allowing it to lead us down the path to extinction.
Next, face up to plastic pollution to make the oceans safe for marine life. Washington should join California in banning single use plastic bags. Taxing other single-use plastics would both discourage their use and generate funds for further ocean recovery efforts.
Our coastal neighbors California and Oregon already have deposit bottle laws — a proven and profitable way to significantly reduce litter. It’s time to fearlessly shame the beverage industry and call for the other 40 states to return to deposit bottles.
Then demand that the Navy halts its sonar training and testing in the waters of Washington and beyond. Just the impact of sound from its “preferred plan” could deafen, harm or destroy thousands of whales, orcas and other sea creatures. Dumping tons of spent military ordinance as part of their exercises adds a long-lasting chemical assault on the oceans that feed us and myriad other life forms while burning tons of fuel pollutes the air. The Navy’s recent two-volume report spent thousands of pages to trying to minimize and rationalize the impacts of their plans, while ignoring the growing body of scientific evidence.
Strengthen this demand by reaching out to Oregon, California and Alaska, asking governors Brown, Newsom, and Dunlevy to join in protecting our shared waters, helping our threatened whales and starving orcas. Include British Columbia, or all of Canada as well, making this an international pact for the future of the oceans.
Yes, there’s the popular notion that “You can’t say no to the Navy,” but given the nation’s growing dissatisfaction with our country’s ever-expanding military budget, what better time (and on what better grounds) to challenge this hegemony?
“Defending our country” by destroying the oceans’ ability to sustain life defies all logic.
Of course orcas need chinook salmon to survive, which means using every possible means to increase and restore salmon runs, such as: cleaning up urban storm runoff before it reaches the oceans; removing culverts from every stream where salmon once thrived. Forge respectful working alliances with native tribes to access their wisdom. Take down Washington’s Snake River dams and similar nearby dams and eliminate disease-spreading, water-polluting commercial fish pens — another opportunity to forge international cooperation. (Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has introduced the”Keep Fin Fish Free Act,” to place a moratorium on commercial permits for industrial fish farms in federally controlled ocean waters).
Advocate linking with NOAA, Hawaii and other coastal states, as well as concerned nonprofits, to share drone footage and other data to monitor every aspect of orca and whale health.
People around the world were moved when Tahlequa, grief-stricken by the death of her newborn calf, carried its body aloft, on her head, for some 17 days, swimming more than a thousand miles. Her unheard-of action, seemed to be crying ”See what you’ve done!” to every community along her journey.
We’re gradually waking up to the frightening reality of we have done, recognizing that our actions unwittingly brought death and destruction to Earth, its climate, the oceans, the orca, and all other living beings.
By highlighting the plight of the orca, and advocating crucial steps to help them survive, you will be providing a vivid lesson on the impacts of climate change, one that reaches well beyond graphs, economic projections and the data-heavy underpinnings of climate science while providing a path forward to a healthier world.
I hope you’ll consider this opportunity. Thanks for listening.