By now you’ve probably heard that Iceland recently told the global community, “Nuts to you, we’re eating whales anyway.” Their insolence flies in the face of numerous international agreements prohibiting the slaughter and digestion of tasty endangered aquatic mammals. Apparently Icelandic whale killers have something better to do with their time than reflect on the life lessons presented in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
My first reaction is repulsion at the unnecessary nastiness of slaughtering whales. When asked about the cruel aspects of whaling, Rune Frovik, an Icelandic whaling advocate, told Newsweek, “The whalers are using very efficient hunting methods. The animals are dispatched with a grenade and die without suffering.”
I must admit that Rune makes a cunning argument on behalf of these merciful whale slayers. We can all agree that harpooning the whales to death would sting quite a bit, but dropping grenades down their blowholes strikes me as relatively painless. The whales probably just think they’re falling asleep. In any case, most purple heart recipients I know describe grenades as “largely innocuous,” so I guess I’ll side with Mr. Frovik on the matter.
I consider myself an environmentalist. I like whales, monkeys, turtles, etc. Pretty much anything except falcons. It’s rooted in my childhood. I grew up on the periphery of a stapled and collated suburb, where neighborhoods scatter into bovine hinterlands. There were deer, owl, and hawk sightings. The dog pen my father erected served not only to keep our fat beagle from raiding the neighbor’s dumpster, but to protect her from the packs of coyotes which howled near our home most evenings.
I spent an inordinate amount of time combing the nearby creek bed with this chubby beagle. We found turkeys and rabbits. Sometimes snakes. It was in the copse of trees near our home where I kissed my first imaginary girlfriend, and it was at a nearby gritty sandbank that I hid her body after she broke up with me.
Once I found a couple of bison feeling each other up under my bunk bed. My brother saw one drinking milk right out of the carton in our kitchen early one morning, just like in the old west. To me, forests and creeks were vast, sacred playgrounds. They had an intrinsic value wholly unrelated to the logging industry.
It should come as no surprise, then, that my friends and I were appalled when a subdivision sprang up in one of our foremost romping grounds. We did our best to stem the tide of suburban colonization. One evening we transplanted corpses from the local Indian cemetery to strategic locations around the parked bulldozers, hoping that the ghosts of departed Cherokee warriors would wreak bloody vengeance on anyone who dared replace our poison ivy and thorn bushes with sprinklers and mailboxes.
Of course, it turns out that we had mistakenly raided a Methodist graveyard, and, as it turns out, Methodists suck at posthumous vengeance. There’s no way ghosts of “The Torkledinkers” are going to scare off neo-suburban interlopers and bring back the narwhals to our beloved creek. I don’t think the Methodists have ever even had a decent war.
Anyway, my point is, we did not know how to productively channel our desire to protect the environment at that time. Fortunately, there is an abundance of options for eco-friendly people today. For instance, someday I hope to buy or steal a hybrid car.
It only takes fifty cents to replace your heater or air conditioning filter, and if you do it once a month you’ll cutback on carbon dioxide emissions by 350 pounds a year. (This amount of carbon dioxide is called a “Limbaugh-unit” by most environmentalists. If everyone who attends the University of Oklahoma regularly changed their air filters, we would collectively save thousands of Limbaugh-units every year.) Turn off the lights when you leave the room. Buy weather stripping.
Most of us are not in a position to compel Iceland to cease killing whales, obtain federal research grants for bio-fuel, or sign the Kyoto Protocols. We can only hope that Germany will rise up and conquer Iceland, totally obliterating the hated Scandinavian whaling industry.
In the meantime, few of us can save a whale, but we can significantly cutback on how many Limbaugh-units we produce annually, through simple things like compact fluorescent light bulbs, air filters, recycling and public transportation.
Oh, and quit flicking your cigarette butts onto the grass. That’s tacky.
This article originally appeared in modified form in The Oklahoma Daily on October 29, 2006.