Thursday, April 30, 2009

Papa Kai ʻohana - Our Ocean Family

This photo was taken in Mexico where the "Gray Whales" regularly approach boatloads of people and enjoy human interaction. At one such place the government was convinced that it was better for the economy to have environmental tourism than to let a large corporation destroy the whaleʻs habitat with an industrialized salt production facility.

Why do the whales reach out to us, when it is the human species that hunted them to near extinction, and who continues to make life difficult for them? I find myself thinking it might be that we are a disfunctional family. My Hawaiian friend "Uncle" Les Kuloloio calls our large family "papa kai ʻohana." With my limited understanding of the Hawaiian language, I translate this to mean "the ocean mother earth family." When you think about it, many cultures refer to the earth as our Mother, and it doesnʻt take a lot of scientific observation to notice that "we" come from "her"..... and that we are alive because she nurtures us with the things that are essential for life....and that "she" is made up largely of ocean waters. The salinity of the blood in our veins is the same as the salinity of her ocean waters. "Uncle Les" goes on to say that the whales were viewed as "sacred" the realm of the Gods...the "directors of life," by his culture. The sacredness of life is something talked a lot about in most cultures. And our interdependedness is increasingly being recognized by the scientific community.

As I listen to a lone whale singing a beautiful haunting melody out there this early morning, I ponder these issues. Our Koholā are traveling to places North of here. While their numbers have increased....back from the brink of extinction...the journey is still dangerous because of the human side of our extended family. While we like to think of ourselves as smart and scientific, some members of our community blast them with sounds loud enough to make their brains bleed. And claim they are not being harmed, while not looking at their dead bodies to see if harm can be documented.

This puts us in the arena of national security and I again ask the question that I have asked Senators Reid and Inouye, and numerous other politicians that represent us: Do we really have national security without a healthy ocean and environment?

And how do we document the cost of our national security without collecting scientific data and making it public? Iʻm sorry, but this is a sore point for me because I have seen whales swim to shore, disoriented, during Navy sonar the Navy claims that they arenʻt harming whales here. With all due respect I ask at what cost our national security?

Is this necessary, or is it like the flight of Air Force One over Manhattan, something that someone thinks is a good idea without weighing the impact on people and the environment?
Of course you canʻt document the physical harm to the people of Manhattan. The media reports that thousands of terrified office workers evacuated buildings, but no one was physically harmed.

The whales cannot evacuate. The nature of sound in the ocean forces them to endure the incredibly loud sounds that sonar forces on them. Whatever the reason for doing it, I think we have a responsibility to know that we are doing it, and we should know what the results are. Letʻs be real. This is real life, not a game we are playing.

Yet the whales still sing their beautiful mysterious songs, and they still approach us and share affection for us. Perhaps there is hope for our extended family Papa Kai ʻOhana. But I believe we need to speak out, as the Mayor of New York City did, and express outrage when it is appropriate. President Obama was said to be outraged at the incident.

I commend President Obama on the job he is doing. I love the guy. He has a good heart. He obviously needs to reel in people and exert control in his position, and I in doing so I hope he will address the issues of the acoustic health of our oceans. In the meanwhile, I will keep talking to anyone who will listen.

With aloha,

-- Dan

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