Whales vs. the US Navy

One radiant, still morning a few days ago three jets, at what seemed eye level to observers on a 350-foot bluff overlooking the Mattole estuary, screamed in from the sea, instantly vanishing up the valley behind Rainbow Ridge. Ears ringing, the observers turned back along the trajectory for some explanation of this apparition, and settled suspiciously on the horizon, where sapphire waves sparkled and danced. The Navy Northwest Testing and Training Area boundary is 12 miles off-shore….but other, more joyful apparitions will soon materialize out there. Soon the spouts announcing the annual procession of grey whales will dot the sea as they cavort their way down to Baja to have their babies. And, even now, individuals of the Mattole’s own special race of Coho and Chinook salmon are nosing their way through the California Current, across the NWTT, seeking the estuary. Along the Pacific Flyway, shorebirds are migrating.

But, could there be an aircraft carrier out there too? Or, could these airships have been a new model of drone? More than whales and salmons are gestating out there. The NWTT is an important spawning ground for new Shocks and Awes, cradle for Bunker Busters, experiments with electro-magnetic and sonar radiation for hundreds of thousands of hours, and high tech weapons of death us primitive shore-dwellers can’t even imagine. The Navy predicts 11.3 million “takes”(destroyed or damaged animals) will result from their activities over the next 3 years.

The Navy has been testing weapons offshore for decades. In recent years they have been required to invite public comment: that the responses are almost universally negative explains the Navy’s preference for low-profile publicity. For example, the Navy recently launched a plan to install equipment on Octopus Mountain, on the Olympic Peninsula, which would operate Mobile Electronic Emitter Warfare Training systems mounted on vehicles throughout state and federal lands on the peninsula. Low-flying jets would cruise over the forests and obliterate the emissions, as practice for destroying enemy communications. The emissions are said to be powerful enough to “melt a human eye”.Though the Navy claimed it had posted the plan in the local papers, it completely escaped the notice of the mayor and all residents of the nearby town of Forks, as well as the Audubon Society, until it was too late to comment. Wrote Christi Baron, Forks Forum editor, “Does the Navy and the USFS believe that “we” the people that live in Forks are not worthy of knowing what is planned?”

Last weekend the Wall Street Journal ran an article about a lawsuit against the Navy, brought by the Conservation Council for Hawaii, Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The suit claims that Navy use of sonar violates limits on the levels officially permitted as safe for marine mammals. It recognizes that marine mammals must die in order to protect American security; the issue, as the WSJ points out, is just how many should be saved.

Similar suits have been brought, none successfully. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that security trumps marine mammals. The monstruous nature of that security is never questioned. For the U.S, the most dangerous nation in the world by near-unanimous acclaim (Israel does not agree), security means offense, not defense. In the name of that security, U.S. armed forces, more than three times more powerful than their closest rival and with 1000 bases dominating the world, have destroyed entire countries, killed millions of people, made millions more refugees, polluted the planet more than any other entity except a handful of nations, and helped to impoverish the country they claim to protect.

The lawyer bringing this new lawsuit states deferentially “No one is suggesting that the Navy shouldn’t be allowed to do testing and training.” The question here, realistically narrow in terms of any expectations, is whether they need every inch of the ocean. The lawsuit wants them to leave a few whales for our grandchildren.

Meanwhile those grandchildren are watching horror shows such as “Interstellar”, set in a near future, where humans have made Earth unlivable, and the characters are forced to embark on a desperate search for another world in a hostile universe. This is the stuff of nightmares.

On Veteran’s Day the President sent 1500 more troops to Iraq, and 22 more vets will commit suicide. These events are intimately connected to the survival of blue whales, grey whales, bees, polar bears, plankton and ourselves. Though the Navy may use them merely for scrap-paper, we on the northcoast must submit comments on the supplement to the Navy Northcoast Testing and Training Plan when it comes out in December (it concerns mitigations related to escorts for Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines, not for marine mammals). But we must also support our local chapter 56 of Veterans for Peace, who have recovered and are restoring the “Golden Rule”, the world-famous ketch that sailed out into US Navy testing grounds in 1958 and stopped atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. The veterans of Chapter 56 have declared they will be in San Diego in less than a year. However, they still need donations, materials and volunteers, to help them abolish war as an instrument of national policy.

“Ya me canse!” Enough!

Friday’s remark by Mexico’s Attorney General Murillo Karam, repeated three times, dismissed the distraught and questioning parents of the students “disappeared” in Guerrero this fall. In hours it was on the lips of millions of Mexicans, thrown mockingly back at their government by a people sick to death of military and police brutality and corruption. Enough! Would that it were enough, and may enough of us cry out those words against the increasingly sinister world order of extinction, and turn to repair our world, as if it were a ketch, in the name of the golden   rule …. or our grandchildren will be obliged to contemplate that tragic journey.

Ellen Taylor lives in northern California.

Ellen Taylor can be reached at ellenetaylor@yahoo.com.