Protecting our Babies and Belugas from Arctic Drilling – by Raffi Cavoukian
For 40 years I’ve been a children’s troubadour, best known for “Baby Beluga”—a song I’ve shared in concert with fans all across America. To this day, kids continue to inspire me. They speak freely from the heart, expressing pure joy, calling out an injustice, or asking a question. And they ask the best questions! Thinking of my young fans, I reacted strongly to a critical decision made this week affecting the fate of the Arctic.
In January’s State of the Union speech, President Obama said loud and clear that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” Just a few days later he announced new protections for the beautiful Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, an area that’s already showing serious signs of climate change. The picture looked hopeful: a leader with the clear intention to honor the next generation by protecting our planet so it can nurture them.
Just two days after protecting the ANWR, President Obama proposed opening up areas off the Alaskan and Atlantic coasts to oil and gas leasing. Some of these waters are right off the shore of the newly protected Wildlife Refuge. So an oil spill here would be the equivalent of declaring half your cup of coffee “protected” while pouring sour milk into the rest—the whole thing would be ruined. But unlike a coffee, the Arctic is irreplaceable. I can hear the intelligent question any child would ask on hearing about this: “Why would the President do that?”
Fast Forward to this week: President Obama just approved plans for Shell to drill for oil in the Alaskan Arctic, knowing full well that there’s a 75 percent chance of a major spill if oil is pumped in U.S. Arctic waters. Such a disaster would be impossible to clean up; current oil spill response technology can’t even be deployed in the Arctic for most of the year!
The President’s decision to give Shell the keys to the Arctic affects me personally, as it will the millions of children and parents for whom I’ve made music. We have been united by a love of beluga whales, known as the canaries of the sea for their sing-song calls. Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic pose a grave threat to our beloved belugas, and more.
Twice a year for their annual migration, belugas pass through the Chukchi Sea, close to where Shell will start drilling activities this summer. President Obama’s own experts have said that exposure to crude oil could be lethal for beluga whales, while the water pollution created by an oil spill would potentially ruin the quality and quantity of food for any remaining belugas. Bowhead and grey whales are also regularly present in these waters, as are seals, fish and birds of many kinds. During early spring and summer months, nearly the entire population of Pacific walrus can be found in the Chukchi Sea, which could be extremely vulnerable to a large oil spill at this time, while many birds may not survive a spill at all. Indigenous peoples in the Arctic depend on many of these species. A spill would destroy their livelihoods.
Another serious area of the concern around oil exploration activities in the Arctic is that whales may need to avoid certain areas where there is a lot of human activity, thus disrupting their feeding and migration patterns. In particular, drilling noise, ship noise, ice-breaking activity and seismic testing have strong potential to disturb whales who are very acoustically sensitive. The planned seismic testing uses an “airgun” which is a loud sound source suspended underwater; the sonic equivalent for the whales of a rocket being launched out of your living room every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for days to weeks at a time. We don’t know what this disruption will ultimately do to whales’ chance of survival, but the immediate effects of airguns can result in a deaf whale, which is a dead whale.
As part of gaining permission to drill in the Arctic, Shell had to apply for “Incidental Harassment Authorization”, which in plain English is a permit to harass the wildlife that they come across, even if the animals are nursing, breeding or feeding. Thousands of whales, seals and other animals fall within this jurisdiction.
For decades I’ve paid tribute to the magnificent belugas. In recent years, I’ve spoken out about the importance of honoring the world’s children with a healthy planet. Shell’s plans are at odds with both of these endeavors. This isn’t just about the future; the Arctic is melting irreversibly, right now. So, like any child would ask, I too, look at the prospect of drilling for oil in the Arctic and ask “Why would we do this?”
If you’re moved by this story, why not sign this petition?
Raffi Cavoukian is an internationally renowned children’s entertainer with string of gold and platinum-selling recordings, who has been performing for over four decades. Follow him on Twitter @Raffi_RC
Happy earth day everyone!!! How will you celebrate?
This tree hugging gal will most likely celebrate by digging in some dirt and planting some things…pretty much what I have been doing all week. It never gets old seeing what I can create with good soil, sunshine, and organic, non GMO seeds. I was going to plant a tree but we “might” be moving soon and I would hate to plant a tree that I won’t be around to enjoy, so flowers and veggies it will be.
On a larger scale, beyond my own backyard there are also things we can do this earth day. This is my favorite day to donate to environmental causes and support stores who are giving portions of their proceeds to such causes. One such place doing this is ClimateStore. They are partnering with the Washington D.C. based non-profit Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) on Earth Day to provide renewable energy to communities in need. For a full week, 10% of proceeds from all purchases made on ClimateStore.com from April 19 – 25, 2015 will be donated to SELF.
The mission of SELF is to implement solar energy solutions for the 1.5 billion people living in energy poverty with their economic, educational, health care and agricultural development. They do this by conducting small solar installations in places with a specific need. For example, after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, SELF solar installations helped power eight health centers. In Benin, SELF built a solar irrigation system so that families could grow food in a sustainable, empowering way. SELF is currently working on a project to help provide lighting to schools in rural Columbia. They are a great organization and they are doing important work.
This Earth Day initiative, which ClimateStore has dubbed #10forSolar, gives consumers an opportunity to shop for themselves while donating to an amazing cause at no extra cost. 10% of the proceeds for every purchase will provide solar power!
I am an ambassador for ClimateStore so I am thrilled to see them backing this organization and donating a portion of the proceeds for Earth Week. Many people will no doubt be thinking about green and sustainable living and making a few purchases along these lines. It is great to know we can buy green products, support a company with a mission to fight climate change, AND fund solar energy for poverty stricken third world countries. Win, win!!
Some products that caught my eye were:
This mushroom farm. I have always wanted one!
and the Gathering a Garden Board Game…
I like knowing that my money is going twice as far and supporting causes I care about!!
Disclaimer: I am working in partnership with ClimateStore as a blog ambassador and I am compensated for my work . The opinions and thoughts contained in this post are 100% my own.
I recently sat down to watch the movie BlackFish again. It made me just as angry watching it the second time as it did the first time. The first time I watched I had to keep leaving the room because some parts were very upsetting to me. This time I made myself watch it. I cannot believe that Sea World still has patrons. I cannot believe that anyone who has seen this movie and lives in the vicinity of one of these parks has not been going to them and picketing or laying down in the entrance ways to prevent people from entering. The stuff going on in these parks is horrifying.
One of the worst things they are doing IMO is lying to the public and calling it “education”. There are videos of Sea World employees telling visitors that the average age of an Orca is 30-35 years in the wild and that they live much longer in captivity. This is a bold faced lie. Orcas live as long as a human, anywhere from 60-100 years old. In captivity they live on average 30 years so Sea World is essentially robbing them of more than half their life and that short life is spent living in prison like conditions. Employees also “educate” the public that the dorsal fin of Orcas collapses in 80-90% of all male Orcas no matter where they live. Again this is a lie. Their fins collapse when in captivity. This happens in the wild only a measly 1% of the time.
Die hard supporters of Sea World and places like it claim that they are important because they provide education. As seen in this movie that education is hugely flawed and sprinkled with lies. There goes that whole argument. They also claim that kids will not come to love or appreciate animals like dolphins or Orcas if they don’t see them in captive situations. Again, I call that a load of steaming you know what. As my husband pointed out while watching he thinks kids will find more to love and appreciate about Orcas from watching this film than they ever would attending a show at Sea World. I agree.
The movie goes into a long history of attacks by frustrated Orcas in captivity (as in 70+). The former Sea World trainers who worked with these whales never even knew about most of them, even when they were working with the exact same whales who had attacked at other facilities. They are not told because their employers really don’t want them to know. How that is not seen as criminal is beyond me.
The movie is creating change though. Sea World’s profits have plummeted 15% and OSHA imposed rules upon them declaring that trainers cannot openly swim with the whales anymore but must have a barrier between them. Sea World appealed and was denied just a few days ago. A court in California also stated recently that they are launching a year long investigation into whether or not to ban Orcas in captivity. We have to keep the pressure on to make sure that happens.
No person should avoid seeing this movie. If you do, you are choosing to bury your head in the sand when it comes to this HUGE issue of animal cruelty and corporate profiteering. It was filmed with the greatest of intentions and to quote a great man “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. Endorsing Sea World and supporting them in any way is being silent. It makes one culpable.
I have been to zoos and aquariums where the goal is species protection and rehabilitation. Sea World does not even begin to qualify as one of those. For instance the aquarium near my home in Ohio has manatees. All of them were hit by boats in the Florida region. They get medical care and rehab and then they go back to the ocean. They are never made to sing for their supper. Maybe they are not capable so that is why they are not cared for in their own home state by (ahem) Sea World??? I don’t know but it sounds fishy.
Sea World has been under fire for decades for their practices. They ignored these concerns and kept up with business as usual. Now we are supposed to feel sorry for them because the backlash got too big?? No. If they wanted to do the right and honorable thing they would announce a plan to use ALL profits (after expenses) to revamp every single habitat to one of proper size and condition. They would no longer make animals perform like baffoons and endanger themselves and trainers. And they would promise to never, ever take a healthy animal from the wild again and instead house animals that are sick, injured, or endangered with a plan to rehab and return ASAP. Only after they made such statements (and backed it up with ACTION) would I consider supporting them with my money.
If you haven’t seen this movie yet…watch it, with your kids. It is so important.
Over the weekend I enjoyed a new movie added to the Netflix lineup recently. It had been a while since I really browsed what they have to offer, thinking I have watched just about every eco documentary on there. I really wanted to spend my Saturday out in the yard and actually I got up at about 6:00 am (hours before anyone else would wake) and headed outside to do just that. One misstep on my back deck though resulted in a horrifying popping sound from my leg and a wave of intense pain. So I spent my weekend on the couch hoping that rest would resolve it (we shall see!)
I was so impressed with the first movie I watched though that I had to share here. It is A Fierce Green Fire. It is a fascinating look at the environmental movement and its various “chapters” that lead us to where we are today. Each chapter is narrated by a different person such as Robert Redford, Ashley Judd, or Meryl Streep. Environmentalism in my mind really never became a thing until our local environments were actually threatened by something that had the power to destroy it on a large scale. That didn’t happen until the industrial age. The birth of environmentalism according to this narrative is said to have really started with hunters and fishermen. They were among the first to start sounding the alarms that big businesses and industrial “progress” was destroying nature. It was so very interesting given the slant we see from plant based diet supporters and animal activists that it was hunters who really were the first environmentalists and in fact still are among the most outspoken and active in protecting animals and local habitats.
These first pioneers started to see the destruction of habitats and the decimation of animal species to make nutty things like bird feather hats for affluent women. Then they turned their attentions to dams that were being built, cutting off water supplies to numerous habitats and effectively killing them. I was enthralled with a bit of history I had no clue about. I spent most of my life living in Arizona and never knew that developers attempted to build two dams in the Grand Canyon that would have essentially drained it. I cannot even imagine the Grand Canyon with no rivers to raft down but it almost happened. It was a burgeoning Sierra Club that stopped it and then spurred the movement to create National Parks that would be protected always.
In another chapter the movie delves into the lack of regulation assigned to the chemical industry and the Love Canal fiasco where a company buried 21,000 tons of waste near a sleepy town in New York. The end result was that 56% of the children born subsequently had birth defects (extra ears, toes, fingers, rows of teeth, etc). Numerous children were sick and others were stillborn or born so prematurely they died. It was a group on moms who came together and forced the government (after a long drawn out battle) to declare it a disaster zone and pay for everyone to relocate.
It tells the story of Greenpeace and all the work they did and the splinter groups that formed and did various good work such as stopping the whaling industry. This particular part of the movie was deeply disturbing though I must warn you…. sounds of screaming whales, seals being hit in the heads with axes and so forth. I watched it and it made me all the more angry about the Sea World business going on right now and how people are starting to wake up a little after seeing the Blackfish movie. Why people in states where a SeaWorld resides aren’t laying down in the parking lots of these places to block visitors daily baffles me. Many are boycotting but MORE action is needed. Greenpeace got stuff done because they took dramatic and effective action. Just sayin…
Yet another chapter involves deforestation and it highlights the story of Chico Mendes who pioneered the world’s first tropical forest conservation initiative. He lived in the forest and worked in the forest and saw it being sold off to ranchers and loggers who decimated it. He fought until he was able to make the area where he lived a protected area where the indigenous people were not squatters but the rightful owners. His story is beautiful but also heart wrenching.
There is also no shortage of political stuff in the movie. If you are conservative you probably won’t like it because well, frankly conservatives are on the wrong side of this issue and MOST of the horrendous, stupid, no-good, bad decisions that ended in devastation to our environment were made by Republicans. They lay a lot of blame on Reagan specially who actually targeted environmentalists and started calling them radicals. One of the first things the guy did was remove the solar panels from the white house and cut funding to alternative energy development. The guy had a huge axe to grind with environmentalists getting in the way of what he thought was progress. As a result of that (one of MANY) we are getting spanked by many other nations when it comes to alternative energy ideas and solutions. That said the movie also takes shots at Clinton, Gore, and Obama for essentially doing nothing to take legislative action on climate change even though they promised they would.
I highly recommend this movie. If you don’t like politics you can always skip that chapter and instead revel in the history of good people doing amazing things for our one home and be inspired to continue the work they started…
In the mid-90s something called a Genetically Modified Organism was introduced to our food supply. A GMO occurs when the genes of one animal or plant species is artificially inserted into another animal or plant. One side of the debate supports that studies showed a 61% decrease in herbicide usage on GM Cottons. However, the other side rebutted that because of the speedy spread of Super-weeds, resistant to herbicides, even more chemicals would be used to compensate.
When it comes to the GMO controversy, all sides are set on full fire, with no signs of burning out. Maybe you’re reading this saying “Yay, Go GMO!” Maybe you are on the other side of the river, ranting about GMO destroying the world. Then again, Maybe you are thinking, “GM…What!?
So, what’s the scoop? Are Genetically Modified Foods the answer… or are they just a harmful ploy of science? Do GM crops increase or decrease the use of herbicides? Does genetic modification have a significant impact on crop yields? Are the impacts on yield positive or negative? Does genetic modification place a heavy impact on a farmer’s social and financial stability? Most importantly, are GM crops held to the same standards and regulations as all other foods, or do they seriously cause dysfunction to vital organs such as the immune system, liver, pancreas, and spleen?
In the end, no matter what side you stand on, the story is far from black and white. In this controversy of greys, it is best to be educated on the good, the bad, and the in-between. It’s time you dig deeper in the soils of this Genetically Modified Food Fight. Take a look at this infographic provided by Carrington.edu for more information.