Paul Watson, Ecowarrior At Large

The New Yorker has a gigantic piece up on Paul Watson, the former Greenpeace cofounder who is now the generalissimo of the Sea Shepherds. Watson is possibly the last of the fully mobilized alpha-male environmentalists that roamed the heroic early age of the green action movement. His ego spreads out across the sea, like a living shield for the dieing oceans. Say what you want about him and his mythic vigilantism, ramming a decrepit Norwegian trawler with a jagged cutting boom welded on the side into an active whaling ship denormalizes the situation for everybody. And I think we need a lot of that. It’s not real clear that many people have actually gotten hurt by his actions (although some certainly could have, and apparently some have come awfully close). Anything that slows up the sterilization of the oceans, which may be heading towards an unrecoverable threshold, or at it, or just possibly past it, is a good way to spend a life.

Neptune’s Navy, Paul Watson’s wild crusade to save the oceans

I also thought this was an interesting point:

It was not until the mid-nineties that fisheries scientists turned their attention to the spiral of exploitation and attempted to gauge its consequences. They discovered that their discipline had been measuring biodiversity with a very narrow lens: looking, for instance, at habitats only in a particular region of the ocean, or at the rise or decline of a particular species, and usually with respect to benchmarks that had been set just decades earlier. No one had tried to determine what the full spectrum of life in the ocean looked like a hundred years or five hundred years in the past. “We forgot the wonder and splendor of a virgin nature,” Watson wrote recently. “We revise history and make it fit into our present perceptions.” In 1995, the process of forgetting was given a name—“shifting baseline syndrome”—by Daniel Pauly, a scientist at the University of British Columbia. “Essentially, this syndrome has arisen because each generation of fisheries scientists accepts as a baseline the stock size and species composition that occurred at the beginning of their careers, and uses this to evaluate changes,” Pauly argued in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. He concluded, “The result obviously is a gradual shift of the baseline, a gradual accommodation of the creeping disappearance of resource species.”

1 comment:

Great post. I particulalry like the line “His ego spreads out across the sea, like a living shield for the dieing oceans.” For more on the debate about Paul Watson and his recent New Yorker appearance as well as the concept of shifting baselines, visit the shifting baselines blog at:

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