Monday, February 19, 2007

Whaling Ship Fire, Protests & Greenpeace

To hear the full audio report (16 minutes long) click the title above.

This piece begins with clips from radio in Australia and New Zealand. A minister in New Zealand makes clear their objections to continued Japanese whaling in the internationally designated whale sanctuary. So far the Japanese have slaughtered over 18,000 whales from this sanctuary. Neither Australia nor New Zealand have enforced the rules to protect whales - even though New Zealand has sent ships down to protect fish.

We learn this from a recorded interview with Paul Watson, commander of the Sea Shepherd Society. Two of their boats were trying to stop the Japanese whaling, and they claim they were rammed by the main factory boat, the Nissan Miru. That boat caught fire just a day after the Sea Shepherd boats, low on fuel, left for Melbourne. The Nissan Miru had another fire in 1998, but this one is more serious. The 140 plus crew abandoned ship, going to the whale chasing boats. The fire was eventually "contained" and may now be out. The Sea Shepherd boats "Farley Mowat" and the "Robert Hunter" (both named after Canadian environmentalists and authors) limped into Melbourne harbor today, just 24 hours before registration ran out on the Robert Hunter.

The Farley Mowat was deregistered by the Canadian government, in a bureaucratic move last summer, stripping its classification as a "yacht." Doubtless this harassment was due to both Japanese pressure, and Canadian displeasure with Watson's persistent protests of the Canadian seal slaughter. So technically, anyone can seize the Farley Mowat as a "pirate" ship. Watson has said he intended to retire the ship, and now proposes it be made into a whale museum in Melbourne harbor. This story continues.

Meanwhile, the Greenpeace protest ship "Esperanza" has reached the crippled whaler. The Esperanza is a former Russian sea tug, and the only tow capable boat any where near the Nissan Miru. Greenpeace has offer to tow the whaling boat away from the Antarctic shore. The damaged vessel is only 100 nautical miles away from one of the world's greatest Penguin breeding grounds.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand has urged the Japanese to swallow their pride, and their talk of environmental terrorism, and accept a tow from Greenpeace, to avoid the risk of spilling thousands of gallons of oil and toxic chemicals into the sea, and perhaps into the Penguin grounds. So far, the Japanese have refused, leaving the ship without power, sandwiched between two whale chasing ships, which are not capable of towing the big factory ship in rough weather. The Greenpeace ship, on the other hand, is quite capable of such a task.

We hear this in an original Radio Ecoshock interview with Steve Shallhorn, the Executive Director of Greenpeace Australia. He's a long-time campaigner with the International Organization, and a son of Greenpeace Canada. Steve, can you tell us what is going on with the crippled Japanese whaling ship, in the Southern Ocean?

[please listen to the interview]

New Zealand's Prime Minister has warned Japan of being too proud to accept help, even from Greenpeace. He fears an ecological disaster for the Antarctic Coast, and especially the Penguins. Is it really that serious, and would Greenpeace help a whaling ship?

Millions of people around the world will be relieved the slaughter has stopped, at least for now. Perhaps a thousand magnificent whales will live at least another year. Could this be the end of the line for Japanese whaling?

[If the ship is too damaged, and this is its second big fire, Shallhorn cannot believe the Japanese will build a new "research" vessel to exploit more whales from the Sanctuary.]

Greenpeace International has been saying "We love Japan but hate whaling." What is the feeling there in Australia, about killing whales in a designated International Whale Sanctuary?

Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd society brought a lot of publicity to this issue. How do you feel about his latest voyage?

Steve, a minister in New Zealand said a tug may be dispatched from that country, but he wouldn't expect a whaling vessel to come to a New Zealand port, considering the governments opposition, and vocal public opposition, to whaling. How do you see this playing out?

On a personal note, I know you were an anti-nuclear campaigner for years, and have seen American warships much too close up, from a zodiac. Have you been up close and personal with whales as well?

I asked that personal question, because killing whales drives a lot of people to despair - for us humans. Is there an end to this madness? What can we do?

We've been speaking with Steve Shallhorn, Executive Director of Greenpeace Australia. Thanks Steve.

There is no copyright on Steve Shallhorn's interview. Go ahead and pass it on, or rebroadcast it.

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock

Sunday, February 18, 2007


[Listen to the testimony to the Senate by clicking on the title above. It is 30 important minutes for the planet.]

Sir Nicholas Stern, the UK economist who caught the attention of the business world, when he warned of the huge costs of ignoring climate change, testified before the US Senate Energy Committee on February 13th, 2007.

This hearing would never have been held before the Democratic takeover of the Senate and its committees. It is a sea change in the development of American climate policy. Sir Nicholas advises former heresies, like a cap on total carbon emissions for the United States, a carbon tax, and even a higher tax on gasoline.

Let's go straight to the Senate, for the ten minute testimony of Sir Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern Report. Then we'll pick up on a couple of key questions and answers between Senators and Mr. Stern, on contentious problems like the lack of carbon controls in China and India. Here is Nicholas Stern:

[clip of 10 minute presentation; based on his report prepared for the British Government, estimating the costs of continued growth of our greenhouse gas emissions with no global action to contain them - and the resulting damage - compared to the cost of taking action to limit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The future is difficult to predict, but if the world atmosphere exceeds 550 parts per million of carbon dioxide, as it will by the end of this century at our current rate of pollution growth, then the climate could rush anywhere from 3 degrees to 6 six degrees warmer, as a global average. Some places would increase more than that. And those are degrees Celsius, meaning up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit change.

He finds the cost of inaction will result in so much damage to the world's agricultural and economic systems that a future generation will "pay" or lose, anywhere from 5 percent, up to 20 percent, of the total economic wealth of the world. Yet preventing the worse, and most rapid, climate change would only cost 1 percent of our current annual production. Even in the best case scenario, he says, where only 5 % of the global gross production is lost due to climatic change (storms, droughts, heat waves, insect and disease increase, etc) - it is still far cheaper to spend the 1% and control carbon.

This 1 percent is still trillions of dollars over the next decade or so. Stern explains the application of this study to the American situation, backing his statements with the recent Working Group One report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.]

That was British economist Sir Nicholas Stern, testifying before the Senate Energy Committee on February 13th, 2007.

Stern also warned that adaptation is becoming as important as cutting emissions.

[clip: some climate change is now inevitable, and we must prepare]

Now let's look at China. The America Senators brought up the common excuse for inaction in their country. Why should we regulate carbon, or capture it using expensive new systems, when the Chinese do nothing to control their vast coal burning emissions?

[this clip is fascinating. A Senator asks a question, where there seems to be a code word "productive powers" or the like, for "international corporations". He complains that these "powers" have frustrated other efforts globally by moving their manufacturing operations, and jobs, to places where two factors exist: a low wage work force with lax or no government regulation; and a location with lax or no environmental regulations or enforcement. If carbon is captured and stored, or other expensive technologies are required of industry in America, he asks, what stops American jobs from disappearing yet again to places where dumping carbon in the atmosphere is still free.

He gives the example where multinational corporations over-ruled an effort by the Philippine government to raise the minimum wage there. And says there is no enforcement of carbon or pollution laws in Chinese industry, despite green statements made by officials there, or laws on the books. Why should the U.S. spend all this money on carbon control, when China and India do not?

Sir Nicholas answers that concern. He talks of steps the Chinese are taking - especially since leaders in both India and China are well aware that their civilizations are threatened if the massive glaciers in the Himalayas melt. These are the sources of major river systems of India and China. The glaciers are also a type of stabilization system, preventing some floods, and yet providing a steady flow until harvest time, even without rain. Perhaps a billion people depend on this system.

He says he has spend decades living in both India and China. Sir Nicholas then says it is up to wealthier more developed countries to develop and apply the technology of carbon capture and storage, apply regulations about energy efficiency, put a cap on national carbon emissions, and tax carbon, especially gasoline, heavily. All that is what he advises these legislators of America. In his presentation, he does not mention or recommend either nuclear power or the most benign sources of energy, solar and wind.

Applying carbon control would cost America about 1% of its GDP, Stern says. And that is an affordable cost that would not cripple the economy.

An American Senator points out there has been some progress using carbon capture and storage in his state. Here are several short clips about carbon capture and storage technology, as a way to make sustainable fossil fuels.

[the Senator from North Dakota describes America's only coal-gasification plant, which captures the carbon and pumps it through long pipelines to depleted oil wells in Alberta, Canada. The carbon goes back down into the ground, and stimulates a bit more oil production from the older wells. Nicholas Stern offers his approval of carbon capture and storage, describes its importance, and is echoes by two other American economists present. ]

Finally, Stern is asked what American legislators can learn from the European experience with cap and trade, so far.

[Stern says the first experiment in Europe did poorly because too many pollution permits were sold. So, the price of carbon for trading fell too low. But another round is beginning, and this time the agency is not offering so many permits, and the price is expected to rise. Stern hopes the Americans will design a system that will be able to hook up to the European trading scheme, and any developed in other parts of the world, especially Asia. But no one needs to wait for a new global treaty, he says. The time to act is now, and in the country where you are.]

This compilation of Stern's testimony before the Senate comes from a Senate broadcast site, at:

The video says it is over 2 hours long, but in fact, if you go to view it, the title screen sits there stupidly for about 19 and a half minutes. To view, click on the link, wait for your viewer (Windows Media Player, Real Player, or whatever) to come up, wait a minute or two for more of the broadcast to load, and then pull the slider to 19 minutes and 45 seconds. The show starts after that, and runs for about an hour and 40 minutes.

The point of my audio is to save you some time, and hit the key points in less than 30 minutes. This testimony is important, as a key representative, of European thought and planning for government, arrives in the United States, to a new Democratic Senate and House, and a new awareness in the American media - and public - about the threat of climate change.

Radio Ecoshock