Forget the Whales

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For a cetacean just three weeks old, being abandoned by your mother is a terrible (and generally fatal) incident. Things only get worse if you befriend a 26-foot ketch, as some sort of surrogate mother. But nothing puts your short life into miserable perspective like being given the name "Colin" and having your last few hours become a Sydney media event showcasing our everyday environmental hypocrisy.

Mother Nature can be the Most Official Bitch. We all know this but have great difficulty accepting it when she gets one of our favourite eco-nature pin-ups in her sights. Once the emblem for the patchouli oil and dolphin-tatt set, whales are now synonymous with everything that is green and wonderful. I’d like to use Colin as an example and suggest we all wake the hell up.

Whales are awesome. Majestic creatures of the deep, with their breaching and deep timbre singing, whales have become a symbol of the strange natural world that enchants us as we rapidly destroy it. Killing them makes no sense — apparently they taste awful. But saving them, specifically, as a symbol of our dedication to Mother Earth is futile and offensive to all the other, equally worthy creatures of the sea. In the age of global warming, whale preservation is like fire fighters rescuing cats during a bushfire.

Verity Firth, as NSW Environment Minister and Climate Change is all over the Save Colin Campaign. And why wouldn’t you be? While the NSW Government builds a desalination plant, proposes more dams, offers little in the way of sustainable urban development and runs a public transport system which is outclassed by cities in most third world nations, Ms Firth is flat chat rescuing a doomed whale (and offering $35 for your old fridge). Take THAT, carbon emissions!

Meanwhile, perhaps seeing an opportunity to prove he is the man of the moment, Nathan Rees (the wannabe leader of the NSW ALP) has somehow become "acting" Environment Minister, and called in — I sh*t you not — the Defence Force. By sheer fluke, our armed forces over in Afghanistan have apparently left their whale rescue equipment at home, so a fuel bladder is being transported from Townsville to Pittwater in Sydney, where Colin has fetched up.

The cunning plan is to use the fuel bladder like a giant inflatable raft to tow Colin out to sea and wait for a passing pod of humpbacks. Then there is the unlikely chance he may be adopted. In addition, the NSW Government is flying senior marine veterinarian Dr David Bligh, from Sea World on the Gold Coast, for a second opinion on Colin’s health. Dr Bligh may also get to pull the trigger when it’s decided that killing Colin is the most humane option, so the trip may not be a complete waste of time, money and carbon emissions.

As Colin awaits his impending doom in Pittwater, I have another suggestion. Ask Piers Ackerman to adopt him. Good for News Ltd and kinda OK for Colin. We’ll all sleep well at night. And in 20 to 30 years time, when ocean acidification due to man-made carbon emissions has destroyed the plankton, the whales that eat them, and countless other marine lifeforms, all those multi-million dollar Sydney homes whose owners are upset right now about Colin’s plight will be overlooking a stinking mass of lifeless slime.

At that point we can all stroke our chins through our gas masks and remember how we did bugger all when we had the chance to make a difference — but at least we did our best for little Colin.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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