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Feeling blue over climate

01 Sep 2021 | OP ED Watch

From the “you just cannot win with these people” file, a reader points to an EcoWatch story about blue whales returning to Spain’s Atlantic coast after 40 years. Which you’d think must be cause for celebration, right? The Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute sure thought so: “We want to share with all of you the good news of the presence of the largest animal species on the planet and a symbol of the conservation of our oceans, the blue whale that one more year returns to forage in the rich Galician waters.” But of course the local press found some alarmist to drizzle on the parade, saying “I'm pessimistic because there's a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale's habitat.”

The expert in question is Alfredo López, “a marine biologist at a Galician NGO” who told La Voz de Galicia that he thinks it’s climate change and bad “Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced. And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we're seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.” Yeah, if. On the other hand it could just mean that once humans stopped slaughtering these magnificent animals they were less likely to be wiped out and more likely to recover.

Seriously. Nobody is blaming the near-annihilation of (parade of cliches about largest animal ever 100 feet long and 200 tons) on climate change, at least not yet. Rather, it’s the obvious thing about humans in ever-faster, sturdier and larger boats with ever-more-deadly weapons massacring them recklessly and then finally, not a minute too soon, going hey, that’s a terrible idea. No matter what you think of rowing out and throwing a harpoon at Moby Dick, using many-hundred-horsepower engines and technology derived from World War II to suck whales into floating processing plants was never going to end well unless it ended quickly. And in one of those environmental success stories that should get more attention, along with fixing air pollution in Western cities, we actually did it.

Remember, for starters, that these are the first such sightings in Spanish waters in 40 years. Not ever. And since alarmists usually seem to think temperatures 40 years ago were ideal, when they think about the subject at all, it’s hard to imagine that the whales coming back to waters they used to frequent could possibly be a sign of trouble, except that all effects of climate change are bad even when they’re good.

For his part, the head of the BDRI, Bruno Díaz, ducked the climate question and offered a far more touching explanation for the return now that Spanish waters don’t spell death to whales: homesickness. “In recent years, it's been discovered that blue whales migrate based on their memories and not current environmental conditions. This year there hasn't been a notable increase in plankton, and, nevertheless, they are here.”

So come on. You’re not Greta Thunberg. Manage a smile as they bask, spout and generally blue whale about.

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