FAR END OF THE GOBI DESERT – Doing environmental work out here in the sand dunes where every blade of grass is a miracle of life, the hostage crisis at Discovery Channel’s headquarters seems to me a theater of absurdity on another planet. The Discovery Channel has its problems, for sure, like corporate greed, computer-enhanced “nature”, a puerile obsession for military hardware, and facilitation of official cover-ups, but hostage-taking is no way to remedy crappy programming. It’s better to just switch channels to . . . whoops, sorry, folks, NatGeo is even worse.
James Jae Lee, the gunned-down protestor – excuse me, “eco-terrorist” – who brought in metal tubes that the police say were filled with explosives – probably never had any real hands-on contact with nature. If he had planted a sapling, cleared trash out of a river or just gasped for breath on a mountaintop, he might have realized that saving the planet is done with hard physical work and not through violence.
The Korean-American activist was just another frustrated city boy who couldn’t take any more of the lies and deception from the Greenwash Establishment that Discovery has come to represent. (The recent James Bond movie “Quantum of Soros . . . uh, Solace” does a good job of exposing the duplicity of corporate-based environmental claims, which is probably why the sequel has been canceled.)
The term “eco-terrorism” could also apply to someone like Tony Hayward, former CEO of BP America. For all his menacing behavior, James Lee did not harm his hostages or damage property, and probably never really intended to. Wayward Hayward’s oil drilling operation, in contrast, killed 11 oil workers, dumped crude across the southern seaboard of the US and terrified millions of Gulf Coast residents.
To the list of Eco-Terrorism suspects, might I suggest to the FBI adding likes of BP, Exxon, Allied-Union Carbide (Bhopal gas massacre) and the Pentagon?
This is not to say that wild-eyed vegan zealots shouldn’t be put on that dreaded list. Take for example, Paul Watson, the head of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who recently appeared on the Larry King Show. Thank you, CNN, for providing worldwide publicity to an “activist” whose flag is a skull-and-bones and whose deeds include:
Ordering his followers to throw bottles of acid at ship crews
Ramming and boarding boats on the high seas (acts of piracy)
Sinking three fishing trawlers, according to his own claims
Watson was kicked out of Greenpeace and the Sierra Club for his advocacy of violence (against fellow humans) yet recently made a comeback with the release of “The Cove“, the well-publicized and well-financed documentary which shows gruesome scenes of dolphins being slaughtered by Japanese villagers.
The question to Watson is: Are the horrors any less bloody inside a North American slaughterhouse?
The Japanese hunt some 550 whales a year, as compared with the United States’ annual slaughter of: 36 million cattle, 116 million pigs and 9 billion chickens. What’s more damaging to animal life: a sushi counter, McDonalds or KFC?
Do the “civilized” people who bemoan the eating of whales, which at least enjoy a life of freedom in their natural habitat, have any right to protest when they imprison billions of mammals inside filthy cages for their entire lives? Thoughtful vegetarians are completely correct is charging that most corn and soy is used inefficiently as animal feed in corporate fattening farms. The Sea Shepherds don’t go after the North American beef and pork industry because Texan butchers are nowhere near as polite as Japanese whalers when it comes to dealing with vandalism and assault.
As for wildlife, some 2,100 moose were shot dead in New Brunswick during a 3-day hunting season – without a peep of complaint from Canadian native Watson.
What about the intelligence factor? Whales communicate and have feelings, but so do cows. When it comes to brains, no living thing is as smart as Paul the Octopus, but that’s not going to stop sushi lovers from ordering tako.
Now I admit to not liking the taste of a fresh whale steak. The flavor is something like fishy dog meat, although I must say well-stewed dog is a rich source of energy on a freezing winter’s day. Taste is culturally defined. Americans aren’t going to stop eating bacon burgers because pork and beef are objectionable to Muslims and Hindus.
In Korea and Vietnam, certain breeds of dogs have been raised as meat animals for longer than Western civilization has existed. Are Japanese and Norwegians savages (along with Pacific Coast Indians and the Inuit) for eating whale? Isn’t it far more frivolous and wasteful for Westerners to treat their pet pooches better than children in the slums of Brazil, villages in sub-Saharan Africa or places like West Bengal, India?
I suspect what drives the fanaticism of Watson and his crew is not a genuine respect for animals, but an abiding hatred of his own species. In contrast to the pathetic loser Lee, who advocated absolute birth control (maybe because he wished that he had never been born), Watson is a not-so latent homicidal maniac. He has boasted of sinking fishing trawlers on the high seas and orchestrated mid-sea collisions that are tantamount to attempted murder – while still having the temerity of claiming “non-violence”. The demon within that drives him to murderous rage is not nature but human nature.
What about peaceful resistance to the taking of life? Vegetarianism is compassionate and just, but sadly unviable as a solution for a global population of 7 billion people. There’s no further land or water available for more veggie gardens or rice paddies. Besides, soybean, the stuff of tofu, is the most destructive plant in the Monsanto arsenal when it comes to pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer. These chemicals destroy more songbirds than shotguns can ever aim at. Organic farming may be a labor of love, but chemistry-addicted agribusiness is about money. In the mass market, what’s going to win out: love or the love of money?
James Lee’s warped manifesto does have a point: We’re eating up everything on the planet
Except grass. Humans cannot digest its cell walls. Only pasture mammals can convert grass into protein. That’s why for most of our dietary history, humans have been hunters or herders; we are predators by nature – and this may be hard for vegetarians to swallow: Because Nature wanted it that way.
Grass and shrubs cover more of the Earth’s surface than arable land, but now the problem is that grasslands are fast becoming desert. Animals are essential to sustaining grasslands and forests because they consume undergrowth and return nutrients to the soil through their manure. Besides impoverished soils, grazers benefit poor communities. Meat, hides for leather, bone meal, horn and ivory are valuable economic resources for rural communities.
Well-intentioned city dwellers do enormous damage to natural systems by blindly imposing total bans against the trade in animal products. Better range management, traceability systems and transparency are the rational answer to conserving wildlife, as opposed to unsustainable and unenforceable trade bans. The same goes for the oceans, which need to be protected from pollution so that they continue to be a bountiful source of seafood. The hysterical predictions of biological collapse of the seas and therefore ever-more bans on fishing are wrong and divert us from the hard task of cleaning up the toxic mess cascading into the waters.
Predators, that’s what we are, up there with lions and orcas. Without natural sources of protein, humankind is doomed. What fanatics like James Lee and Paul Watson long for, and what the Tony Haywards are implementing, is the extinction of our species. Now with climate change, their death wish could soon come true.
As predators, we must protect the environment and biodiversity. To prevent our own starvation, we must relearn how to work with nature and not against it. The first thing one discovers in this pitiless desert is that any ecosystem is complex. There’s much to learn and little time to do it, so it’s senseless to threaten or scare any animal, including humans. Toil with compassion, stay strong, and show the humblest respect to other species for giving us life. As part of the brood of the animal kingdom, we all must someday die, and sometimes for others. That is the way of an Eco-Warrior.
Yoichi Shimatsu is a consultant and developer of natural-organic agriculture and eco-tourism along the Silk Road in the Gobi and Kumtag deserts, whenever not working as a journalist or editor.
+The MAIL (London) may have set a world record for longest headline for the shortest story with “Crazed eco-terrorist shot dead after taking hostages at Discovery Channel HQ after they ‘ignored his ideas for a TV show'”. So taking up on “eco-terrorism”, we look at the Unusual List of Suspects:
- ames Jae LEE
- save-the-planet website
- population control,animal rights
- halt shows promoting birth
- took 3 hostages. without harm
- prior arrest for Discovery protest
- shot dead by police
- Humans are filthy, pollutive’
- Paul WATSON
- Sea Shephard Conservation
- animal liberation
- anti-whaling versus Japan
- rams ships, acid thrown at crews
- arrests for threats, ship damage
- star of Discovery’s ‘Whale Wars’
- Worms more valuable than people’
- Tony HAYWARD
- BP CEO (just retired)
- green biz ‘Beyond Petroleum’
- limit probe into oil rig blast
- 11 workers dead, Gulf ruined
- $78,000 to Obama campaign
- $1.5 million severance pay
- ’I would like my life back’
+ See “The Werewolf Syndrome” under Menu/ HOTNEWS/Environment.