The climate crisis is being played out on the high seas. What can perhaps most accurately be described as a World War is currently raging in, and on, the oceans. A war that most of us have no idea is being waged in our name, let alone any appreciation of its far-reaching scope and fatal consequences.
A war on life itself, carried out beneath the waves.
This “World War Sea” is every bit as threatening and lethal to life on planet Earth as the long-feared nuclear war – which, by contrast, has never amounted to more than a threatened possibility. ‘WWC’ is sealing our fate day-by-day and night-by-starry night in the oceanic womb from which all life emerged millions of years ago – and in which all life is now being gradually snuffed out, like a frog in a warming pot of water with the heat turned up high.
Let us correct a common misconception here. The oceans are not dying… They are being murdered. The ocean is the source of life itself. Our Mother.
And we are killing her.
Are we humans, as a race, really this cold-blooded? Still?!
Dateline Senegal, from the paper of record’s (NYT) Andrew Jacobs, April 30, 2017. “Once upon a time, the seas teemed with mackerel, squid and sardines, and life was good.” But now in Senegal, as in so many coastal communities around the world that have traditionally relied on the oceans’ bounty to sustain life, “fishermen lament as they reel in their nearly empty nets.” We should read that a couple of times to allow it to really sink in. Fishermen lament…
“Now the sea is empty,” as 75 year-old Zhu Delong puts it, pointing out why Chinese fleets must travel half-way round the world to steal the bounty from geopolitical weaklings.
I know we don’t normally equate fishing with warfare, but reading Jacobs’ investigative story disabuses us of the quaint notion that fishing is just fishing. He reports of China’s “growing armada of distant-water fishing vessels” that, having already laid waste to the seas closer to home, now park off the shores of West Africa, sentencing entire nations of people dependent on fishing economies to slow starvation and death. Africa, the so-called “Dark Continent” on the front-burner of runaway global warming, where humans first evolved and from which all humanity emigrated, is now experiencing unnatural famines that are chasing whole populations from inland areas parched with climate-baked fields no longer capable of supporting crops, towards coastal areas where fleets of “megatrawlers” deploy destructive, mile-long drift nets capable of “scoop[ing] up as many fish in one week as Senegalese boats catch in a year.” Until they can’t, of course, at which time they’ll move on to carpet-bomb some other distant sea.
Is this legal, one might wonder?
According to Jacobs, “as many as two-thirds of [these] boats engage in fishing that contravenes international or national laws.” Currently, we’re talking about a fleet of 2,600 distant-water megatrawlers imposing their de facto embargoes on impoverished populations powerless to stop them. And its not all just indirect warfare, either. “Indonesia [a more powerful country] has impounded scores of Chinese boats caught poaching in its waters, the Argentine authorities sank a Chinese vessel that tried to ram a coast guard boat” and there have been “[v]iolent clashes between Chinese fishermen and the South Korean authorities that have left a half-dozen people dead.”
China has also carried out hostile takeovers of Philippine and Vietnamese fisheries, and just last week, Philippine’s strongman leader revealed that Xi Jinping personally threatened him with war if Manila tried to enforce an arbitration ruling and drill for oil in a disputed part of the South China Sea. And as we in the U.S. know, Secretary of State T. Rex and our own Exxon Valdez ‘State’ Department are busily conspiring with Putin’s corporate cronies to divvy up oil reserves made accessible only due to the melting polar ice cap – an obscene agenda first espoused by then Secretary Clinton, and which threatens similar devastation of existing fish stocks to what has transpired in the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. One way or another, our corporate leaders are determined to foul all seven seas.
This is a war over table scraps. “The small fish that swim in Senegalese waters… migrate in enormous schools between Morocco and Sierra Leone,” according to Jacobs, though they account for 85% of the protein in the Senegalese diet. Ninety percent – 90%! – of the world’s fisheries are already “fully exploited or facing collapse,” according to the United Nations. This is reflected by a corresponding 90% decline in the world’s “big fish” populations in my brief lifetime. Do you know what a 90% decline in the world’s human population would look like over that same span? Imagine a world of less than 30 million people!
We may get there sooner than later.
According to a study by an international team of ecologists and economists, the oceans are on track to be devoid of fish by 2048. “This isn’t predicted to happen. This is happening now,” according to one of the study’s authors. And as announced in the annual State of the Climate’s 2014 report, based on research from 413 scientists in 58 countries, the warming of the world’s oceans due to climate change is now unstoppable – it will continue for centuries or millennia to come, no matter what steps we might take to curb carbon emissions.
Fukushima contaminated the entire Pacific Ocean in just 5 years, and continues to leak an astounding 300 tons of radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean every day.
World War Sea.
“[A] world without living oceans is a world without us,” according to famed oceanographer and former head of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Agency, Sylvia Earle, since we do not just rely on oceans for protein-rich food, but also for about half of our oxygen. We won’t get that same life energy from dead oceans. The canary in the oceanic coal mine, of course, is the coral reefs, which serve as nurseries providing the nutrients for the incredible diversity first revealed to us by Jacque Cousteau, invented of “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus,” or scuba tanks.
Sylvia Earle was inspired by Cousteau growing up off the Gulf Coast at a time when there were only a few oil derricks visible from shore. Earle – the first female oceanographer who has now spent more time on the ocean floor than any human being ever, echoes the lament of the Senegalese fishermen when she informs us that “the oceans are dying” in the stunning Netflix original documentary about her life, Mission Blue.
China may well appear as an aggressive warmonger plundering the world’s seas today, and in fact they do account for a third of the world’s fish consumption. But they are hardly acting unilaterally in this ecocidal blitzkrieg, and we should not mistake for a minute just who it is they are ‘serving.’
Most of the plunder ends up on your (or your pets) dinner plate. No, not as some kind of exotic seafood like Mahi Mahi, but rather as chicken or bacon. Unless you happen to be vegetarian, or a conscious consumer who sources your food, then the chickens and pigs that you eat are coming from factory farms, and those animal concentration camps feed their prisoners seafood stocks supplied, to a great extent, by China’s frenzied fishmeal factories.
This is kind of like eating meat supplied by Germany’s gas houses in WWII, isn’t it? Our gas house is global, and our crematoriums are underwater. The banality of evil hidden beneath the ocean’s waves is slowly but surely snuffing out any chance for a shared future. Could the 21st Century be the last human century? Well, if the ocean’s become watery graveyards by 2050 due to our implicit approval and active support of this industrial ecocide, they will quickly take on the appearance of our own graveyards calling us home. Perhaps some form of ‘humans’ may survive, but they will be no more than ghosts haunting a global Holocaust museum of our own making.
“The horror… the horror…”
(c) 2017 by Zhiwa Woodbury, M.A., J.D. Reproductions for other than educational purposes without the author’s consent not permitted.