Anger at Sea

I got angry on the Northlink Ferry last week.

No, I'm not one of returning oil workers that made the media around Shetland.

All I’d had to drink was a bottle of sparkling water.

We had passed south down Bressay Sound, on down the Shetland coast, and had just reached the point where the ship starts to slide out of the shelter of Sumburgh Head at the south tip of Shetland. At this point the waters of the North Sea and the North Atlantic mix in what the locals call Da Noost. The white caps appear and as I stared out of the windows at the stern of the MV Hjaltland all I could think of were the whales that should be in the waters around Shetland.

Shetland Minke Whale - one of the survivors?
Many years ago huge pods of whales frequented these coasts – from pilot (or Caain’ ) whales which were driven into the bays for 'harvesting' through to the bigger Right whales which were hunted from small boats when they ventured too close to land. Later, industrial whaling was introduced from Norway and new hunting technologies and specialised whale catcher boats were used to bring ashore thousands of (mostly) Fin whales at rendering stations in Ronas Voe, Collafirth and Olna Voe.  This hunting continued until there were no more whales to catch.

Having cleaned out the Shetland waters the operations moved elsewhere first to other sites in the North Atlantic, then later to the South Atlantic in every case operating until there weren't any whales left to catch.   This frantic, obsessive behaviour was driven by industries that had developed around whale products. There was never any consideration given to what happens next.

So what did happen next?

Once there was no more whale oil did the world end? No of course it didn't. The obsession just changed to black oil. And the same thing is happening again.

Arctic Oil?
We killed all the whales we could find to just stretch the era of whale oil out for a few more months, and did our very best to ensure that the whales were pushed to extinction. We’re now scrabbling around to stretch the last few years of the black oil era. We’re drilling in high risk areas like the Arctic, planning to frack in places where we just shouldn't.

Just as we were able to move on from whale oil, we’re well capable to moving on from black oil. We can choose not to, but all we’re doing is stretching out the point when we have no choice. And the consequence of delaying the decision?  We’re almost certainly going to trash the Arctic at some point and we’re almost certainly going to cause massive pollution or worse by fracking.

I think I'm entitled to feel angry.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Life certainly gets you like that doesn't it?.