Should we Save Paper Whales, Virtual Whales or Real Whales?
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
As a cofounder of the Greenpeace Foundation, I am a little worried that the current Greenpeace leadership is losing touch with reality. Greenpeace no longer send ships to the Southern Ocean to defend the whales. Instead, they now have a video game where whales can be saved virtually. Why go all the way down to the remote, cold, and hostile coast of Antarctica when you can save whales from your living room by playing the “Greenpeace Save the Whales” game?
Oh, and by the way, if you send a donation to Greenpeace today, Greenpeace will send President Barack Obama a genuine paper origami whale in your name.
This is Greenpeace’s latest appeal:
"Thirty-five years ago, Greenpeace became the first organization to confront the commercial whaling fleets on the high seas."
But what they are doing now is this:
"If you donate today, the Greenpeace team and I will also deliver an origami whale with your name on it to the White House. And we’ll make sure everyone sees your support by sharing the images of the origami whales all around the world."
John Hocevar, Greenpeace Ocean Campaigns Director
John Hocevar was only 4-years-old when Bob Hunter and I first placed our bodies between eight fleeing sperm whales and a Soviet harpoon vessel. All of the people who were with us that day are no longer with Greenpeace. So John can say that Greenpeace was the first organization to confront commercial whaling and imply that means him, but I can say that I and my shipmates were the first people to actually do it and because of that, because we saw the whales die before our eyes, and because we almost died that day ourselves, we still remain firmly attached to the reality of whaling.
It is for these reasons that I get angry at the trivialization of what we did, and what we have been doing for three-and-a-half decades. Whales to us are not an abstraction!
A couple of years ago, John Hocevar also wrote:
“I am looking forward to a World Oceans Day where I can kick back with a beer and relax, knowing that the oceans are in great shape. I sincerely hope this won't involve time travel or an inter-galactic voyage.”
No, it turns out for John that it involves video games and origami whales.
Now why does this upset me? Because Sea Shepherd is sending three ships and 88 volunteers down to the Southern Ocean at this very moment. We are down here now, awaiting the killers and ready to defend the innocent. We won’t be home for Christmas, we won’t be ringing in the New Year with our friends and family, and we won’t be playing the save-the-whales video game by hunting down cartoon whalers on a computer screen.
We don’t spend money on massive direct mail appeals and we don’t stick paid solicitors on the streets of every major city in the world begging for money from which each solicitor takes a large personal cut. Sea Shepherd’s funds are spent on campaigns because I discovered many years ago that there are two types of organizations: those that do action and those that do mail-outs!
Greenpeace was once a “doing organization” on ships and in the field, getting down and dirty and being effective, saving whales from dying! Now it is a mailing organization, a posing organization, in offices, collecting money, and now, making origami whales!
As Greenpeace does this, and while John kicks back with his beer, we are hunting real whaling vessels in real time. This is the seventh year we have spent the holiday season defending whales at the very bottom of the planet. Our ships cost major money and we don’t have enough of it to go around. We struggle to get our vessels into position, to fuel, and provision them. Greenpeace, on the other hand, has a very efficient fundraising machine bringing in tens of millions of dollars to “Save the Whales.”
And what are they doing? Sending origami paper whales to the President of the United States! Not the Prime Minster of Japan, or the Emperor of Japan, or the Prime Ministers of Iceland, Norway, or Denmark but to the President of a country that already opposes commercial whaling and does not engage in commercial whaling!
What is wrong with this picture? The answer is a total disconnect with reality. This is about Greenpeace seizing the opportunity to bring in major contributions for very little expense. Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on fuel and provisions, equipment and expenses, when you can hire some mailing house to send out direct mail and origami paper whales to the President?
I can just imagine the President of the United States picking up the phone and saying, “Hi Naoto, excuse me, but could you call off your annoying whalers and your disgusting dolphin killers please. I’m getting absolutely swamped with these origami thing-a-ma-jigs, and quite frankly Mr. Prime Minister, something has to be done about it. Yes, I know I can’t tell you what to do Naoto, but Greenpeace told me that I have to tell you to stop killing whales and dolphins because they don’t like Sea Shepherd telling you what to do and blocking your ships and all that and they say that if I don’t get you to stop the killing, they’re going to send me more of these annoying papery things, and if they do that Al Gore is going to be on my ass about all this wasted paper and I don’t need that kind of aggravation Naoto.”
Sea Shepherd has had a team on the ground in Taiji, Japan since the beginning of September and we will remain there for the entire slaughter season until the end of March. Greenpeace has not once set foot in Taiji to oppose the killing and cites the slaughters as “traditional.” Sea Shepherd has been in the Galapagos since 1999 working with the rangers to intervene against poaching and the slaughter of sharks for their fins. Greenpeace has never gotten involved in this issue. Nor is Greenpeace doing anything to save seals or to stop illegal fishing. Greenpeace is also certainly not down here in the Southern Ocean where the killing could begin as soon as next week. They have ships. They have the resources but they are busy doing fundraising tours or hanging banners somewhere.
I have told them we could use their help. I have told them we would cooperate with them and give them the coordinates for the whalers once we locate them but they refuse to answer. They did not even send me one of those origami whales to appease me, which you would think they would do, considering that they believe the origami whales will convince the President of the United States to take action against Japan.
No, they don’t want you to donate to funding a ship and a crew to intervene against the whalers, but your donation will get you a paper origami whale with your name on it sent to the President of the United States.
All I know is that I am on a ship in the Southern Ocean and the seas are slamming us as I type this with my chair sliding back and forth. The wind is howling outside and sleet is sliding down the outside of the portholes. Meanwhile, somewhere out here, the Japanese whaling fleet is heading towards the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary with the intent to murder over a thousand whales.
And where is John? Kicking back with a beer, most likely after the very expensive Greenpeace Christmas party. And on Christmas Day, as he slices off a piece of turkey and spoons some stuffing on to his plate, he will smile and give thanks that he can be home celebrating with his family because Greenpeace has replaced real ships and real passion with video games and origami.
Well done John! Well done indeed!