February 10, 2009

Being an Activist in Antarctica…

Nicola Paris (Galley Assistant)

South of 70 degrees.  Where there is no god- if that's your thing.

blog_090122_NicolaIts 1:40 AM on the 5th of February and I can't sleep.  I am looking out the porthole at a muted grey seascape, in a state of constant twilight.

Yesterday morning I was woken up at 5 AM by someone letting me know that two of the whaling fleet's harpoon ships were suddenly flanking us as we were pacing with the Nisshin Maru - the whaling fleet's factory processing ship.  We had a long running battle the day beforehand and everyone was catching up on sleep.  By the time I got my wet weather gear on and up on deck, all three harpoon boats were looming out of the mist - twisting and turning at sharp angles to try and distract us from the factory processing ship, and our main target, the Nisshin Maru.

There are a broad spectrum of people on this ship, three from West Australia this time - myself, still in the galley - and on board for the last year, Stephen, a veteran of several campaigns in the engine room and our brand new doctor David.  We are from all different walks of life.  We have hard core vegan animal right's activists through to ex police and military.  I guess I fall somewhere in between.  I don't identify as an animal right's activist, although definitely an activist of sorts.  I guess it's more as a global citizen that I am here.  I am not here because of a strong emotional bond with whales I have had since childhood, like some people; it's not because I hear the screams of animals in my nightmares - I am here because if we can't do something as simple as stopping the killing of one of the most endangered, complex, gentle creatures on the planet, then what hope is there of changing; and then doing what needs to be done?  So much to do, so much damage to be undone and yet we are fighting a battle at the edges of the earth because we can't even get this one thing right.

I am also here because I strongly believe in grassroots direct action. I believe radical action is required and I believe in speaking up. Although one of the central tenants of Sea Shepherd's argument as a law enforcement organization refers to the UN World Charter for Nature and the reference to individuals having the right and responsibility to uphold international law in the absence of government, that is not why I am here.  I don't need a mandate from the UN to take action.  As an active participant in and on the planet and with a vested interest in mine and everyone else's future I choose to act because it is an aberration to me to do otherwise.

I don't need permission to speak up against war, to call for action on climate change, to pledge to do whatever I can to keep uranium in the ground in WA, to call out to refugees through wire fences of detention centers, to march for my right to a safe abortion, to call myself a feminist, to peacefully occupy forest that should be saved as an international treasure... to speak up about what I believe is right. Whatever that may be.

I am not an insane violent militant.  I have trained in peaceful direct action.  I have friends in politics, media, teachers, nurses, unions, trades, hospitality, IT, students. My family and friends are proud of me and support the action I am taking.

I and the forty other people on board this ship are taking this action only because no one else will.  Despite a raft of proposals and well researched legal arguments from non government organizations as to legal avenues, and international law analysis arguing for avenues to shut down so called 'scientific' whaling the Australian government is sitting on its hands.

As I complete this nearly 24 hours later, on Thursday 5th February we have had another day of action.  We launched our small boats to try and harass the fleet, armed with rotten butter.  In return we were surrounded by three harpoon ships; as well as the factory ship steering dangerously close to us; our helicopter pilot had a acoustic weapon directed at him whilst in mid air and they also deployed the acoustic device whilst we were trying to bring the boats back in, all the while pelting our activists with high powered water canons strong enough to knock you off your feet.  Two more of our activists were injured today.  Luckily no whales were, because we are here.

We shouldn't have to be here.  We need people to speak up to remind the Australian and other countries governments of that, before the whaling fleet seriously injures or kills another person taking a stand.  Then it won't only be the Japanese government with blood on their hands.

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The whales are counting on us for protection . . .
We are counting on you to keep us fighting for them.


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