What If Captain Ahab Loved Whales?

To paraphrase Joni Mitchell’s famous song, Big Yellow Taxi, “We don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone,” and this is certainly the case when it comes to the plight of the great whales, because we nearly killed them all. Their numbers are slowly increasing, but what effect has their indiscriminate slaughter had on planetary ecosystems?

Don’t forget our brand new album, Oceans, has been pre-released for Christmas. Listen and download at OceansAlbum.com (opens in new tab).

We Love Whales!

Here at Artists Project Earth (APE), our team has always loved whales, right from the early days of Greenpeace when their campaign to ‘Save The Whales’ launched the environmental movement as we now know it and ultimately resulted in a ban on commercial whaling in 1986, we have loved whales. It’s not just that whales are the biggest creatures that ever lived that we love them; nor that they are majestic and awe-inspiringly beautiful; for us, their music – those sonic songs that whales sing to each other – was a clear indication that these creatures are highly intelligent and sentient, and that we should love and protect them. So much so that APE’s Founder, musician and producer Kenny Young, released an album with Gentlemen Without Weapons called Transmissions which featured whale and dolphin song throughout, and was one of the first albums ever to do so. More recently APE created the award-winning ‘Bristol Whales’ sculpture out of willow and recycled plastic, to raise awareness of the plight of the oceans. (Click here for more details.)

Whales and Climate Change – Whales Affect The Climate

But what if Captain Ahab hadn’t set out to kill Moby Dick, and instead had valued the great whales for their beauty and intelligence? Perhaps we wouldn’t be in quite such a perilous predicament in terms of climate change. Okay, so we know Moby Dick’s just a story, but fact follows fiction as surely as night follows day, and what our stories tell us is acceptable, we then believe to be acceptable. Beware, because this is often not the case! One of Artist Project Earth’s esteemed Advisors, the redoubtable George Monbiot, has done a lot of research into the effect the mass slaughter of whales has had in the long term, and his findings are very sobering indeed. In essence, Monbiot argues that whales affect the climate. It seems an incredible claim at first, until you read the small print.

Basically, by stimulating plankton blooms through disturbing nutrients from the deep ocean as they dive, sperm whales in the southern oceans cause the removal of around 400,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every year (because plankton absorbs carbon dioxide). These figures are based on the remaining whales in the southern ocean – it’s worth noting that sperm whales were hunted mercilessly in the 18-1900s, with numbers decimated from over one million individuals to under 300,000. Imagine how much more carbon would be sequestered from the atmosphere if there were millions of whales in the oceans instead of merely thousands…

As Monbiot writes, “Whales could once have caused the sequestering of great quantities of carbon, perhaps tens of millions of tonnes every year. This is enough to make a small but significant difference to the composition of the atmosphere… During the twentieth century the whaling industry shifted over 100 million tonnes of carbon from the oceans to the atmosphere, simply by turning whales into oil and other products that were burnt or otherwise oxidised. Allowing whale numbers to recover could be seen as a benign form of geo-engineering.” (From Feral, by George Monbiot, Allen Lane, 2013)

So it’s true – we don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone. Surely then, the Precautionary Principle should apply and we should protect and conserve that natural world, rather than ravage it for short term gain? The unencumbered state of nature is one of almost inconceivable abundance, yet humanity seems hell bent on destroying what little remains.

That’s why the work of Artists Project Earth is more important than ever. Through the sale of our Rhythms Del Mundo albums, we have been able to fund over 360 projects to date that are helping to redress this imbalance and protect the abundance and generosity of the natural world. Our new album – Oceans – is launched to raise funds specifically for marine bioremediation and protection. Give someone a #gift4good this year: buy our new album, pre-released for Christmas 2015, at oceansalbum.com





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