Monday, June 25, 2012

Saving the Sound, Saving the Whales

Springer 2002 (Mark Sears)
Martha Kongsgaard, chair of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council, gave some powerful opening remarks at last Saturday’s festivities in Seattle celebrating the 10th anniversary of the orphan orca Springer’s rescue in Seattle and reuniting with her Northern Resident family. Here’s an excerpt:


“This had never been done on earth, and to do this we had to learn to work together – across a complex  ad hoc network of scientists, governments, First Nations and tribal communities, NGO’s and legions of concerned citizens, seniors and school children alike on both sides of the border. We had to learn to trust each other, these strangers, in order  to accomplish something audacious and risky, --something that was a matter of life and death for an iconic creature whose beauty and vulnerability made both 6th graders and bureaucrats weak at the knees in awe as the world watched the unprecedented effort unfold.

“’There were risks and unknowns every step of the way,’ said Will Stelle, Northwest regional director of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ‘In the end, we were successful because we worked as a team.’

“You all shattered obstacles, historical misunderstandings and preconceptions, you listened to science, let go of ego and attribution, and tried the untested because the community shared the same vision – which was to see her safely home, whatever it took,  and every decision and every act served that end.  And in this remarkable process, you all took a great risk together and chose to trust rather than fear because your vision was laser sharp, your love a mile deep.”

“.... But in the 10 years since Springer was reunited with her family, the population  of the planet has grown by a billion to seven billion.  There is an estimated 4.5 million living in the Puget Sound basin alone with another Portland it is estimated squeezing into this four county region within the next 10 to 15 years whether we plan for it or not. (And there are an estimated 7 million that live around the Salish sea  -- from here to Canada -- today…)

“Our Southern Resident killer whales were listed as endangered in 2005 and are teetering around 89 members. But they are still here among us.

“But do we get it:  the astonishing privilege of being able to live here, have all of this, while sharing the ecoregion.… with them, in what’s called Cascadia or Salmon Nation or to paraphrase the author Tim Egan, any place that salmon can get to, (which is where the orcas roam) or what William Dietrich calls ‘a universe in a mountain cradle,’ this geographers’ delight: the Salish Sea.

“Saving the Sound, and the salmon and orcas it sustains will require the same vision, leadership, shared commitment and urgency as it took to help Springer get home. It will require the same kind of laser focus and imagination you all had 10 years ago.  It took hundreds of people working together for a common good to save the life of ONE WHALE in 2002.  There are 4.4 million of us in the basin today – Do you think we together can protect 88 of them?  That’s about 50,000 guardians per orca if you do the math.  What would that look like?  What is entailed?  We’ll have to make decisions to live differently if that is the case. We’ll have to intentionally walk the whale trail, as it were, with consciousness of our impact.

“These magnificent creatures are remarkable but they can’t save themselves or us.  Let us take this reunion, this celebration of the best of what we humans can muster, and remember that these are just decisions we make to either do something or not.  As Bob Lohn said, ‘I am not going to sit around while this young whale dies; not on our watch.’   We know we can do this together because these are just decision: decisions to do the big thing, the difficult thing, the enduring thing, the thing that’s in the public interest, in our grandchildren’s interest, which in the end is in the planet’s interest and in theirs.”

Martha then closed with a recording of an orca’s vocalization...
 

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