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David Goldstein

Anybody who has lived with cats or dogs knows this and knows it for certain: Cats and dogs think deeply. They feel deeply. They bond deeply. They love deeply.

When my stubborn, huge-hearted dog Spike was getting old and sick, I tended to him as if he was one of the family -- because he was. For weeks before he ended up dying on my bedroom floor from a seemingly endless seizure (in reality, it probably lasted less than a minute), I would carry him outside, cradling his 50-pound body, because he was too weak to walk. Sure, I strained my back a little. I would have practically broken my back for him -- #becausedogs, #becauselove.

The Obama administration has just authorized the use of "sonic cannons" to explore for oil deposits off the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. The cannons create a kind of sonogram for oil companies by shooting sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine toward the ocean floor. The sound waves also shatter the ear bones of dolphins and whales that depend on their hearing to feed. "Once they can't hear, they are pretty much done for," said Kate Zimmerman a spokeswoman for the South Caroline Coastal Conservation League.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management both granted approval for the sonic exploration and, at the same time, released a study determining that "more than" 138,000 sea creatures could be harmed.

Probably, this will probably happen. Probably, "more than" 138,000 sea animals will be harmed. Fossil fuel lobbyists say that there are over four billion barrels of recoverable oil and over 37 trillion cubic feet of natural gas beneath those waters that could generate $195 billion of investments between 2017-2035.

Actually, let's ratchet up "probably" to "more than probably," because the hard-wired momentum of economic growth, especially within the fossil fuel industry will not be stopped, nor even slowed. More than probably the dolphins and the whales will suffer. And they will die.

At this point in the article, you and I and almost everyone reading will automatically go into shut-down mode. We realize that -- as magnificent and loving as our cats and dogs clearly and irrefutably are -- whales and dolphins are, in a sense, something else again. They are, by many accounts, and with possible apologies to the primates, the most deeply intelligent and "feeling-full" of all our fellow life beings.

And now we will kill thousands more of them. And we cannot remain emotionally open to this situation. We just can't because, numbed though we may be, somewhere inside we understand what we are perpetrating. It's too much to take in, and so... we shut down. We turn our thoughts and feelings away. And here's the strange thing: The fact that the numbers are so great makes it easier to turn away!

If any one of us, possibly excluding the diagnostically sociopathic, could bond with any single one of those dolphins or whales to the degree that we bond with our dogs and cats and horses and parakeets, we would practically break our backs (perhaps we would break our backs!) to prevent unnecessary harm from befalling them. Just imagine -- your companion dolphin, who comes to the cove by your house for a daily visit, is swimming along, frolicking with his family, when, in mid-dive, a sonic canon boom turns his radar system to jelly. His world explodes. His family watches, helpless and puzzled as he stops eating, stops hunting... and then dies.

But our world has become "anonymous." The systems are too big and too impersonal, too remote. Unnecessary suffering thrives in between the countless cracks of our grinding impersonal Matrix. ("Neo, where are you?!")

I use the phrase "unnecessary suffering" because some degree of pain and suffering is unavoidably woven into the natural fabric of existence on Earth. People and animals inevitably get sick and die. Every time we go for a walk, we crush living things in our wakes. Animals eat each other to survive. Most humans still chose to eat meat and some must do so due to medical needs.

The first injunction in many spiritual paths is some variation of "do no harm." In practical terms, this can be translated to "do as little harm as humanly possible and, when it is necessary to harm, act with humility, awareness and gratitude to what is being sacrificed on your behalf." In this sense, love and stewardship of each other and of our fellow beings is placed on the highest pedestal. It is what we inexorably aspire to, though we fall short time and time again.

And so, one would think and hope and fervently pray that this impending "collateral" slaughter of our deeply intelligent, deeply "feeling-full" fellow mammals has been green-lighted in the name of an overwhelming, do-or-die level of necessity. Anything less would indicate an almost irremediable level of disregard of what we purport to so preciously value.

Well, of course, it is precisely the opposite. Here are the conclusions of the prestigious Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research/World Bank study that determined that a business-as-usual track of fossil fuel use will take us to four degrees centigrade (4C) warming (7.2 Fahrenheit) as soon as the 2060s:

The 4C scenarios are devastating; inundations of coastal cities, unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, food and water scarcity...That world would be so dramatically different from today's that it is hard to describe. A 4C world can and must be avoided.

The word "courage" means to come bravely from the heart. The injunction to "do no harm" then is not for the faint of heart. At this point, to deny or ignore the findings of the world's scientists is not a courageous act. It is a fundamentally non-rational act that indicates that you are hiding from an unpleasant and, yes, scary situation.

You may be hiding for any variety of ideological, psychological or, perhaps, "bottom-line" motives. To quail from an unpleasant situation is, of course, very human and -- excepting folks who are consciously profiting from their denial -- worthy of compassion. But let us please dispense with the pretense that the refusal to acknowledge the realities of our current situation is anything less than deeply destructive. We are doing the equivalent of taking my dog Spike and your dog Mylo and her cat Brighty and his horse Cheyenne and killing them in the name of expanding the production of substances that are in the process of killing our world.

The United States prides itself on being "the home of the brave." Just because something is called "brave," does not make it so. Bravery requires the fortitude to go beyond one's preconceived notions in the name of "clear seeing," and then to act accordingly. To cause destruction and death in the name of activities that are, in themselves, clearly destructive, is very far from brave. Let's at least have the courage to do this: Let's tell it like it is.

Here is a link to a petition against the new sonic cannon exploration:

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
David Goldstein

David Goldstein

David Goldstein is a writer and climate activist. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.

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