Julian Simon, Whaling and the "Good News"

By Wade Frazier

Revised July 2014

 

Julian Simon and The State of Humanity

Preindustrial Whaling and the Good News

Modern Whaling

Footnotes

Julian Simon and The State of Humanity

Julian Simon was a conservative economist whose life’s purpose was trumpeting the world's good news and humanity’s progress.  His magnum opus, The State of Humanity, appears to be a conscious pun on the Worldwatch Institute's annually published The State of the World.  Whereas The State of the World is usually, though not always, alarming reading regarding global trends, The State of Humanity seemed to be a conscious counterweight to that message. 

Julian Simon was a prominent media figure in the late 1990s, with his message of good news and everything getting better.  The State of Humanity consisted of fifty-eight chapters from various experts regarding issues such as economics, agriculture, natural resources, pollution, and slavery, crime, and other social issues.

At least some of the contributing writers to The State of Humanity were establishment ideologues.  Under a heading of "Can All This Good News be True?" Simon stated, "But what about the other side's data?  There are no other data."[1]  I read books by the experts who wrote the good news, and studied several areas rather deeply.  The more I read and researched, the angrier I became.

Elizabeth Whelan wrote the book's only chapter on general chemical pollution.  The USA produces hundreds of millions of tons of hazardous waste each year (hundreds of times more than it produced in the 1940s), which is far more than half of the world’s hazardous waste production.  I had seen Whelan’s name before.  I read five of her books while examining other sources of information about her.  Her co-author for some books was Frederick Stare, who founded Harvard’s Department of Nutrition.  Stare was a prominent nutritional expert for many years in America, with a regular newspaper column in more than one hundred American newspapers.  Here is some of the advice that he regularly dispensed in his columns and other publications:

 

"In the feeding of hospital patients, more attention should be given to providing tasty and attractive meals, and less on the nutritive quality of the food."

"People say that all you get out of sugar is calories, no nutrients….  There is no perfect food, not even mother's milk."

"Have confidence in America's food industry.  It deserves it."[2]

"There is no convincing evidence that in the average American diet decreasing the intake of sweets will lessen tooth decay."

"Sugar is a quick energy food and pleasant to take.  Sugar does not contain any appreciable amounts of vitamins and minerals, furnishing calories only.  Even people on a severe reduction diet can afford to put a teaspoonful of sugar in their coffee or tea three or four times a day."

"Those who speak with disdain of the empty calories of sugar or fat in processed foods as though they were a blight are also doing a fair share of exaggeration.  The empty calories of sugar and fat have always been important to any normal, well-balanced, nutritious diet and add taste, zest and pleasure to a meal."[3]

 

Here is my favorite Stare quote:

 

"…those who proclaim that 'natural vitamins' are better than 'synthetic vitamins' are just plain stupid."[4] 

 

Stare's advice became infamous for its disinformational and anti-nutritional agenda.  I found those quotes in my library at home.  There is always a risk of being quoted out of context, so I read two books that Stare and Whelan co-authored, Panic in the Pantry and Balanced Nutrition: Beyond the Cholesterol Scare.  Those Stare quotes were not taken out of context.  Whelan was Stare's student at Harvard, and is his professional descendant.  I read three other books that Whelan authored by herself: Preventing Cancer, A Smoking Gun: How the Tobacco Industry gets away with Murder, and Toxic Terror.

In all five books, the authors questioned the motivation of health activists who did not toe the agribusiness/USDA/chemical company/food processor party line.  Anybody who disagreed with the voices of authority on issues of nutrition and health were attacked, sometimes very mean-spiritedly, and their integrity and motivation was called into question, with Stare and Whelan suggesting that their activism was motivated by cashing in on their nutritional answer.  In A Smoking Gun, Whelan suggested that Ralph Nader was in the pay of the tobacco companies, as he took it easy on them while attacking other enemies of public health.

Stare's Department of Nutrition at Harvard had long been funded by food processing companies, and his department kept producing research that showed how nutritious processed food was.  Stare became a food processing company hired gun.  In 1970, there was a scandal around the nutritional quality, or lack thereof, of breakfast cereal.  A Consumer Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee convened to examine the issue.  Stare testified as an expert witness.  He admittedly attended the hearings at "the request of Kellogg Company and the National Biscuit Company."  During the hearing, it was revealed that four percent of his Department of Nutrition budget was provided by the cereal industry.  That led one newspaper to dropping his national column and apologizing into its readers "for presenting the views of one who was not as unattached as we thought or wanted him to be."[5]

Whelan is Stare's professional descendant in more ways than one.  Many years ago she founded, and ever since has been the president of, the American Council on Science and Health ("ACSH").  Her position at ACSH earned her more than $200,000 per year in the 1990s, and the ACSH is still around in 2014, with her at the helm.  In 1985, she published her magnum opus, Toxic Terror.  In Toxic Terror, she again questioned the motivation of anybody who fought the proliferation of corporate chemicals.  She also wrote proudly of her motivation for writing Toxic Terror, as a “concerned American citizen, taxpayer, wife and mother.”[6]  In Toxic Terror, Whelan defended DDT, Nuclear Energy, PCBs, PBBs, formaldehyde, dioxin, and pesticides.  Her defenses of chemical poisons and nuclear energy were dubious, and I spent many days studying Toxic Terror

In 1989, a few years after Toxic Terror was published, Whelan attacked the Natural Resources Defense Council ("NRDC") for publicizing scientific research that showed that that Alar was potentially harmful, especially to children.  Alar was used to keep ripening apples on the tree until harvest time.  Scientific research was showing that Alar was carcinogenic, and the EPA was already moving to ban it when the NRDC began a public campaign about it.  The Alar issue became a parable of corporate chemicals and their use, and Whelan and her ACSH led the attack on the NRDC and others against Alar.[7]

The next year, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, gave Whelan's heroic attacks on all those "self-serving" environmental and health activists a near-fatal blow by an article published in March 1990.  In the article, Kurtz contrasted Whelan and ACSH's stands on various foods and chemicals with those who funded her organization.  Kurtz wrote that the maker of Alar, Uniroyal Chemical Company, donated at least $25,000 to ACSH.  Kurtz pointed out numerous other questionable stands that Whelan and ACSH took.  Whelan defended the nutritional properties of fast food while getting money from Burger King.  Whelan openly questioned the link between high dietary fat and disease while taking money from Oscar Meyer, Frito Lay, Hershey Food Fund, and Land O'Lakes.  Whelan defended saccharine and received money from Coca-Cola, Pepsi, NutraSweet, and the National Soft Drink Association.  Whelan defended pesticides while receiving "donations" from pesticide makers.  Kurtz presented other instances of Whelan's conflict of interest, such as defending hormones in cows while receiving money from the National Dairy Council and the American Meat Institute.  He concluded his article with:

 

"Perhaps it would be best to say that she enthusiastically embraces the chemicals-are-safe philosophy of those who happen to support her financially.  People ought to know that so they can digest her views with whatever grains of salt they deem necessary."

 

How did Whelan react to such a scandalous disclosure?  In 1990, the ACSH stopped publishing its funding sources.[8]  In Kurtz's article, Whelan was quoted as saying, "I'm very proud of my corporations.  I put their names all over my literature."  Not anymore.  Hit the ACSH website today and try finding the names of its corporate sponsors.  Whelan's and Stare's repeated attacks were shocking enough, but their hypocrisy was astounding.

Whelan's attacks on Ralph Nader's funding and the motivation of others appear a little disingenuous, which Kurtz also reported on.  Yes, some of the money that funded the Nader-related Center for Science in the Public Interest came from tobacco heirs who inherited tobacco fortunes handed down for generations, and were donating some of it to "liberal" causes.  That is very different from Whelan getting money directly from corporations (or "foundations" that they fund) whose products she defends.

Whelan, to her credit, addressed the situation in defending herself.  She said:

 

"Everyone is funded by someone…if you consider the possibility that we do believe in what we are doing - it is wrong to terrify people about trace levels of chemicals that cause cancer in mice - where would you get the money?  Where would such money come from that would not be tainted?" 

 

I have an idea: how about from the public that you say you are protecting, not the corporations that produce the chemicals that you defend?  The funding issue is corrupting, and every organization faces it whether it is idealistic or not.  Instead of challenging a system that makes prostitutes out of people such as Whelan, Whelan was at the head of the line with her hand out.

On the ACSH web site, they stated the position that is also discussed in Kurtz's article, which is that ACSH is "independent."  Whelan presented herself as the heroine as she stood up to her corporate donors when they tried telling her what to write.  It seems that many corporate donors made the mistake of assuming that Whelan and ACSH were there to follow their orders.  When they tried giving Whelan her marching orders, she told them quite righteously that they were not that kind of organization.  Whelan's attitude is something that Noam Chomsky and others remark on about the mainstream media.  When responding to the devastating charges of Manufacturing Consent, media personnel have protested that they never get a call from the Pentagon or the corporate boardroom, telling them what to write.  That defense betrays simplistic thinking.  As Chomsky and others point out, the system works far more subtly than that.  The way that the media, and any institution works, is that those who absorb the indoctrination become cogs in the machine.  Those who do not absorb the indoctrination, failing to believe the "right" way, do not rise through the ranks.  Institutions are not consciously self-destructive.  People who challenge the basic tenets of the institution are eliminated in one way or another. 

Journalists and investigators who challenge large corporations or other powerful organizations will find themselves under attack.  Sometimes, they die suddenly and mysteriously, as Danny Casolaro and Paul Wilcher did.  More commonly, their careers are scuttled, as what happened to Peter Arnett, April Oliver, Jack Smith, Gary Webb, Ray Bonner and others.

In the mainstream media, when journalists step out of line and challenge the powerful, their careers are quickly over.  Conversely, if they behave themselves, reporting as the powerful want them to, they can count on a successful career (Judith Miller is an example).  They may not be too consciously aware of the fate of their power-challenging brethren, or have rationalized it as due to some ethical breach.  They usually internalize their indoctrination (such as mainstream oncologists believing in chemotherapy, for instance), and feel that they are acting freely as they report their stories (or oncologists thinking that they are saving lives).  They respond indignantly to the nearly unanswerable scholarship of Herman and Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent with "Nobody tells me what to write!"  Not only are there ample rewards for playing the game properly, there are dire penalties for failing to.  As Dennis Lee once told me, put a man in a big enough cage, and he thinks he is free.

Whelan's corporate donors do not fund her because they believe in their noble mission; they pay her because of her propaganda services.  Whelan apparently thinks that her organization is a charity.  She is her sponsors' "independent" attack dog.  If Whelan ever stepped on her sponsors' toes, the money would stop flowing, and she and everybody else knows it.  How "independent" is that?

A pro-corporate comrade-in-arms even claimed that she never met a chemical she did not like.[9]  Whelan's anti-tobacco stand may be a smokescreen, as she attacks the world's most obvious health hazard so she could gain health activist credentials, while defending the far more insidious threats to our health, and being nicely paid to do it.

Whelan's organization deserves to become widely known as the corporate mouthpiece that it is.  When I was writing the first draft of this essay, Whelan make the front page by attacking a doctor's book that states that women can prevent breast cancer with dietary measures.[10]  Whelan even went further than Toxic Terror in The State of Humanity by also defending Bovine Growth Hormone, food irradiation, aspartame, and fluoride.

Other contributors to The State of Humanity had similar conflicts of interest.[11]  In the data that Simon's authors presented, they played the numbers game to the extreme.  The book is nearly a proof of the famous quote, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

For one example of the many statistical games played in The State of Humanity, chapter 26, "The Recent US Economy" by Alan Reynolds will serve.  Although productivity in America steadily increased, meaning that the average American worker produced more per hour of time producing it[12], the real wage per hour had declined for a generation.  It went from a peak in 1973 of $13.40 (in 1997 dollars) to $12.09 in 1992 (the last year covered in Reynolds' chapter) as American jobs were shipped abroad to nations that enslave their populations (mainly American client states), for a decline of nearly 10%.[13]  Real wages per hour has been the standard measure of worker income for many years.  It is the most equitable measure of worker income, and one of the best standard-of-living measures, which is acknowledged by nearly everybody involved.  Although Reynolds discussed productivity increases in output per hour, even writing about how "impressive" it was, he did not mention the trend in wages per hour.  Placing those trends side-by-side would collapse his arguments.

Reynolds cleverly misdirected his readers by presenting other statistics.  He abandoned real wages per hour to pursue another statistic.  He presented a measure known as family income.  There are obvious reasons for making that switch.  If a breadwinner's (assume a man here, which is the most common case) wages have declined, but he is able to make up that decline by working overtime and having his wife forced into the labor marketplace (and increasing child labor), then family income can increase.  The family works more hours to maintain its standard of living, and a large piece of that increasing "family income" pays for day care, while the mother works outside the home and the father works overtime.  That situation is accelerating the American family's disintegration, and creates lifelong pathologies in children raised in that environment, and somehow Reynolds transformed that into "good news."  On the issue of wealth, it is well known that nearly the entire increase in national wealth during the 1980s went to the rich.[14]  Reynolds ignored the increase in wealth disparity in America and instead focused on statistics showing that total national wealth increased.  Reynold's chapter was an impressive example of a statistical manipulator at work, transforming dire statistics for average Americans into "good news."

Another expert who wrote two chapters in The State of Humanity was Bernard Cohen, who may have been the world’s biggest cheerleader for nuclear power.  His chapters discussed how safe and economical nuclear power was.  Cohen made himself famous by offering to eat plutonium to demonstrate how relatively harmless it was.  I spent weeks researching Cohen’s work, and had a head start there, having to become better informed about nuclear waste to speak at DOE hearings.  Will declassified documents in 2050 show that Cohen's mission was similar to Harold Hodge's

As I read other chapters in The State of Humanity and researched their subjects deeper, the picture became clearer.  Simon was scouring the academic waters for the most extreme pro-corporate positions that he could find.  Presenting Whelan as his sole expert on chemical pollution made the ideological nature of The State of Humanity quite plain.  For Simon to state that his stable of authors presented the only data existing regarding the issues he presents was incredible.  If Simon's work was not a conscious fraud, it was a stunning example of how deluded an ideologue can get.  Tellingly, in The State of Humanity, almost without exception, if it was news, it was not good, no matter how hard the expert tried to spin it, and if it was good, it was not news (such as slavery ending). 

Another prominent corporate mouthpiece, who apparently aspired to succeed Simon (Simon died in 1998) as a "good news" voice of corporate America was Steve Milloy.  Milloy published a vitriolic "Junk Science" Home Page on the Internet (and still does as of 2014).  Milloy was similar to Whelan, with a corporate-funded Astroturf organization.  Through litigation, it came to light that Philip Morris funded Milloy’s work, and even created his “sound science” organization to try derailing the research that shows how harmful second-hand cigarette smoke was.  Tobacco interests, polluters, and those selling unhealthy products paid Milloy handsomely for providing his disinformation.  Cato Institute, which avidly promoted Simon's work (Simon was an "adjunct scholar" to Cato), promoted Milloy as its new "good news" advocate.[15]  Fittingly, a tobacco company shill succeeded Simon at Cato.

Instead of presenting an essay analyzing The State of Humanity, this essay will present one of many detours taken while studying his book.  Simon was a capitalistic cheerleader.  On page 25 of The State of Humanity, Simon rhapsodized about the first commercial oil well, drilled by Drake in 1859 in Pennsylvania, which led to solving the "whale oil crisis."  It was a "three cheers for the oil industry" statement.  Other work by Simon, whose attitude is reflected in the book's title, demonstrated that he was staunchly anthropocentric as he relegated all other species to a service role to humanity, with their right to exist only seen in terms of how they benefitted humanity.  When I saw his acclamation for the oil industry and how it dropped the "bottom out of the whale oil market," I read a few books on whaling. 

Simon was one of the establishment’s intellectual warriors.  Whether those warriors are "experts" on Nightline, pro-establishment op ed columnists in the newspapers, university professors and scientists who also consult for corporations, producing scientific arguments and data that "coincidentally" serves the interests of their benefactors, or they run "Astroturf" fake grassroots organizations that advocate corporate positions from an "independent" activist perspective, or they are "skeptics" who attack anything not following the scientific establishment's party line, they have usually prostituted themselves.  Purveying elite propaganda pays well.  Among their duties are producing disinformation that helps keep the masses dazed and confused by presenting views and data that serve the dominant class’s interests.

 

Preindustrial Whaling and the Good News

Simon's good news spurred me to obtain a few books on whaling, and although primarily written by pro-whalers, the stories were grim, although the authors did not always intend them that way.  Simon’s focus was on how heroic the petroleum entrepreneurs were, but he ignored John Rockefeller and the price that whales were paying for whale oil. 

Aboriginal peoples have hunted whales since prehistoric times, and the European-dominated commercial phase of whaling began nearly a millennium ago.  The Mediterranean cultures, the Roman Empire most prominently, hunted whales to extinction in the Mediterranean by 500 AD.  Hundreds of years later, the Basques began whaling commercially in the Bay of Biscay, which is between France and Spain.  Within a few centuries, they had “whaled out” the bay.  It is also speculated that whales became scarce in the Bay of Biscay because whales began avoiding it.  By the 1500s, new whaling grounds were sought, and because Europeans were learning how to sail the seas and conquer the world, new grounds were discovered in Iceland, Newfoundland, and north of Norway, at Spitsbergen.  The Spitsbergen whaling grounds were discovered in 1596, and were soon swarming with the usual suspects of European domination: the Dutch, English, French, German, and Danish.  The experienced Basques originally manned the harpoons in all fleets, however.

All “great whales” except one, the sperm whale, are called “baleen” whales, which dominated the oceans for about 35 million years.  Baleen is a sieve in whales' mouths that strains their food from the oceans, which is usually comprised of small shrimp, fish, and microscopic life.  That food is plentiful in the oceans near the poles, which are primary feeding grounds for baleen whales.  At Spitsbergen, the favored catch was called the right whale.  It and similar species variations in northern waters went by names such as Greenland and bowhead whales.  The term “right” came from seamen picking the “right” whale out of a herd to kill.  Right whales were coveted for their ease of killing, the fact that they floated when dead, their high oil yield, and their baleen bones (called whalebone), which was used for women’s fashion, fishing rods, chair seats, etc.  Whales became one more short-lived energy resource for humans. 

The whalers at Spitsbergen were highly successful, and whaling became a major industry.  By 1637, the Dutch had more than 300 ships at Spitsbergen and 18,000 men, all cashing in on the “whale rush.”  The incessant European wars interrupted the frenzy at times, but in 1719 the Dutch began sailing past Greenland to the Davis Straits, as the European side of the Atlantic was “whaled out.”[16]  Before long, the English colony of Massachusetts joined the whaling boom.

In the early days of Europe's invasion of North America, whales were plentiful.  One could stand on the seashore and watch whales swim past in endless procession.  The natives sometimes fished for whales, and used drugged harpoons to kill them.  They taught the Europeans how to whale in the native style, and as the Europeans were annihilating the natives they began an epoch of whaling that became a big part of the New England economy…for a while.  As with fur trappers, bison skinners, passenger pigeon hunters, Midwest loggers and Indian fighters, whaling lasted while the whales did.

At first, the industry consisted of scavenging whales that washed ashore.  Then, as they saw money in it, they sent small boats from shore to kill the passing whales, and the industry was born.  In a celebrated case in 1672, a right whale swam into Nantucket harbor, lazily swimming and spouting off for a few days.  It did not take long for a few enterprising residents to make a harpoon, set out in a small boat, and kill the whale.  That is how Nantucket became America's first whaling center.

The New England shoreline was quickly “whaled out.”  Yankee ingenuity and cupidity would not be thwarted that easily.  Bigger boats were built to go farther to kill the increasingly scarce whales.  The European and American fleets converged on the Davis Straits near Greenland.  In 1737, there were about 60 American whaling ships in the Davis Straits competing with Europe's.  It was not long before the Davis Straits was “whaled out” and new grounds were sought.  Many thousands of whales were being killed for their oil and fashionable bone. 

As each area was whaled out, new killing grounds were sought, and the “whale rush” continued.  Baffin Bay, the Grand Banks, the Saint Lawrence Gulf, and vicinities were all opened to whaling operations during those easy whaling days of pre-Revolutionary America.  As the North Atlantic was being whaled out, soon the fleets were sailing to Africa, the Caribbean, and South America. 

In pre-Revolutionary America, a new chapter in whaling unfolded.  In the early 1700’s, the high quality (and quantity) of oil that could be obtained from sperm whales was noted, and that, combined with the increasing scarcity of the easy-to-kill right whales, created the sperm whale boom.  There was a major problem with sperm whales however: they were the only predatory great whales.  The right whales were docile creatures, as are most baleen whales, and barely struggled when killed.  The sperm whale, on the other hand, was a predator and knew how to fight back.  The sperm whale quest made whaling dangerous.  Sperm whales regularly crushed (sometimes in their mouths) the small whaling skiffs that pursued them, and rammed and sank big whaling ships.  Sperm whale oil, and the valuable ambergris in their intestines, made it worth it.  America’s underclass, which was comprised of newly freed slaves and others at the lowest rungs of society, manned the whaling parties, as the poor have always performed this world's dangerous work.  That era inspired Moby Dick.

During the American Revolution, the British captured almost all of America’s whaling fleet, and the crews were impressed into British service…as whalers.  Those captured Americans kept whaling during the Revolutionary War, but for King George, and the whales' decimation continued.  After the Revolutionary War, New Bedford, Massachusetts became the new capital of whaling.  The British destroyed the USA's whaling fleet in the War of 1812, but it barely slowed the industry.  Whaling boats were made ever larger to go ever farther to catch the vanishing whale.  The typical whaling pattern was to find virgin seas where whales lived, then the world’s whaling fleets would descend upon the area and whaled until the whales disappeared.  It became a global whale rush.  Virginal whaling grounds found and the year of their opening were: Brazil Banks, 1774; Madagascar, 1789; Chile, 1790; offshore Chile in mid-pacific, 1818; Japan, 1820; Zanzibar, 1828; Kodiak, 1835; Kamchatka, 1843; Okhotsk Sea, 1847, Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean, 1848.[17]  The world's ocean was being shorn of its whales.  In the Arctic, the whalers supplemented their catch by killing as many polar bears, walruses, and seals as they could.[18]

American whaling’s peak volume year was 1847, and then the decline began.  Whaling expeditions went from being launched from the Massachusetts shoreline in rowboats to global expeditions.  In 1846, there were 736 American whaling ships on the water, which was three quarters of the world’s fleet, and the average whaling expedition was approaching three years in length.  Moby Dick was published in 1851.  In a telling insight into the whaling crews' mentality and general attitude of the times, in 1849 the Pacific whaling fleet was “crippled” when gold was discovered in California, because the crews deserted ship in San Francisco and swarmed into the gold fields.[19]

The sailors were often involuntary.  In port towns, unscrupulous innkeepers would allow a man to run up a tab, then one day the man was made quite drunk.  When he sobered up, he found himself at sea on a whaling ship.  The innkeeper got a nice commission and the hapless boarder became a prisoner-whaler.  Other ruses got men aboard, as whaling was one of the most disreputable professions and was dangerous, hard, low-paying work.[20]

In 1846, the same year that America began stealing half of Mexico, the whalers arrived on California's coast.  The gray whale migrated along North America’s West Coast and whalers killed them enthusiastically.  Whaling in the shallow lagoons and bays of Baja California was dangerous work because the gray whale often fought back, which earned it the name, “devil fish.”  One technique to safely kill a gray whale was to harpoon a whale calf and tether it offshore, and shoot the mother as she tried aiding her calf.  Within a generation, gray whales were more than 90% exterminated, and were thought to be extinct by 1900.[21]  The gray whale’s tale is one of the few with a happy ending so far.  During the twentieth century, they recovered, but are still a small fraction of their pre-holocaust numbers. 

During those glory days that Simon wrote about, when Drake drilled his oil well in 1859 and how there were hundreds of small refiners in America by the 1860s, whaling was already declining.  The Civil War dealt the industry a heavy blow, as more than 100 whaling ships were lost, mostly by high seas piracy by the Southern rebels.  The Shenandoah burned and sank most of the Arctic fleet.  With declining supply due to the decimated whale population, and fewer ships on the water, and the increasing demand for oil as America rapidly industrialized, yes, the “market” was ripe for petroleum.  Oil became the next gold rush, except that gold was black.

 

Modern Whaling

In 1865, Svend Foyn perfected a method of whaling that had frustrated American and European inventors for generations: an easier way of harpooning and killing whales.  A Norwegian, Foyn developed a gun-propelled, explosive harpoon.  His method ushered in the era of “modern” whaling.[22]  Foyn’s method quickly dominated and whaling became industrialized.  The previous centuries of sailboats and strong harpoon arms paled next to steam-driven ships with explosive harpoons shot from cannons.  Whales were then rapidly driven toward extinction.  With the rise of the petroleum industry and the increasing scarcity of whales, the New England whaling industry collapsed when whaling entrepreneurs rapidly fled the business.

Europe did not have the USA’s vast oil deposits, however, and as the American whaling industry was collapsing, European whaling entered a new era.  Until Foyn’s innovation, whalers could not profitably kill a class of whale known as rorquals.  Rorquals were faster than the easy-to-kill right whale, and they sank when killed.  Rorquals were not hunted commercially until the innovations of explosive, gun-propelled harpoons, heavy harpoon lines to keep the whales from sinking, and faster, steam driven boats.  Rorqual whales include: blue, fin, sei and humpback whales.  The modern age of whaling was born. 

The right whale and related species had already been hunted to the brink of extinction.  In the Northeast Atlantic, the right whale was considered extinct around 1900.  Even today, there are a few thousand surviving globally, at best, after a century of recovery.  The typical extermination rate of the great whale species was more than 95%, which was similar to the decimation rates that many native peoples experienced due to Europe's conquest of the world. 

With the industrialization of whaling, the slaughter took place in earnest, although the USA was by that time largely out of the business, as old-style whaling was as dead as the herds of easily killed whales that sustained it.  Norway, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Russia got heavily into the business at one time or another.  The Norwegians dominated for 50 years, to eventually leave the business.  At the end, only Japan and the Soviet Union were doing much commercial whaling. 

The northern oceans were quickly shorn of rorquals.  By the early years of the 20th century, only one place had not been pillaged by the whalers: the remote and harsh waters surrounding Antarctica.  Centuries of whaling the northern waters made those whales nearly extinct, but the Southern Ocean was ripe for exploitation.  The great blue whale lived there by the hundreds of thousands, eating the rich krill.  The blue whale is the largest animal that Earth has ever seen, attaining a length of more than 100 feet and weighing up to 400,000 pounds.  Dinosaurs did not get that large.  The Antarctic blue whale became the mother lode of whaling.  The modern whaling industry measured all whales by the Blue Whale Unit.

Plundering the Antarctic while scouring the whales' migratory routes along South America, Australia, and elsewhere was lucrative while it lasted.  The History of Modern Whaling, largely written in the 1960s by Norwegians, is a pro-whaling book.  The authors’ excitement for whaling is evident, but even they made many somber observations regarding the 20th century’s history of whaling, ending with the collapse of commercial whaling during the 1960’s because there were no more whales left to kill.  The great blue whale population had been reduced to fewer than one thousand creatures when whaling finally ceased.

The History of Modern Whaling recounted the International Whaling Commission’s gyrations during the 1960s, when the whale populations were nearly extinct.  The Japanese and Soviets made many political maneuvers so that they could kill that last whale.  The Japanese and Soviets kept lamenting the economic impact of reducing the whaling quotas.  The Japanese capitalized on an apparent species distinction between blue whales and a “new” species they had “discovered,” the pygmy blue whale.  The pygmy blue whale became a separate species in Japan's eyes, which thereby circumvented the quotas.[23]  The pygmy blue whale is considered a separate species today, and comprises about half of the surviving blue whales.  The great blue whale population is a few thousand today, which is less than one percent of its population before the short-lived modern whaling era.  As Simon celebrated, humankind is clever and can “substitute” one thing for another when it becomes scarce.  As the blue whales were being exterminated (skimming the cream), industrialized whaling also decimated the fin, sei, and humpback whale populations, and the industry eventually stooped to hunt the “tiny” minke whale. 

In The History of Modern Whaling the authors repeatedly summarized the industry's state, off the African shore for instance, and discussed how the area was swept free of whales, with the industry collapsing there.  The whaling nations would point fingers at each other and the area would be left alone for a decade or two.  Then hunting would resume, and within a year the area would be wiped clean again.  Not only were the numbers collapsing, but the whaling phenomenon was similar to the logging situation here in the Pacific Northwest: the first killers on the scene chopped down or harpooned the prodigious ones.  The size of whales caught continued declining, as younger and younger whales were killed.

The sperm whale is the only great whale not nearly eradicated by the whaling industry.  Its population "only" declined about two-thirds during the whaling era.  The author of The Yankee Whaler noted that sperm whale teeth kept by old sea captains were relics of the good old days, when one whale could yield more than 100 barrels of oil.  The record sperm whale tooth weighed more than four pounds.  The author noted that the teeth never exceeded two pounds anymore, and that book was written in the 1920s.  The author estimated that not only were the big whales killed long ago, but the sperm whale herds were 90% decimated in his time, judging by how long it took to fill the ship’s hold with whale oil.[24] 

In another case of economic efficiency, the whale killers became more economical.  The Japanese used most of the whale.  Japanese people had a yen for whale meat, and meat that had spoiled was used for pet food.[25]  In the good old days, particularly with sperm whales, the head was chopped off and the rest of the carcass was dumped back into the ocean.  That is similar to when the “pioneers” of America’s Great Plains killed bison, only removing their tongues if they took anything at all, since millions of those kills were “for sport,” often shot from the passing train's windows.

That situation is similar to the practice of “finning” sharks (for shark-fin soup), which is still happening in the 21st century as sharks are hauled out of the ocean, their fins cut off, and then thrown back to die.  Those practices are driving species to extinction, as fish populations are collapsing globally due to over-fishing, finning, etc.  Sharks are becoming threatened with extinction.  The situation became so dire that Time magazine made it its cover story.[26]  Good news cheerleaders can call Time magazine a “prophet of doom,” but the mainstream media has covered up far more industrial problems than exposed them.  When Time magazine finally begins covering it, the environmentalists have been calling attention to it for many years.

There are many distressing footnotes to the whaling situation.  One is the collapse of the Soviet Empire and many things becoming known which were kept hidden by the Communist rulers.  It was admitted that the Soviet whale catch data from 1947 to 1972 was significantly falsified.  In 1996, Dr. Alexey Yablokov, Boris Yeltsin's Environmental Advisor, submitted data to the International Whaling Commission showing that the actual Soviet Antarctic whaling catch was 74% above that reported.  Yablokov was charged with revealing state secrets.[27]

In what may be the greatest tragedy of all, whales are probably a sentient species.  “Sentient” means they have attained the level of whatever humans have that makes us able to learn math, create language, and philosophize.  What sets human beings apart from all other species, biologically, and is credited with our “ascent,” is the human brain (and to a lesser extent, our thumbs).  We have the largest, most sophisticated and complex brains on Earth…almost.  Elephants, whales, and some dolphins have larger brains, and the bottle-nosed dolphin’s brain is relatively larger than ours.  We do not have Earth’s largest brains.  In light of that fact, experts have stated that having a larger brain than us may not mean much, and that it does not necessarily make them smarter or “better.”  That reflects the anthropocentric attitude that the West has held for millennia.  At least the West is becoming aware of the cetaceans’ potential sentience, although for many years America killed an average of 200,000 dolphins a year in its tuna nets.  There really is “good news” there: the dolphin kill is now only a few thousand per year to supply America with its tuna, due to dolphin advocacy by a relatively courageous few, those “hysterical” and “self-serving” environmentalists that Elizabeth Whelan and others have derided.

Scientists today study dolphins and whales, to a degree, and announce that they sure seem smart, smarter than dogs even.  Naturally, the American military is investigating how cetacean intelligence can be exploited, and turning the few surviving whales into aquatic soldiers and helping to keep the world "free."  Few scientists have hinted that cetaceans might be smarter than human beings.  After all, to borrow a favorite American saying, “If they were so smart, they would be rich!”  It turns out that some are rich.[28] 

dolphin.jpg (60426 bytes)Click on image to enlarge

Mystical literature has discussed the sentience of whales and dolphins for many years, stating that they are essentially water people.  In an order of magnitude or two beyond the European inability to understand or appreciate the mind and culture of American Indians, understanding the way that cetaceans think is apparently far, far beyond the capability of our scientists.  Cetaceans have evolved in another realm from humans, with no obvious way to manipulate their environment, living in water, etc.  We know so little about intelligence that statements about them not being as “intelligent” as we are demonstrates typical Western arrogance.  Mystical literature has stated that whales think holographically, which linear-thinkers cannot fathom.  That would be similar to describing a three-dimensional world to a two-dimensional person, as in the famous story of the flatlander A. Square, a two-dimensional being, meeting a three-dimensional being from “Spaceland.”  Mr. Square could not fathom its three-dimensional existence, in a tale written more than a century ago.[29]

Nobody needs to settle for abstract mystical concepts about cetacean sentience and ensoulment.  There are many first-person accounts of it.  An argument about ensoulment and cetaceans is pointless with most scientists, because most have not adduced evidence that human beings are ensouled.  In the "scientific" worldview purveyed by Carl Sagan and friends, humans are bags of chemicals that react in unusual and mysterious ways.  The mystery of life is a mystery of chemistry to many scientists, and is the scientific establishment’s prevailing view today.

Timothy Wyllie’s amazing account in Dolphins, Extraterrestrials and Angels told a different story.  He went to Florida and spent days swimming with a school of dolphins.  He did not merely hang out with them, but had some specific questions, such as: “How do dolphins deal with violence and depredation?  How does a complex and sophisticated society sustain a sense of community without apparent instrumentation, artifacts or extra-somatic memory systems (books and the like)? And since UFOs consistently have been reported entering our oceans, have the dolphins had any contact with them?”[30]

During his stay, all of his questions were answered, although he never voiced them.  Some questions were answered in spectacular fashion.  Wyllie was treated to a private UFO show.  Others were answered so remarkably and on the dolphins’ terms that Wyllie realized that they thought very differently from humans.  His testimony is reminiscent of UFO contactee reports, where their questions were answered in a way that made them question the nature of their own minds.  They realized that their questions did not necessarily mean much to somebody who thought quite differently.  Wyllie ended his visit with a spectacular encounter.  The dolphins deceived him as they encouraged him to shed his mind’s preconceptions, and his friends witnessed the dolphins’ gentle friendship, giving “third party” verification of what Wyllie did not know was happening. 

Michael Roads had an astounding encounter with dolphins at the famed Monkey Mia beach at Shark Bay in Australia, in his book Journey into Nature.  Again, in his encounter, the dolphins answered his questions in a decidedly non-human and experiential way, and reinforced their difference from humans in how they approached life, and made clear the equal divinity of humans and dolphins. 

The state of mind allowing such a contact with dolphins also required a particular flexibility of consciousness, the kind that professional skeptics probably cannot muster.  Nothing is keeping you from seeking out experiences similar to what Wyllie and Roads had, or mine.

The cetaceans may have forgiven humanity for their genocide at our hands.  It is interesting that many humans are beginning to wonder if cetaceans are ensouled.  That is a new and exciting idea, and justifiably so.  The mystical literature has stated that cetaceans are beginning to wonder the same thing about us.  All they had experienced for centuries was the genocide of their kind, and they did not think that a sentient species could create such mindless destruction.

One need not wax mystical to gain an appreciation of the situation.  It is not much of a stretch at all, in light of current scientific understanding, to consider that cetaceans may be sentient, with a consciousness much like ours but without opposable thumbs.  Imagine if an alien race invaded Earth and killed 98% of us because they coveted the energy that they could wring from our bodies, some bones in our heads made a nice fashion statement, and our flesh was tasty and useful for one of their new industries.  That is close to what whales have experienced.

 

Footnotes

[1] See Julian Simon’s The State of Humanity, p. 23.

[2] Those three Stare quotes are from Ralph Hovnanian's Medical Dark Ages, p. 87, from three different sources. 

[3] Those three Stare quotes are taken from Beatrice Hunter's Consumer Beware, pp. 22-23, from various Stare writings. 

[4] See Beatrice Hunter's Consumer Beware, p. 39.

[5] See Beatrice Hunter's Consumer Beware, pp. 20-23.

[6] See Elizabeth Whelan’s Toxic Terror, p. 12.

[7] A brief summary of the situation is in Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich’s Betrayal of Science and Reason, pp. 156-163.

[8] See the American Council on Science and Health’s Twelfth Annual Financial Report, published in 1990.  See Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich’s Betrayal of Science and Reason, p. 301, n. 31.

[9] The quote is from Gregg Easterbrook, author of the anti-environmentalist manifesto, A Moment on the Earth.  See Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich’s Betrayal of Science and Reason, p. 301, n. 30.

[10] See "Group attacks book on cancer-prevention diet," The Seattle Times, Nov. 17, 1998, p. A1.

[11] For instance, Fred Singer is a leading scientist who downplayed the notion of global warming while consulting for several oil companies.  Singer authored chapter 48 of The State of Humanity, titled "Stratospheric Ozone: Science and Policy."  Singer was against banning chlorofluorocarbons ("CFCs") and stated that the chemical companies were forced to stop CFC production unfairly.  Patrick Michaels is another prominent scientist who downplayed global warming, who also consulted for coal companies and other energy interests, and worked for the anti-environmental Cato Institute (they sold me The State of Humanity; I purchased many Cato books, studying their brand of scholarship).  Michaels authored chapter 49 of The State of Humanity, titled "The Greenhouse Effect and Global Change: Review and Reappraisal."  See also Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich’s Betrayal of Science and Reason.

[12] See The American Almanac, 1996-1997 edition, tables 655 and 656.  It appears that productivity per hour in the American workforce averaged at least a 20% increase between 1973 and 1992, while wages per hour fell about 10%.

[13] See Holly Sklar's "Let Them Eat Cake", Z Magazine, November 1998, pp. 29-32.  From 1992 to 1997, a period of economic boom times, particularly for Wall Street, the American wage temporarily halted its decline, "soaring" from $12.09 to 12.26, for an annual increase of 0.28% per year.  Is that "good news?" 

[14] As a category, only the richest five percent of American families had an increase in wealth between 1983 and 1995.  See Holly Sklar's "Let Them Eat Cake", Z Magazine, November 1998, pp. 29-32.  The top 1% had the same amount wealth as the bottom 95%, and the world's richest man, Bill Gates, had more wealth than the one hundred million poorest Americans do.  A one-hundred-million-to-one ratio, which was a situation passing in silence among the "good news" crowd. 

[15] See Cato Institute's 1999 Publications Catalogue, p. 4.  In Cato’s 2002 catalog, even after Milloy has been publicly exposed, he was still their flagship “scientist,” beginning its catalog with three of his books.

[16] See Clifford Ashley’s The Yankee Whaler, p. 24. 

[17] See Clifford Ashley’s The Yankee Whaler, p. 41. 

[18] See Robert Burton’s The Life and Death of Whales, p. 140.

[19] See Clifford Ashley’s The Yankee Whaler, p. 42. 

[20] See Robert Burton’s The Life and Death of Whales, p. 133.

[21] See Robert Burton’s The Life and Death of Whales, pp. 149-151.

[22] See Johan Tønnessen and Arne Johnson’s The History of Modern Whaling, pp. 3-36.

[23] See Johan Tønnessen and Arne Johnson’s The History of Modern Whaling, p. 614.

[24] See Clifford Ashley’s The Yankee Whaler, p. 73. 

[25] See Johan Tønnessen and Arne Johnson’s The History of Modern Whaling, pp. 720-721.

[26] See Time, August 11, 1997.

[27] In Cetacean Society International’s Whales Alive!, October 4, 1997.

[28] In 2010, I was invited to swim with wild dolphins.  That image of the rich dolphin was collected during my encounters with a dolphin-watcher community.  There is evidence that the dolphins that I encountered read my mind, and those in the dolphin-watcher community considered the dolphins their peers, and I heard a number of first-person accounts that evidenced not only dolphin sentience, but their ability to read minds.  In the community that I visited with, those dolphin attributes were considered “normal.”

[29] A reproduction of that classic two-dimensional/three-dimensional dialogue is also found in David Pursglove, ed., Zen and the Art of Close Encounters, pp. 59-66.

[30] See Timothy Wyllie’s Dolphins, Extraterrestrials and Angels, p. 18.

 

 

 


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