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Whales, Sonar and Security

Whales, Sonar and Security

Last week the Supreme Court lifted judicial restrictions on submarine training exercises. These restrictions were in place as a result of campaigns and lawsuits by environmental groups, who have fought the use of sonar by the Navy for about a decade. The environmentalists argue that sonar can be as loud as 2,000 jet engines, causing marine mammals–particularly whales–to suffer lasting physical trauma, strandings and changes in breeding and migration patterns.

The Supreme Court has now overturned these restrictions, saying national security has to prevail over environmental concerns. A few years ago our magazine Ode published a long story on this issue that gives some solid evidence for the damage that the use of sonars is causing at sea.

But beyond the arguments, there is an underlying issue that concerns me even more. By saying that national security is more important than environmental concerns, the Supreme Court acknowledges that the use of sonar has such negative impact. It appears that it is not disputed that there is damage. It’s just that that damage is not important enough. In other words: Men are more important than animals. That kind of competitive reasoning is behind almost all the problems in our world.

Behind environmental degradation, poverty and global warming, there is always that same driving force: Competition. I can only survive if you perish. I’m only safe when you’re not. Gandhi couldn’t have said it better: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” When do we start to approach difficult issues from an inclusive perspective, directing all our efforts to finding a solution that works for all?

Sometimes it seems that only a big disaster will provoke this much needed transformation and that until that moment many more whales, deprived people and natural beauty has to suffer. But as an optimist I just hope that we will become aware and appreciative of our environment in the widest and most inclusive sense, ourselves without any disaster.

And so I write this story. Not so much to provide the arguments why sonar should not be used at sea, but to highlight the fact that even weighing the arguments of environmental damage and national security basically means that we are suspending every principle of justice. Doing that won’t bring us one step closer to any real security.

Jurriaan Kamp is the founder and editor of Ode Magazine, the magazine for intelligent optimists.

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Jurriaan Kamp

The Intelligent Optimist is a community centered around a magazine, a website and online events and courses. We focus on the people, passion and possibilities changing our world for the better.


+ add your own
4:18AM PDT on May 23, 2012

very interesting, thank you

9:38AM PDT on Oct 1, 2011

Thank you.

11:15AM PDT on Jun 29, 2011

The rate they are going there will be nothing left for the security forces to protect!!

1:08PM PDT on May 24, 2010


2:32AM PDT on Apr 16, 2010

great story thankyou

4:23AM PST on Mar 4, 2010

Go screw national security!

Thanks for a good piece of writing.

10:30PM PST on Feb 15, 2010

i could not agree with you more. i thank you for putting into words how i feel every day. thank you.

8:53PM PST on Feb 4, 2010

good story

8:24AM PST on Jan 31, 2010

This is why The Law of The Sea seems like suck bloody hogwash to me!!! If use of sonar is causing this this it would have been banned a long time ago if the rules were actually being folowed! People need to realize that we depend on the lives of these water mammals as much as they rely on us...and probably more in the long run!!!! uggg so crazy!! thanks interesting post...

12:28PM PST on Nov 20, 2008

I want to do more to help save the whales!
What can we do about this?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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