June 12, 2013 – Week #27

Solar bad for marine life graphic

It was windy, cold and rainy – what a contrast from last week!

I was by myself but I had a new sign, “Sonar & explosives bad for marine life. Protect our oceans. No warships.” I unveiled it on Friday, June 8thWorld Oceans Day. That day, I tried to deliver an open letter to NDP Fisheries Critic Robert Chisholm at his Dartmouth office and protest outside, but his office was closed.

Today, I have been thinking about the book “Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis” by Canadian environmental journalist Alanna Mitchell. She traveled all over the world interviewing the leading scientists about the state of the oceans. She documented how pollution, over-fishing, and climate change are leading to the collapse of fish stocks, the destruction of coral reefs and the creation of dead zones in the oceans. There are now 500 dead zones around the world – nothing lives in those zones.

Another threat to the oceans is from the military, though it is something that Mitchell did not include in her book. For example, the sonar and explosives used by warships in naval war games injure dolphins and whales and warships have been known to dump oil and damage reefs.

As I struggled to hold up my new sign in the wind, a Department of Fisheries & Oceans van drove by me and I could see the driver and passenger reading it.

I’m never embarrassed as I protest, but today I felt like a ridiculous marshmallow. I couldn’t find my plain, gray rain pants, so I had wore this puffy, white rain suit with bright stripes that I got for running a leg during the Vancouver Winter Olympics Torch Relay in 2009.

Toward the end of my protest, a Lockheed Martin truck, a Porsche Cayenne, and a fancy car with a military flag drove by me into the Niobe Gate – the entrance to the shipyard and the dockyard. I could see the drivers and passengers looking over at me. I pointed to my other sign “$25 Billion Boondoggle: No Warships.”

I was reminded about the opinion piece that was published in the Chronicle Herald about a week ago written by Mount Saint Vincent University management professor, Michael Whalen. The title of his article was “Home-grown shipbuilding bound to be a boondoggle.”

Whalen wrote, “To put it bluntly, there is no market for Canadian-built warships. The major buyers, the Americans, the British, the French, the Chinese, etc., build their own. They will never buy a ship from Canada. Our governments, federal and provincial, will spend billions establishing a small, inefficient industry for which there is no market outside the government of Canada…. The inevitable escalation of costs will probably result in fewer ships than the navy needs and the jobs will be short- to medium- term in areas that offer no sustainable strategic advantage. Perhaps it is time for the government to re-examine this program, as it has with the F-35, and ensure this is the right path forward for Canada. There are alternatives.”

Whalen is absolutely right that the warship contract should be re-examined.

I got 9 honks + 1 wave & 1 finger + 1 head shake.

Dedication: For Medea Benjamin, the passionate, indefatigable American peace activist whom I greatly admire. Medea is the co-founder of the rabble-rousing peace group Codepink and is the author of the book “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.” She stood up and challenged President Obama during a security & foreign affairs speech he gave at the National Defense University last month. You can watch an interview with Medea about her interruptions to Obama’s speech here on Democracy Now! We need more rabble-rousers!

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