Whale Warrior at the Animal Rights Conference


Last night I had the honor of speaking at the Animal Rights 2011 National Conference about all of the tremendous work NRDC is doing to protect marine mammals.

Passion filled the room – passion for animals and passion for activism.  Amongst so many passionate people, I hoped my passion for the whales would shine through.  Lucky for me, I have been fortunate enough to work for both a great cause and a great organization; being passionate about our issues was the least of my concerns.  I was asked to be on a panel – along with Dr. Rosemarie White from the Sierra Club and Hillary Lehr from Rainforest Action Network – that explored overlap between the animal rights and environmental movements.  It gave me the perfect platform to describe a couple of NRDC’s campaigns to protect whales and other marine mammals.

Like NRDC’s victory in Laguna San Ignacio, where we defeated Mitsubishi’s plans to build a colossal salt factory on the banks of the world’s last untouched gray whale nursery.  And our ocean noise campaign, which targets the big three contributors to ocean noise pollution: commercial shipping, seismic surveys used by the oil and gas industry, and military sonar.  And our campaign to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska from the proposed Pebble Mine – a gigantic gold and copper mine that would jeopardize the tens millions of salmon upon which all life in the region relies, including whales, seals, grizzlies, eagles, wolves, Alaska Natives and commercial and sports fishermen.  



Gray whale photo credit: Joel Reynolds

I concluded by talking about our campaign to end commercial whaling.  There I had particularly good news to share: last week U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke declared Iceland in defiance of the international ban on commercial whaling (Iceland kills both endangered fin and minke whales for profit). 

I needn’t have worried about being passionate enough.  It amazed me the number of people that approached me afterwards to thank me—and NRDC—for all the work we do to save the whales. 

What stuck with me most, though, was not the passion but the optimism among the crowd.  After the panel, I spoke with a young activist.  She told me about a great quote hanging on her refrigerator: something along the lines of not getting down about the things you can’t do, but instead concentrating on the things you can do.  Such a powerful statement.  Focus on what we can do.  

Optimism is key. I truly believe we do have the power to save the whales. Even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, it is imperitive to remember that our collective "can" is strong indeed. We have incredible power in our everyday lives; even the most mundane of our daily choices is a manifestation of the ideals we refuse to compromise. Overall, I think the conference provided inspiration to almost all of the attendees.  For me, it gave this legal whale warrior extra motivation to keep on fighting! 

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