I’ve long been bemused by the story of 52HZ, the off-frequency blue or fin whale that the human race somehow decided had to be lonely. It seems like such a bizarre example of how humans like to impose their own stories on animals they really don’t understand or know.
But I had no idea how many people 52HZ’s story (or the story that we assigned to 52HZ) truly mobilized and inspired until I read this story:
For all her scientific unease with the whole media circus, Daher admitted to me that, “It’s interesting, isn’t it, that people appear to identify with this whale?” There was a pattern to those who reached out to her, as if she could somehow help. “It’s amazing. I get all sorts of emails, some of them very touching, genuinely. It just breaks your heart to read some of them — asking why I can’t go out there and help this animal. We as humans, we are very softhearted, caring creatures. It’s mostly females who write to me — not always; I also get males — but there are a lot of females who identify, feeling they’re not part of a pack.”
The story is full of people who wrote plays, created art, set out to make documentaries or were otherwise inspired to take action thanks to 52HZ’s perceived loneliness. But I can’t help wondering what any of these people are really doing to help 52HZ and all the other whales who are inundated with human noise and pollution.
Are they forsaking seafood to restore ocean food chains and reduce stray fishing gear?
Are they reducing their consumption of container-shipped goods that has turned the oceans into noisy superhighways, and resulted in numerous ship strikes?
What changes to their lives have they made that might improve 52HZ’s life in some small way? I hope many (I know actor Adrien Grenier was inspired to start an ocean conservation foundation and at least struggles with the fact that his acting work celebrating conspicuous consumption is what gave him the resources to do so). A whale can’t do much with empathy.
It is the frequent disconnect between what people say they care about and what they actually do with the choices they make in their own lives that is absolutely central to what the planet will look like–and how 52HZ will fare–in coming decades.
I have a lot more changes to make (especially when it comes to carbon footprint), but in an effort to take some pressure off the oceans I stopped eating seafood years ago. I am also doing everything I can to NOT buy anything new. It makes me feel out of step with our culture. I sense my wife and kids experience a range of reaction from annoyance to mild understanding. And I have to make a concerted effort to not come off as too deranged.
But out of step is exactly where I want to be because being in step does 52HZ no good at all.
One thought on “A “Lonely” Whale, Needy People”
Tim — I’m with you. Something else I see in this article, which I’ve experienced a lot, is that many wounded people are drawn to animal issues (I’m speaking mostly about volunteers). I see them as standing up for those who have no voice, as no one did for them as children. That’s fine but they seem to be unaware of their own issues and, unfortunately, it gets in the way of their effectiveness. They tend to operate out of emotion rather than thought-through strategy, which produces noise but not always results. I say only half-jokingly that people should be required to do therapy before they get involved in animal advocacy. It wouldn’t hurt — and it might help — help if they could separate their own issues from those they are trying to have an influence on.