Now that news is focused on a cargo ship clogging the Suez Canal, one of the busiest trade routes in the world, it is worth reviewing the ecocidal destruction caused by these behemoths.
There are over 5000 cargo ships in use today. They have grown exponentially in size over the last two decades. They, along with military and cruise ships, pollute the marine environment with noise from engines and sonar. As a result, cetacean populations, along with other marine mammals and fish, have been steadily falling. The sounds these species endure are deafening, inescapable, and are behind mass beaching events and other physical and emotional stresses, including a drop in fertility.
In addition to this, deaths of blue whales, the largest of all mammals on earth, have been rapidly increasing due to collisions with cargo ships. The soft flesh of a whale is no match for the steel of these monsters of rapacious consumption. Add to this plastic litter, the warming created by the burning of fossil fuels, and the effluent from engines, and a picture of ecocidal catastrophe on a global scale becomes clear.
So maybe this incident off of Egypt is a wake up call. The current economic arrangement is a death sentence for countless species that we share this planet with. It has been for centuries. The global north’s dependence on the “latest” object or item is undoubtedly fueling much this enormous growth in marine traffic. And it isn’t so beneficial to those workers in the global south either. Those who work in dangerous sweatshops for pennies a day.
Scientists have been warning us for decades about tipping points and ecological collapse. This time, the earth gently struck back, blowing one of these ships onto the sandy banks of a human made conduit for endless, cancerous, capitalist growth. Despite the hysteria of some in the corporate press, it is unlikely to cause that much stress to ordinary people. Just a few stockholders. Ships will be rerouted and in a few weeks the canal will be cleared.
But next time Mother Earth may not be so kind to us with her warning.
Kenn Orphan March 2021
*Photo is of a near miss of a cargo ship and a blue whale and is courtesy of NOAA.
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