Recently I had the pleasure of meeting a young immigrant to our country, a most impressive nine-year-old whose verbal skill set would have been remarkable enough without English being his adopted language. Even more striking was his preference to engage in conversation and activities outside of any e-interaction, though familiarity with that global reality was often reflected in his precocious yet trusting worldview. 

Questions about his thoughts on our local school system confirmed reports that disruptive behavior’s an unfortunate classroom hazard, but overall he seemed thoroughly engaged with his educational experience. Anecdotes of his contemporary childhood schooling were both telling and unexpectedly reassuring. Though an ardent “Avengers” fan well versed in escapist mortal combat, he sadly explained how his music teacher once needed to admonish students about using their instruments as mock weaponry. When another teacher prompted classmates to name a cause for which they would walk two miles in order to demonstrate support, his own reply was: “Saving the whales.” His passion for that endeavor and the purity of his optimism was a teachable moment I’m most happy to relate. Whatever the cause of our school system’s present low record of academic achievement, some students are nonetheless connecting with deeper truths than just the three Rs or a sacred mastery of ones and zeros. 

It’s said that youth is wasted on the young. So is wisdom unfettered by the dictates of a “grownup” bottom line consumed with materialism. Today, more and more, it’s outspoken adolescents that are teaching essential truth to power and demanding a reprioritizing of adult monetary fixated self-interest. From gun violence to gender identity, and particularly regarding environmental sustainability, young rebellious minds are demanding some semblance of truly objective and responsible adult leadership. Parental failure in providing a hopeful future is provoking that generation to bravely attempt a heroic resetting of our human potential towards safeguarding planetary life. Despite such perverse motivation, let’s hope they’re successful in averting humanity’s ultimate damnation. Never-ending generational disregard of mankind’s collateral damage isn’t “The Way Life Should Be.” 

Lobstering as an iconic way of life for 4,500 Mainers is currently being pitted against protecting the 400 or so remaining lives of the North Atlantic right whale population. As with most everything these days, doing what’s right or wrong is inextricably tied to commerce. No one seeks the extinction of whales, or lobsters, yet few want to pay the price necessary to ensure that both continue to thrive. Inshore lobsters are relocating because of man-made climate change. Resultant offshore industrial-size lobstering “fleets” are compounding lethal line entanglements. Some say indictment of any lobstering practices in whale deaths is fake science. Others are willing to accommodate a mandatory 50% reduction in vertical trap lines but want a say in how that’s accomplished. Within the lobster fishery, as in society as a whole, there’s some difficulty in gaining a general consensus. Within Maine’s congressional delegation, all four members have nevertheless joined in petitioning the acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to make sure federal efforts to save that endangered species aren’t “unfairly or disproportionately burdening the Maine lobster industry.” All four know the bottom line in gaining reelection. Whales, having no electoral leverage of their own, are totally at the mercy of our political better angels. 

Once again, environmental justice is endangered from the get-go, caught between the rock of political inertia and the hard place of economic survival. Doing what’s right is unfortunately all too often hindered by local sovereignty pushback. What’s especially ironic in this particular case is that the environmental side’s being championed by federal oversight conducted by an executive administration roundly assailed as being unquestionably eco-adversarial. Go figure that dynamic. Science deniers subjected to big government regulation imposed by otherwise expected kindred spirits. Some Trumpian better angles apparently do exist. 

Whatever the case, right whales will seemingly soon have less chance of injury or death. Whatever the consensus on the necessity of such regulation or whether it will indeed achieve its goals, Maine fishery organizations have come on board and all parties will eventually toe the line. More traps on longer groundlines, overall trap reduction without increased licensing, and eliminating recreational traps altogether are just some Mainer proposals to navigate a rapidly changing lobstering environment. Even one additional whale loss attributed to lobstering might inflict even more government regulation. Best to adapt rather than become extinct oneself. 

Any vertical lines remain potential whale killers, and longer heavier trawls decrease possible disentanglement. “Trawling up” also endangers the safety of those lobstering, especially on smaller boats. A serious occupational choice. The whales of course have no recourse to working their own far more rightful fishery. 

I didn’t run any of this past the nine-year-old would-be whale avenger, though I can pretty safely assume that he wouldn’t accept any economic trade-offs whatsoever. “Ropeless fishing” advocates hold what many consider a similarly childlike impractical approach. Maybe so. Technology isn’t the singular solution. A serious reality check is. What’s truly childish is thinking that insisting something isn’t so is the same thing as acting responsibly. 

Gary Anderson lives in Bath.

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