Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Navy Impacts on Sea Life

Our Maine Peace Walk planning group met in Bath last Saturday to take the next steps in organizing our October 9-24 walk through the state.  The walk will be entitled: Militarization of the Seas - Pentagon's Impact on the Oceans. The walk will begin in Ellsworth, Maine and follow Highway 1 south to Portsmouth, New Hampshire where the Navy submarine facility is located.

We had folks at the planning meeting from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  Like our previous walks this one will be led by monks and nuns from the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order.

The Pentagon has the largest carbon footprint on our Mother Earth.  Waging endless war consumes massive amounts of fossil fuels and lays waste to significant environmentally sensitive places on the planet - particularly the oceans.

One example of military impacts on sea life is the Navy's testing of sonar.  Research has shown that beaked and blue whales are sensitive to mid-frequency active sonar and move rapidly away from the source of the sonar, a response that disrupts their feeding and can cause mass strandings. Some marine animals, such as whales and dolphins, use echolocation or "biosonar" systems to locate predators and prey. It is conjectured that active sonar transmitters could confuse these animals and interfere with basic biological functions such as feeding and mating. Study has shown whales experience decompression sickness, a disease that forces nitrogen into gas bubbles in the tissues and is caused by rapid and prolonged surfacing. Although whales were originally thought to be immune to this disease, sonar has been implicated in causing behavioral changes that can lead to decompression sickness.

The U.S. Navy has confirmed that two months ago when three beaked whales were beached in Southern Guam, sonar testing was in fact being conducted in the very same area.

The Navy’s most widely used sonar systems operate in the mid-frequency range. Evidence of the danger caused by these systems surfaced dramatically in 2000, when whales of four different species stranded themselves on beaches in the Bahamas. Although the Navy initially denied responsibility, the government's investigation established that mid-frequency sonar caused the strandings.

After the incident, the area's population of Cuvier's beaked whales nearly disappeared, leading researchers to conclude that they either abandoned their habitat or died at sea. Similar mass strandings have occurred in the Canary Islands, Greece, Madeira, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii and other sites around the globe. 


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