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Shades of Gray.
March 4, 2002 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Shades of Gray. "Environmental groups sent out a worldwide call to save the gray whale from a Mexican salt plant. They got millions of dollars and thousands of new members. But scientists found no threat to the whales." From part six of a series that explores the ecology of the gray whale, as well as the many different ways it touches various cultures, and some of the moral dilemnas that have emerged as a result.
posted by bingo (9 comments total)

 
We'll save the environment, even if it means making the environment worse.....

Um.....

Can I go back inside now? It's cold out here in all this man-caused global warming.
posted by dwivian at 12:39 PM on March 4, 2002


Puh-leaze.

How surprised are we that scientists bought and paid for by ESSA, the joint venture between Mitsubishi (who wanted to build the salt plant) and the Mexican government (ooooh, those taxes...oooh those kickbacks), would solemnly conclude that their boss's project wouldn't possibly harm a hair on a whale's head?

Let's show little Jill Stewart how to write her headline a little more truthfully: "Environmental groups sent out a worldwide call to save the gray whale from a Mexican salt plant. They got millions of dollars and thousands of new members. But scientists BOUGHT AND PAID FOR BY MITSUBISHI SOMEHOW found no threat to the whales."

Gosh oh gee, I seem to remember the tobacco industry paying for scientists to ridicule concerns about the health effects of smoking. Hey Jill! Here's a lead for your next pro-business fluff piece: "Public health advocates sent out a worldwide call to curtail smoking. But RJR Reynold's/Philip Morris scientists found no health threats whatsoever to humans from cigarettes."
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 3:04 PM on March 4, 2002


Can I go back inside now? It's cold out here in all this man-caused global warming.

Wow, that's persuasive. There is no global warming because one person is cold right now.

And damnit, the earth does so look flat outside the window right now, eh?
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 3:11 PM on March 4, 2002


fold_and_mutilate, if you read more carefully, you will notice that there were also researchers that did not work for either group, and furthermore did not take sides in this battle. What these scientists seem to think is that there is no negative effects on the whales, the lagoons, or the others species of plants and animals. And of course, what was I thinking... enviromentalists never lie or mislead people to gain support for one of their epic fights against the evil corporate world. It seems as though you think that one group is capable of misleading the American and worldwide public while another group is not.
As for the NRDC, this seems like a slimmy way to recruit and take in money for their opperations and projects.
posted by iceman at 4:11 PM on March 4, 2002


Read more carefully yourself.

Oh I know. And we can still find "scientists" who will still parrot the tobacco industry's rhetoric as well. I suppose you believe them too?

The environmental studies were all paid for by ESSA (Mitsubishi). They funded the "science". They paid for it, and by jove, isn't it odd that they got exactly what they paid for?

"ESSA has commissioned these studies for an
environmental impact assessment that is expected
to be released as soon as this month and will form
the basis for the company's permit application.

Source -- USA TODAY/ January 18, 2000

And of course, Mitsubishi wouldn't hire other scientists and/or "researchers" to lie or otherwise spout their corporate propaganda, now would they? I'm sure the corporation that got the Greenwash award of the Month in 1995 as "The Most Environmentally Destructive Corporate Force on Earth", and which received the CorpWatch quarterly award for its ceaseless efforts to portray its various businesses as environmentally friendly, wouldn't do something so crass as pay people to actually obfuscate, would they?

How odd that a group not aligned with Mitsubishi (or any environmental group) would completely contradict the conclusion Mitsubishi bought and paid for:

"CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT IN THE GRAY WHALE LAGOONS OF BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR, MEXICO" Final Report to the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission Contract T10155592":

"The greatest potential threats to the whales and their habitat are from: 1) the proposed development of a 52,150 ha salt production facility on the shore of Laguna San Ignacio..."

Now how could whales possibly be affected by a lil' ol' salt making plant?

"Project plans include the construction of an approximately two km pier and loading facility between the town of Punta Abreojos and Estero el Coyote. An average of eight large cargo ships per month would dock at the pier to receive salt throughout the year. All housing and administrative units for the proposed facility would be located at Punta Abreojos. Salt evaporation/concentration would occur on approximately 20,000 ha of salt flats north of the northern arm of Laguna San Ignacio. Additional
evaporation/concentration would occur on 10,000 ha northwest of the northern arm, and northeast of Estero el Coyote. Two saltwater pumping stations would be placed along the lagoon shoreline. One would be placed at the extreme northern end of the northern arm. The other pumping station would be located directly across from Isla Pelicanos and Isla Garzas on the northern shore of the northern arm of the lagoon. With 10-15 intake valves, these pumping stations would have the capacity to provide 30,000 liters per/second of lagoon water to evaporation/concentration ponds, depending on production needs. On February 27, 1995, INE President Gabriel Quadri de la Torre denied ES permission to develop the San Ignacio project on the grounds that it was not compatible with conservation objectives of
the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve. Quadri de la Torre also indicated that the project could adversely impact 14 plant species and 72 animal species including gray whales, antelopes, black brant, and red mangroves (Quadri de la Torre 1995)."


Tsk tsk, now how could a 2 km pier and 8 ships per month and the rest of that claptrap possibly create a problem in the environment? I mean, the Exxon Valdez didn't create much of a real problem in Prince William sound, now did it?

"ES contested INE's decision and asked the agency to review additional project-related information and authorize project development (Bremer 1995). On June 26, 1995, ES announced that it would hire an international consulting firm to prepare a new project EIA..."

And, as noted, that new EIA was just what the money-grubbers ordered.

Yeah, I just know we should believe business people about how safe their own money-grubbing venture will be. They don't have a conflict of interest, now do they? And why would anyone think business people would lie? You know, business people like Enron, Philip Morris, Shell Oil, Union Carbide, and Firestone.

Thanks, I'll take the environmentalists any old day over the leased stooges of big business.

As for Mitsubishi, that sure is a slimy way to do business...par for the course in the business world, though.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 7:14 PM on March 4, 2002


Actually, I did read it carefully, and I did see that cleaver little snipit that you added to your response about the tabacco. This is the problem that I have with all of this. If you read the whole article, you will find that it is the ESSA's scientists that have the evidence to support their claim, in the salt refinery at the other lagoon, which has the same exact plan and layout as the proposed one that was canceled. So my question is, if it didn't affect the animals in the other lagoon, why would have such a detramental affect on those in this lagoon Further more, the leader of the NRDC admitted that "Early on, I was clear in saying the whale biologists could be right, it won't hurt the whales" It's just that when the NRDC admits that they used the Gray Whale only as an eye catcher and a net for the sympathy of the American people to further the goal of keeping the plant from being built, I find that basis to find them just as untrustworth as those "stooges of big business".
posted by iceman at 10:27 PM on March 4, 2002


I suppose, F_A_M, that there is no conflict of interest by the environmental scientists that are funded by environmentalist research groups? If they found things to be "just fine", after spending all this time telling everyone how bad it was going to be, would they go against their masters? Probably not..... They would tell us how bad it would be, even without doing any research. But, you'd know that if you read the article.

The thing that surprised everyone, and by this I mean even the environmentalists were caught flatfooted, is that the ESSA actually got reasonably independent scientists to do the research.

And, F_A_M, so long as the environmentalists won't pay for the Environmental Impact Statement, forcing "big business" to do it, they get to make this assinine claim that "bought" scientists somehow are not capable of doing their job. I have, contrary to your drivel, seen EIS documentation critical of given potential industrial locations, forcing companies that paid for them to relocate, and do another survey. It does happen. But.....

....bad science by the environmentalists never gets criticized.......

Oh, and the fact that it is COLDER here is a direct result of global warming. I just dispute that we know that man is the cause -- I cannot presume such arrogance, that our massive ecosystem could be tipped so heavily by ourselves, when blasts from the largest fusion engine in the solar system can do much more.

(to explain the colder issue -- as the planet gets warmer, certain ocean currents shift. With the Gulf Stream moving, cold air is drawn down into the Eastern U.S. and Western Europe. The nasty snow in the Northern U.S. is a direct result of the lakes up there not freezing over, which is an obvious outgrowth of the warmer planet. But, it still cannot be shown with any validity what the cause of the warming is -- we are in a cycle of solar warming right now, which could exceed anything that man could do to start or stop climate change. This is not an excuse not to try, mind you! I have taken many steps to be more environmentally friendly in my life. But, I do think that we need to be reasonable in our actions -- after all, humans are part of the ecosystem, too, and must be protected from themselves.)
posted by dwivian at 8:44 AM on March 5, 2002


If you read the whole article, you will find that it is the ESSA's scientists that have the evidence to support their claim, in the salt refinery at the other lagoon, which has the same exact plan and layout as the proposed one that was canceled.

I did read the whole article, as well as several others. Kindly point to environmental impact research that has been done on the "other lagooon", OTHER than any done by Mitsubishi itself.

What? There isn't any? Well, isn't that convenient.

I suppose, F_A_M, that there is no conflict of interest by the environmental scientists that are funded by environmentalist research groups?

Let me know which "environmental group" is making a monetary killing from from maintaining the cleanliness of the environment. What's their latest stock trading at? (Indeed, just give me their stock symbol and I'll check myself, ok?) Exactly how much have they made? I mean, it's just a big business, right? Kindly point to information that shows their "profits" compared to the likes of Mitsubishi or Exxon or RJR Reynolds, will you.

The thing that surprised everyone, and by this I mean even the environmentalists were caught flatfooted, is that the ESSA actually got reasonably independent scientists to do the research.

Independent? Nonsense. They were paid by Mitsubishi. Similarly the tobacco industry has claimed for years that it hired "independent" researchers to support their claims about tobacco. I suppose you believe them as well? After all, they've been labeled with that magic word - "independent"!

Oh, and the fact that it is COLDER here is a direct result of global warming. I just dispute that we know that man is the cause...

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that greenhouse gases are contributing to the effect. Or, should I say, scientists who aren't on the payroll of those people making money from producing greenhouse gases. Imagine that...

No one seems to be willing to address the study done by an independent group for the Maritime Mammal folks. Why don't you take a look at it and point out their conflict of interest, as well as where they went wrong with their science.

In the meantime, thanks, I don't think anyone really believes an environmental impact statement put out by one of the biggest polluters on this planet...a statement about an area they plan to rape for more profit. Nor do I think anyone really believes scientists on a company payroll when they speak about the plans of those holding the purse strings.

But, I do think that we need to be reasonable in our actions -- after all, humans are part of the ecosystem, too, and must be protected from themselves

Good idea. I think I'll start by applauding those who protected an ecosystem that we all (including we humans) rely upon.

Mitsubishi has enough money, and I really haven't heard of too many salt shortages lately. All the shortages I've heard about have been shortages of clean air, and clean water, and people unwilling to rape the earth for a cheap buck.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 8:29 PM on March 6, 2002


Kindly point to environmental impact research that has been done on the "other lagooon", OTHER than any done by Mitsubishi itself. [...]What? There isn't any? Well, isn't that convenient.

How about the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) report that found that the major impact of the "other lagoon"'s salt plant was "dramatic transformation of the desert landscape on the north side of the lagoon by huge tracts of manmade salt ponds." This transformation has lead to the use of the area by migratory birds, and designation by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network as a site of "international importance." Woo! What evil!

So, the only real impact, says the UNESCO, is a better ecosystem. Quick! Someone must stop this crime!

Let me know which "environmental group" is making a monetary killing from from maintaining the cleanliness of the environment.

All of them. They derive their existance from pushing their agenda, and pay their staff salaries based on that agenda and their ability to raise funds (memberships, trusts, and other donations). Just because they don't pass along profits to stockholders doesn't make them any less a big business. And, the presentation of half-baked information, for the PURPOSE of raising membership and money, shows them to be just as vile to me as Mitsubishi is to you. It is one thing to promote the environment. It is another thing to exploit it to pay your bills. I am seeing the latter in several of these supposed "environmental" groups.

The business of ecology is a strong one, but the customer base is harder to define. It tends to be other businesses, oddly enough, because of the Public Relations goodness of looking like something real is happening, though lots of environmental restrictions have significantly limited scope. The business gets to say "this environmental group gave us a seal of approval", while having no real impact before or after the changes.

Independent? Nonsense.

Not at all....being paid for an EIS is not the same as being a Mitsubishi employee before and after. Most large corporations maintain science staffing just to handle these questions. Mitsubishi did something unexpected by going outside that staff to Independent scientists, to ask them to do the research. And, yes, they got paid for it. But, their job was not on the line -- they'd get paid either way (unlike the scientists in Mitsubishi labs).

Worthy of note -- Mitsibushi did an INTERNAL EIA which was rejected by the Mexican government as insufficient. So, this was the SECOND try to get the plant passed. If it were Mexico's interest in making money that mattered, that first EIA would have been enough. Obviously they needed a better EIA/EIS, and made Mitsubishi go to people that knew the trade, and were willing to do a good job, to get it.

the study done by an independent group for the Maritime Mammal folk

I looked for it, but there are several studies that could be the one in question. So, I read them all. Boy was that an exercise in annoyance. Perhaps you can point to the specific one you meant?

Part of my studies has been the analysis of research proposals and post-research reports. Testing and measures, how to write decent research, and how to report decent research so that it isn't questioned easily is necessary to work I used to do (I'm now studying for a completely different career). Every study I read about the gray whale issue in Mexican lagoons made use of open-ended interviews, method counts from differently defined analysis structures, and conclusions not borne out by the data in their own study. Considering the severity of the issue being researched, better methods would have been appreciated.

My favorite study so far is the one that indicated, in data, that the number of calving whales, and number of calves, seen in the lagoons AFTER the introduction of the salt plant has been on a stronger rise than before. It then concluded that such a facility would be bad for the calves. When all the data points to the benefits, it seems odd to me that the bird sanctuary, whale increasing, safe-production salt plant is so evil. Maybe they conjure demons there. If so, that wasn't in the report.

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that greenhouse gases are contributing to the effect

This is completely untrue. Well, maybe not. I suppose that scientists researching boron deposits in pre-cambrian geostratigraphy could have an opinion on greenhouse gases, but let's restrict our interest to those that might know what they're talking about.

All reasonably qualified scientists (and I've read reports from quite a few) overwhelmingly agree state that greenhouse gases COULD contribute, but not that they ARE. Most agree that the causes are beyond our understanding at this time, but that additional research needs to be done. And, since greenhouse gases COULD be a cause, and since environmental changes take so long to manefest results, it is vital to change now. This is not a "cause found, solution found, implementation" plan, but a "cause possible, solutions take forever to implement, revert to previous and hope for the best" plan.

This is not at all unreasonable! In fact, I do my part, because I see the differences (I grew up in the Appalachian mountains, and I can personally attest to the difference in the haze layer there). But, the research is, as yet, incomplete. And, reasonable folk have to agree that this is the case.

Several professors I've talked with about this issue seem to think that the regular solar changes are the real cause of global warming, but that the research isn't "sexy", and thus is underfunded. Oh, and these are professors from accredited universities in the public and Ivy League sector. Not on the payroll of greenhouse gas producers. Imagine that.....

I really haven't heard of too many salt shortages lately

You obviously don't live where it is cold. This year there were severe salt shortages in all areas that salt their roads. The general price of table salt has been on a slight rise, as a result of depression in the extraction of other minerals from mined salt (tablesalt is really the junk left over from attempts to mine away magnesium, among other minerals).

Salt domes, being indicative of oil reserves, are hard to mine as well, for cleanliness issues and the fact that they often are environmental hazards. Desalinization and drying pools are the most environmentally sound methods of providing a necessary life-sustaning chemical we have, and yet faulty science and self-promotion has made that more difficult. Maybe we should go back to "raping the earth for a cheap buck", instead of trying to do it right.

It's not worldwide press, but there is a salt shortage. Maybe you should do a little more reading. I did, at your request.

So, we get back the crux of the matter -- a benefit to the environment was shut down in order to raise funding for other lobby efforts. How good for Mother Earth.
posted by dwivian at 8:47 AM on March 7, 2002


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