Is the environment the next victim of post 9/11 America?
April 17, 2002 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Is the environment the next victim of post 9/11 America? Disputes between the military and environmentalists are nothing new. But the Navy sonar controversy is approaching a climax in what both proponents and opponents say is a new atmosphere created by the Sept. 11 attacks. The military has been for some time increasingly concerned about environmental "encroachments" of all kinds -- conservation-based restrictions on how training camps and bombing ranges can be used, and now on deploying new technology. Military leaders say the time has arrived to address these concerns, and Congress appears increasingly sympathetic to this viewpoint.
posted by skallas (11 comments total)
 
Hey, guys, let's get the ball rolling on this linkworthy post. I'm on the whales' side in this one.
posted by y2karl at 11:26 AM on April 17, 2002


I noticed an odd omission. Why aren't they experimenting on whales and dolphins in captivity before bringing this stuff out in the wild and expecting mother nature to take the brunt of it? There's some serious oversight concerns here.
posted by skallas at 11:53 AM on April 17, 2002


I'm swimming in the same ocean, Y2karl! What's good for the goose is good for the gander, I say. If the Navy wants to blast the seas with what amounts to powerful sonic booms, great. (Sucks for sea life, though.) But in the spirit of fairness, equivalent sonic shocks would have to be blasted everwhere Navy personnel dwell - ships, bases, Anapolis, etc.
A couple of years ago, the Boston Globe did an excellent series on the US government as the country's worst polluter. Let's do something about cleaning up the military's toxic legacy before we let them toxify more of our world with new schemes. Of course, the likelihood of that happening is next to nil, given that the Bush administration wants to eliminate the Superfund program.
Oh, and once we totally fuck up the whales' communication network with sonic blasts, we can move on the the next phase of our assault..."Nuke the Whales!"
posted by martk at 11:57 AM on April 17, 2002


"The debate is complicated further by the likelihood that loud and far-reaching sonar is being developed by other countries. Navy officials have said that France and Russia have deployed similar low-frequency sonars, and environmental groups say many other nations are working on them, too. This creates the possibility of wide-scale sonar proliferation, and of whales and dolphins being bombarded by sound waves from many directions."

This is really depressing. Even if we didn't use this technology, if every other major navy does it probably wouldn't make much of a difference. Without an international ban on this technology (which would probably require a ban on quiet submarines) it sounds like the marine mammals are fucked.
posted by homunculus at 12:31 PM on April 17, 2002


Remeber to pay your taxes folks!! Three cheers for the federal government!

Remeber though, that it is not just Bush, or any president, it's the bureaucratic system. They have the power to make and enforce law, with little or no fear of reprimand. I'm sure the government was polluting just as much when Al Gore was VP and so on.
posted by insomnyuk at 2:09 PM on April 17, 2002


Yes insomnyuk...let's all blame the govt., but have no alternate solution in mind. Three cheers for short-sighted Libertarians. Hip Hip...Blah.
posted by BlueTrain at 2:15 PM on April 17, 2002


Hah. In this case it is the government that is polluting, therefore, if the government was not there, you would have no pollution of this kind.

That(limited federal govt.) is the alternate solution, which my previous, somewhat sarcastic post did not mention.

Just because I didn't mention a solution doesn't mean automatically that I don't have one.
posted by insomnyuk at 3:00 PM on April 17, 2002


This is all so reminiscent of the ELF system controversy, still a target of nuke protestors years after activation. And still no mutant moose in the northwoods of Wisconsin, either.

I can see where a sonar ping might be detected by animals in the water, but how does this really compare to all the other background noise in the water, the normal sonar pings of submarines and research vessels, the ambient sounds of moving water?
posted by dhartung at 3:36 PM on April 17, 2002


It's certainly not of negligable amplitude. Apparently it's enough to cause bleeding in the inner ears of whales, and the Navy reported a couple of years ago that it caused a mass stranding of 17 whales, some with ruptures.
posted by skyline at 3:55 PM on April 17, 2002


Even regular sonar pings can be detected by a human sitting inside a ferrocement hull, so a noise comparable to a jet engine must cross way over the painful sound threshold for creatures that navigate by echolocation, like dolphins and whales.

"Before we began testing manatees’ hearing and making acoustic measurements of their habitats and boat noise, most of the wildlife biologists and managers charged with protecting manatees assumed the animals could readily hear boats but were just too slow or not smart enough to learn to avoid watercraft."

-The Manatee Hearing Test , via the American Scientist
posted by sheauga at 6:01 PM on April 17, 2002


dhartung, pro bono spin doctor at large, our own Ari Fleischer.

Blue Whales, for one species, make their calls in low frequencies; only within the last century and a half, have "normal" sonar signals and engine noises have been part of the aural oceanic environment, and those at an order of some magnitude above ambient oceanic noise.

What I am curious about:

Whatever happened to that Soviet program that was testing satellite radars to track our missile subs?

Apart from Russia, who has the technology and wherewithal to build these "quiet" subs, and who is actually embarked on such a program? And if so, how far along towards their goal and how long until they until they reach it? I

t would seem to me that there might be some alternatives--although, god knows, stopping a weapons program juggernaut is near impossible. So many hands are in so many other pockets.
posted by y2karl at 8:17 PM on April 17, 2002


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