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Mushtaq Bhat

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Oceanscape

Acrylic on Canvas
100 x 80cm. 2008

Oceanscape

Of Biodiversity, Hot-Spots and Fairy Tale Illustrations

Concerning the Beauty, the Lost-Bounty and the Fragility of the Corals and the Pelagic Fauna

Some coral gardens look like pages torn off from an exotic fairy tale book. Nowadays they may mean a backdrop for a movie only. The corals however do have important ecological functions, whose full dimensions may have escaped the scrutiny of even the most dedicated marine biologists. Functions more significant than the those assigned to them by the humans in recent decades, like being a resource for dynamite fishing or for tourists on site-seeing tours or as I saw once, as a motive for a professional photographer, who did not seem to care at the moment for anything else in the world. He would grab corals for a hold, drag his flippers all over the delicate corals, oblivious of the still smaller and still more fragile coral life he was trampling to death, totally concentrated on his colorful fish motive! He was participating in a weird competition, where the winner would have to shoot the highest number of different varieties of fish in a given span of time. Of course he was under stress and did not give a damn about what he was leaving behind, his eyes fixed on the motive and the price only. This scene I witnessed at one big international meeting of Under-Water Photographers in Malta, where I incidentally got briefly acquainted with Chuck Nicklin, who showed some great pictures of the Whales breeding off the coast of Sri Lanka, all scenes shot (if I remember it rightly together with his son Flip) in contrast to the above mentioned photographer, while skin-diving at a respectful distance with a great benign empathy for these wonderful creatures. He like me was understandably bored as the talk was about the weird competition. It was a minor trespass though, understandable in modern free-market world, where competitions are generally the holy cows of economy and politics and our present understanding of Nations, a norm that even the big socialist countries accepted without question and literally put above the happiness and freedom of the individual. Strange how after all those theories of material historicism and the critic on Hegel, they from Mao to Stalin succumbed to this purely idealistic prestige system, where winning at the Olympic Games is almost equivalent to survival! Anyway such trespasses. like this rather ecologically callous competition though not dangerous in scope are nevertheless, in my opinion not fit for a member of an elite class of citizens, who have an influential access to media, that shapes the general public opinion. And one expects a more sincere involvement of the professional photographer with his motive. Pity that there are not more photographers like David Doubilet, Marty Snyderman or Doug Perrine around! In this case this photographer should have known, that he might have been destroying the very basis of the ecological niche, that produced the fishes he was shooting!

It is hopefully no exaggeration to say that along with the American, the English and other continental European pioneers, the Scandinavian countries have consistently shown a very advanced sense of ecology in the new age. May be more that in other countries _ a Linnaean legacy? I am not talking only about the national governmental politics but have predominantly the pioneers (individual, corporate or institutional) on my mind. Nonetheless, like Japan, Norway* (the national Government) still considers whales as a public-consumer resource. One hopes that this is done with a full consideration of the long-time fate of this unique resource. This is the least one would expect from such an otherwise advanced Nation, whose technical know how and the relatively small population should, in my opinion be fully capable of switching over to other forms of national subsistence. In fact it may be because of it, like the oil in some countries, that they may be holding themselves back from advancing more in other fields. They could certainly produce something like Nokia. Necessity is still the mother of inventions. And add to it the Scandinavian countries have sure enough contributed a lot in creating many new age ecological norms of our planet, presently propounded, adhered to or rendered a poetic lip-service on global scale.

I hope to be forgiven for my critic, but I guess I sort of like these creatures so much that I can not keep my mouth shut. Keeping the populations at their minimum level needed for their future survival is a rather risky calculation. What if some disease or some other natural or man-made calamity wipes this small number out! Think of all these great creatures? Apart from their ecological functions in maintaining an extant equilibrium within their biotopes and on the planet in general, they have complicated social organizations. Some sing. Some live in families and tribes. They may also be experiencing mental or what human claim for themselves only, a spiritual suffering. We know so little about them and we have so few left from such great mammals on our earth. And their sight is certainly a delight for young and those who have remained young!

*This appears to us even more strange, considering the fact that Norway has recently pledged $2.8 billion to combat deforestation (source: Joseph E. Stiglitz in: Kevin Conrad, Heroes of the Environment, Time October 6, 2008). In fact when CfRN (Coalition for Rainforest Nations) had a tough time convincing the need for urgency in combating the global climate change to industrial Goliath (USA) Norway has shown an unprecedented foresight and real involvement in the issue, a fact that supports our contention expressed above that these small countries on the rim of European continent have been generally very advanced if not trend setters and pioneers in things ecological and without doubt the great aesthetical and scientific appreciators and dynamic supporters of our biosphere. This is something that should not wonder one so much, considering the fact that the father of biological nomenclature Carl von Linné was a Scandinavian.

Editor’s Note 01-01-2010

And here is Greenpeace offering you to create and send your own origami whale to the head of the new Government in Japan (Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama) and a Japanese Green Peace activist (Toru Suzuki) trying to win the hearts and the minds of the public and the Government for the plight of these great mammals.

Send your Origami Whale!

create your own whale origami

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