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Jack Smith

Unique Plea to Save Whales Is No Fluke

December 15, 1987|Jack Smith

I have received what I consider the ultimate in junk-mail openings, as follows:

"Dear Friend: From all the indications available to us you are a rather unique person."

Evidently these people got my address from a mailing list, but not my name. I don't understand how that could happen. Wouldn't anyone who knew my address know my name? Or do they broadcast mail into certain neighborhoods, assuming that the residents of those neighborhoods are "rather unique."

Since they don't know my name, I don't see how they can know I'm rather unique. Technically, of course, unique is an absolute, and can't be modified. It has no degrees.

So a person is either unique or he isn't. Being unique means that he is not like any other person in the world. And in a sense, it is true, we are all unique.

However, I don't think that's what the authors of this letter mean by calling me "rather unique." I think they probably mean that I am predisposed to buy their product or support their cause. How they divine that, I suppose, is from the mailing lists they buy.

This particular pitch comes from the American Cetacean Society, in behalf of whales, and goes on to say:

"You have a special concern for the marine world. You worry about the declining population of whales and the impact of trash dumping on the ecology of the oceans."

Well, they're right. I do worry about the ocean. I even hate to throw beer cans overboard when we're going to Catalina on our boat. Obviously, it would take a lot of beer cans to change the ocean to any observable degree. Yet we must begin somewhere.

I worry about the dumping of sewage into Santa Monica Bay. I worry about the the ozone layer. I worry about trash in our city. I worry about traffic on our streets.

On a global scale, I worry about the nuclear standoff. I worry about the homeless. I worry about the hungry. I worry about our President. I'm not a Republican, but he's all we have. For the moment, anyway.

I worry about the education of our youth. I worry about the national debt. I worry about the foreign-trade deficit. I worry about the Palestinians. I worry about crime. I worry about our overcrowded prisons.

I do not worry about pornography.

So you can see that I worry about the same things everyone else does. I can't see that any of my worries makes me unique, although not worrying about pornography might make me "rather" unique.

I just have a feeling that pornography will find its own level, and won't do nearly as much harm as the suppression of it would. Provided, of course, that it is made by adults for adults.

So what made the American Cetacean Society think I was unique enough to worry about whales? In my conscience I have always been against the killing of whales. I have always thought that for men to go out to sea to kill those benign creatures was cruel, greedy and degrading. I suppose some of America's richest families made their first millions in the whaling trade. Most of them in their New Englan mansions never saw a whale harpooned.

Of course Captain Ahab had an excuse. Moby Dick had got his leg. His motive was not only revenge and retribution, but also the purification of his soul.

If you think whaling has been outlawed, whales being an endangered species, the society's figures will make you retch.

They say that Japan, Iceland and South Korea are killing hundreds of whales every year under self-granted "scientific permits."

Last year U.S. fishermen killed 20,692 dolphins and porpoises in nets set for tuna; meanwhile, 100,000 dolphins and porpoises were killed in Mexican waters.

If you happen to throw beer cans into the ocean think of this: 14 billion pounds of trash, including 600,000 pounds of plastic containers, are tossed into the sea every year. In three years (1983-86) this caused the deaths of 250,000 sea birds, 1,700 sea lions (in California), 100 sea otters, 30,000 northern fur seals, and 12,000 sea turtles.

I don't know how they arrived at those figures. But if that much trash is deposited in the sea every year, think how much is deposited in our city streets. It will someday overwhelm us. I do worry about whales and trash. Maybe that makes me rather unique.

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