Sunday, March 19, 2017

Once Again, Humpback Whales Have A Message For Us

It's hard to believe it's been just over 30 years since "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" was released in theaters.  This is the one "Star Trek" film familiar even to non-fans, in part because of the humor derived from its time-travel story frame, but also because the story itself was built around the idea that saving humpback whales in the 20th century was necessary for the survival of Earth in the 23rd century.  In its own way, the film made a very effective statement about the value of and the need for greater conservation of our planet--and perhaps made a real difference in preventing the extinction of many species of whales.

Believe it or not, whales are back in the news.  And they may, indirectly, be sending a message to us now that's just as important as the one they sent in "Star Trek IV" to the alien probe menacing the Earth.  Here is a story on CNN about humpback whales massing in large groups, for no scientifically discernible reason.  Thus far, the only observable aspect of the behavior of the so-called "supergroups" is that they appear to be focused on feeding.  But it is highly unusual, in that humpbacks usually are seen alone, in pairs, or in small groups, as noted in the story.

Somehow, it seems impossible for me to disconnect the behavior of these humpback supergroups from what's happening in our climate.  The more carbon dioxide trapped in our atmosphere, the warmer the oceans.  And the warmer the oceans, the more disruption in both the existence and location of food sources for many ocean species, including humpbacks.  Thus, the humpbacks have to congregate wherever they can find food.  And they may not be able to find it for very much longer.

The human race learned its lesson in "Star Trek IV" about the value of humpback whales, and conservation in general.  Can the human race, outside of movie theaters, relearn that lesson and apply it to its own future.  I hope and pray that it can.  These days, however, I'm forced to wonder.

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