SS 16 - CANCELLED - Ecology Meets Environmental Ethics: The Case of Three Gray Whales in Barrow, Alaska

Tuesday, August 9, 2011: 8:00 PM-10:00 PM
4, Austin Convention Center
Organizer: Ingrid SY Ng
In 1988, three gray whales were found trapped in ice near the town of Barrow, Alaska. They were migrating south from the Arctic Ocean and became confined to a small breathing hole near land. Spotted by a town resident, the whales quickly became the focus of an intense rescue effort, with rescue crews cutting sequential breathing holes that led the whales back out to open water. The story became a global sensation with media coverage worldwide. The 13-day, $1 million rescue elicited diverse responses from the public, ranging from, “Thank you for caring so much,” to, “I can think of a hell of a lot better uses for the millions of dollars…wasted on this fiasco,” to, “I could never quite…figure out whether we…collectively lost our minds or if we actually did something good.” These reactions illustrate the ambiguity and divergences that continue to characterize humans’ attitude towards nature. How can ecologists contribute truthfully and fruitfully to this and other conversations about environmental values? How can we express value opinions about nature without compromising our role as “objective” scientists? Crossing disciplinary boundaries, what does the field of environmental philosophy offer for ecology? Patti Clayton’s book, Connection on the Ice, analyses the 1988 whale rescue through three philosophical lenses. In this Special Session, we borrow from her work to explore ecologists’ changing role in the environmental crisis. We will spend time interactively at the junction of ecology and environmental ethics, embracing interdisciplinarity as a key to environmental understanding and creative re-imagining.
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Banner photo by Flickr user greg westfall.