From: Bruce Sterling []
Sent: Thursday, January 20, 2000 6:27 PM
To: Viridian List
Subject: Viridian Note 00128: Viridian Commentary

Key concepts: Viridian Disasters, Involuntary Parks,
poisoned whales, giant hailstones, commentary

Attention Conservation Notice: Life in the Greenhouse often beggars credulity.

Entries in the "Dead Mike" Design contest:

This contest expires February 15, 02000.

(Garry Peterson)

Garry Peterson remarks:

(((Is "conservation by pollution" a new trend?

(((Nature has blossomed in the "involuntary parks" surrounding the Chernobyl reactors. From the perspective of mice or deer populations, dying young and having a high rate of reproductive failure seem to be much better than having people arround.

(((Perhaps the same is true now of whales. In a bizarre parody of the evolution of chemical defenses, whales can now protect themselves from hunting by absorbing poison. As long as they can still reproduce, whales may even be better off.

(((It's like a non-intentional form of tree-spiking. But perhaps this is another way that conservationists could protect the rhino and elephant: poison them. Ensure that they are radioactive or contaminated enough to discourage poachers, but not so contaminated that they're sterile.)))

Source: Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent,
The Independent newspaper, London, January 9, 02000

"The people of Japan, the world's main whaling nation, are at last questioning the hunting of the leviathans after a major food scare.

"After high levels of dangerous heavy metals and chemicals were found in whalemeat, Japanese scientists advised against eating it, so sales slumped. (...) Research has shown that toxic chemicals can build up in whales and dolphins to 70,000 times the levels found in the waters in which they swim and feed, and can cause serious human health problems, including damage to the immune system, sterility, and 'gender-bender' hormone disruptions.

"The development has is an extraordinary twist to one of the oldest and most bitter environmental battles. (...) Last year, two Japanese toxicologists and two geneticists from Harvard University analysed more than 100 samples of the meat bought in restaurants, shops and markets across Japan, in a study co-ordinated by the British-based Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and the Swiss Coalition for the Protection of Whales.

"They were astonished at the results. About half of all the samples proved to be contaminated with heavy metals or dangerous chemicals including mercury, dioxins, DDT and PCBs above the maximum levels allowed for human consumption under Japanese and international standards.

"They also found that a quarter of the samples were sold under false pretences, in fact containing meat from other species such as dolphins and porpoises and, in one case in 20, from fully protected species such as humpback and sperm whales. More than three-quarters of these mis- advertised products proved to be for human consumption.

"Japan's Fisheries Agency insisted then that whalemeat sold to consumers was not seriously contaminated. But in November, a separate study by the country's official Environment Agency confirmed that whales and dolphins were highly polluted.

"Further research suggested, in the words of one scientist, that eating just three ounces of dolphin meat or one ounce of liver 'would cause significant health problems.'"

Garry Peterson
National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis 735 State St., Suite 300
Santa Barbara, CA 93101-5504

(Alan Wexelblat)

Alan Wexelblat remarks:

(((This is weird enough to qualify as a Viridian Disaster of the "uncanny" variety. Bizarre basketball-sized ice is falling on Spain, origin unknown.)))

(((Bruce Sterling remarks: it's a pity it didn't fall on the Washington headquarters of the Global Climate Coalition. We can always hope. I must say I do enjoy these news clippings that have the look-and-feel of a cheap SF novel about "The Year 2000 AD.")))

Source: CNN website

"Iceballs rain on Spain; scientists scratch heads

"January 19, 2000

"Web posted at: 3:32 PM EST (2032 GMT)

"MADRID, Spain == Are they giant hail stones? Comet debris? Frozen airliner sewage? Scientists are hoping chemical analysis will clear up the origin of some 15 basketball-sized chunks of ice that have fallen from the sky in southern Spain over the past 10 days.

"No one has been injured so far, but one iceball smashed into a frozen car near Seville. Two others damaged rooftops elsewhere in Spain.

"So far, experts have come up cold in their search for an explanation.

"'The most surprised person of all by this phenomenon is me,' said geologist Jesus Martinez Frias, who is heading a team of Spanish scientists that has traveled over the country collecting and analyzing the blocks of ice, which weigh as much as 8 pounds. (...)

"Martinez said the balls should have been large enough while plummeting through the atmosphere to register on radar screens."

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