What do we know about speed?
The speed of time travels at one second per second
Speed is irrelevant if you’re going in the wrong direction.
The speed of the human mind is remarkable. Just like its inability to recognize the obvious.
Speed is no advantage round a vicious circle.
Speed (time) is money
And of course…
And that’s the most obvious problem in our ocean today.
There's more tragic news this week about the death of great whales in our waters. It's rarely good news when we catch the attention of the international media.
Like this article, ironically, in the Atlantic today.
And of course we feel helpless. I hope that the government agencies will put in the resources to find out what is happening (again) and to protect the remaining creatures as much as possible.
It's treated like a mystery. One politician this week even blamed the deaths on climate change.
But it's simpler than that.
The whales are being hit by speeding ships.
And the solutions might be simple too.
What if Whales are People
In law a Person refers to a human or non-human entity that is treated as a person for legal purposes.
I think whales should be given legal status as People in Canada. If we can do it for corporations...
And to take it one step further, as our scientists, researches and tourism companies have named, numbered and follow many whales very closely, we could even offer them Canadian citizenship, with all the rights a privileges that gives us in the world.
Whale families are much like ours. They live similar length lives of longer. They are no threat to us. Our interests in the government of the oceans is very closely aligned. They clearly feel, worry, grieve, celebrate, adventure, play, love and communicate as we do. They have bigger brains than us developed over a longer period of time.
What a boon to tourism that would be. And it would help us frame and think about the problems faced by our whale people citizen.
I'm not saying whales are people. I'm saying the world would be a better place, and we would grow as a society if we treated whales AS IF they were people.
The mystery of whale deaths is really not much of a mystery. They’re being hit by large fast moving ships.
This week it's Right Whales, but all the big whales are vulnerable when they are near our foreshores. Imagine if this were kids surfing and swimming.
In the age of whaling they called them Right Whales because they were easy for hunting: slow, easy to kill, packed together, lingering at the surface, moving predictably to follow the tiny crustaceans they eat. Now that we’re trying to protect them rather than kill them these problems are our responsibility.
Whale’s slow movement and time spent at the surface during feeding and calving near the coast, or even habituation to vessel noise, make them highly vulnerable to lethal or severe injuries due to collision with ships.
Most lethal or severe injuries to whales involve vessels traveling at 14 knots (16.1 miles per hour) or faster, scientists point out. Rarely do injuries occur at vessel speeds below 10 knots (11.5 mph). Today, tankers average 15 knots and cargo ships 17 knots within the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The increasing cruise ship traffic can travel at 20 knots or more. Scientists recommend maximum speeds be restricted to 10 knots for ships traveling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and near water, at least in the months whales are most present. That should eliminate whales deaths from collisions completely.
The interesting opportunity here is that this speed limit, if implemented in ALL Canadian waters so that it didn’t give any company or route an unfair advantage, is that it would be good for the whales, good for the environment and good for business. A triple bottom line advantage.
A (Business) Reason to Hope
The Guardian recently reported that the world's largest cargo ships are travelling at lower speeds today than sailing clippers such as the Cutty Sark did more than 130 years ago.
A combination of the recession and growing awareness in the shipping industry about climate change emissions encouraged many ship owners to adopt "slow steaming" to save fuel ten years ago. This lowered speeds from the standard 25 knots to 20 knots, but many major companies have now taken this a stage further by adopting "super-slow steaming" at speeds of 12 knots (about 14mph).
Maersk, the world's largest shipping line, with more than 600 ships, has adapted its giant marine diesel engines to travel at super-slow speeds without suffering damage. This reduces fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. It is believed that the company has saved more than $100 million on fuel since it began its go-slow strategy.
Ship engines are traditionally profligate and polluting. Designed to run at high speeds, they burn the cheapest "bunker" oil and are not subject to the same air quality rules as cars. In the boom before 2007, the Emma Maersk, one of the world's largest container ships, would burn around 300 tonnes of fuel a day, emitting as much as 1,000 tonnes of CO2 a day – roughly as much as the 30 lowest emitting countries in the world.
The science of “slow steaming” emerged about ten years ago during the financial crisis. It works because of the physical laws of nature. Most of the energy of ship engines is spent pushing the water out of the way. And, just like in your worst nightmares of running in water, the faster the ship goes the more difficult pushing water becomes.
GET OUT YOUR RADAR GUNS – WE’RE GONNA LOWER THE LIMIT
Encouraging slowness is the best opportunity we have to help business, the environment, and the whales.
The key is to do it not just in ‘zones’ but have a single speed limit across all Canadian waters as we do on our highways, so that it is fair, easily understood, managed, and enforced, and incentivized for competitive business. The analogy would be that on the open sea, like the open highway, ships could go faster, but in territorial waters, just like in town, they got to slow down.
With the Federal election coming up in Canada talk to your local candidates about this new idea that’s good for business, good for the environment, and helps save the last of the biggest creatures that have ever lived in the universe.
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.