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Save us from ourselves

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
May 8, 2008


A follower of the Henry David Thoreau school of civil disobedience I believe some lines are meant to be crossed, small actions taken, and wrongs righted out of common decency. In the Thoreau school rules and regulations should be overlooked if they get in the way of caring for those in need, tending to the injured, or taking a stand against injustice.

In 1846 Henry David Thoreau spent a night in jail after refusing to pay taxes in protest of the Mexican-American War. That he was released the next morning after his aunt paid his taxes hardly matters, it was the experience itself the fostered the essay "Resistance to Civil Government."

Personally I advocate resistance to senseless government and clueless conservation policy hindering conservation efforts.

The absurdity of some federal environmental policy would be comical if not so ethically challenged. Take for example the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. On the surface MMPA is much needed legislation that has worked wonders assuring marine mammals would survive into the 21st century. Unfortunately something has been lost in the translation over the past 35 years and wise stewardship has evolved into brain-dead bureaucracy.

Hindered by ignorance, anthropocentrism, market forces, and political agendas, protected species often need protecting from those appointed to protect them. Brave is the good Samaritan willing to risk hardship or injury trying to do right by trapped or injured animals. The federal government makes it difficult, if not impossible, to save animals from the trappings of man.

Well, 146 years after the passing of one of the ethical giants of 19th century philosophy, I figured the spirit of Thoreau should be resurrected to acknowledge and honor the courage and commitment of environmental stewards who don't wait for permission to do right by the world and the species that inhabit it.

That in mind I am proud to bestow the first Henry David Thoreau Civil Disobedience award to Steve Eddy of San Diego and Mark Katona of Oceanside, two strangers who came together under the cover of darkness after seeing news reports on how federal policy was condemning a sentient being to death by bureaucracy.

Heroes by any sense of the word, these two men freed a baby seal, recently born at the children's pool in La Jolla. Entangled in a turquoise gill net the pup was certain to suffer a slow agonizing death, as the tight synthetic necklace of blue wrapped around its neck strangled it before reaching adulthood. Rescuing the seal pup was an act of kindness, it also violated federal law because seals are federally protected mammals.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) these men potentially face federal charges for wildlife harassment. The Marine Mammal Protection Act defines harassment as an act of pursuit, torment or annoyance which has the potential to injure, or disturb by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild.

As if the blue gill net wrapped around the seal pup's neck wasn't harassment in and of itself and strangulation by fish net does not disrupt behavior patterns in the wild.

Has government lost the plot or what?

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