Oil and Walrus Don’t Mix


We are the walruses. Photo: Carl Safina

I am the walrus. Really. This is no joke. I need ice. My baby depends on me. His world depends on ice. Ice. Water. Clams. Alaska—have you heard of it? It’s warmed twice as fast as the rest of what you call “the nation.” We have only “the world.” Only our world. Our sea ice is shrinking. Glaciers are shrinking. The ground is melting. The sea is warming. The sea is turning acidic from your burning. Acidic enough to be dissolving baby clams. Did I mention clams? Did I mention my baby?

We need ice to rest. We need ice to dive for clams. I leave my baby on the ice when I dive. The ice must be near the clams. If I leave my baby ashore, the clams are too far. If I swim to the clams to survive, my baby will starve. If I starve, he will starve. Already the ice has gone. Tens of thousands of us—our “nation”— dragged ourselves up on land. Our babies. Are dying.

Photo: Carl Safina

A company called Shell—like the clams have. It is coming. It will drill holes. Holes in our heart. The heart of our nation here in Alaska. Your nation calls it Hanna Shoal. We call it our soul. Heart. And soul. Shell will “explore.” We have for millions of years explored. We have been right here ten thousand. We know what we found. We found the soul of our nation in our time. We found bones of our ancestors, and our children’s future. We know less than you. But we know one thing that you do not know. We know this: We want to stay alive. We want, as much as you do, to stay alive. We work harder to stay alive. We have no suicide. Our life is hard enough to know the value of it. You disturb us. Deeply. Top to bottom.

The empty Shell, it has a plan. Their plan violates rules your “nation” said would protect us. Your nation’s broken promises fill many empty Shells. We do not respect you. Yet we fear. And you know we have reason to fear. You do vast damages.

shell oil rig
Greenpeace ice class ship Esperanza tracking Shell’s oil rig on its way to drill in the Alaskan Arctic. Photo: Greenpeace

Big Oil—spills. Ours is the last cleanest ocean that you—who are not even here—dare to say is yours, your “nation.” You are a lie against the sun itself. These shores do not know you. They are not “yours.” Yet you are coming to claim your “right.” Care about us? As you care about even your own kind in the Gulf, in Prince William Sound, in the Niger Delta, the Amazon—in all the hundreds of places through which your filth has overflowed? You care this much: you care nothing. Cleanup? Not here. Impossible.

Our name is Odobenidae. We have had it hard. Too hard. We are the last species of our entire family. We are here with you today. For now. So far. Odobenidae. Remember it. Your great leader is Obama. Close enough to Odobenidae. Tell your Obama: you don’t want the empty Shell to spill your filth on us. Oil to fill your empty promise. Go back to your Gulf. Turn those ships around.

Photo: Carl Safina

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Ecologist Carl Safina is author of seven books, including the best-selling “Beyond Words; What Animals Think and Feel,” and “Song for the Blue Ocean,” which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His writing has won a MacArthur “genius” prize; Pew and Guggenheim Fellowships; book awards from Lannan, Orion, and the National Academies; and the John Burroughs, James Beard, and George Rabb medals. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, CNN.com and elsewhere, and he hosted the 10-part “Saving the Ocean” on PBS. Safina is founding president of The Safina Center at Stony Brook University.