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Dolphin sanctuary gains steam thanks to 'The Cove' director push
Louie Psihoyos — the director of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove — is scouting out locations for his latest project, a real-life dolphin sanctuary.
This month, along the misty coastlines of Cascadia, a place where the Pacific Northwest blurs into the green Canadian wilderness, Louie Psihoyos—the director of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove—will be scouting out locations. It won’t be for a new film, however.
Since the release of his 2009 documentary, and with the help of Blackfish in 2013, Psihoyos says many Americans—and millions of people around the world, for that matter—have become increasingly sympathetic to the idea of retiring captive dolphins from their lives in the limelight. Indeed, in recent years protests against oceanariums have swelled in numbers and size—demonstrators routinely cite the films.
“[Dolphins] deserve respect and certainly don’t thrive in a sterile concrete tank any more than a prisoner would thrive in a jail,” Psihoyos tells Big Think. “These animals didn’t sign up to do tricks for food—a dolphin show is a grotesque spectacle of dominance.” This said, Psihoyos, who is currently the executive director of the Colorado-based Oceanic Preservation Society, has lent his support to The Whale Sanctuary Project’s endeavor to build a seaside asylum for captive marine mammals. It is poised to be the first North American whale sanctuary.
The project, which is currently in the phase of narrowing down potential sites—a location in Nova Scotia is still on the table—calls for what animal rights activists believe is the righting of the wrongs from yester-decades. Among them, for example, was the capture of nearly an entire generation of Southern Resident killer whales during the ’60s and ’70s for exhibition purposes. The roundup, according to NOAA Fisheries, had a long-lasting effect on the now endangered pod.
“To create a generation of humans that respects these animals, we need to make amends by creating a sanctuary so they can at least live out their lives in a more natural ocean habitat,” Psihoyos says, then describing one impetus for why his organization, and others, are supporting The Whale Sanctuary Project’s big idea. “The [entertainment] industry claims they would release some dolphins back to the wild but there isn’t an adequate facility. By creating a sanctuary we remove this excuse.”
With the expensive seaside sanctuary poised to be built, is it fair to say dolphins have a privileged status among some activists? Yes, in a way. Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, and a board member of the Whale Sanctuary Project, believes the reason for this fondness for the marine mammal—besides the recent documentaries advocating for their wellbeing—may be tied to their alien-like stature to humans.
“For those activists who do think cetaceans are special, I do think it has to do with their intelligence, but it’s not just that or else these folks would be equally focused on great apes or elephants,” she tells Big Think. “I think it has to do with their intelligence combined with their completely different ecology—being fully aquatic mammals. They are the closest thing humans have yet encountered to ‘extraterrestrials’ and that gives them a mystique that can lead to intense fascination.”
For years, this “fascination” helped marine mammal parks across the United States exist with glowing auras, no to mention steep profits. It also gave way to research the animals that have helped us better understand them. For instance, new studies suggest orcas not only live in complex social structures in the wild, but they are far-ranging animals that may be cramped in their current enclosures. In the wild killer whales can swim up to 100 miles each day. These are just two critiques activists have against capturing and keeping dolphins in captivity.
Despite the recent cultural changes, Psihoyos says some people in the dolphin exhibition business are still threatened by the construction of a sanctuary for captive dolphins to live, a place between captivity and complete rehabilitation back into the wild. “When we select a location we’re going to need all the help we can get, political, as well as social—the industry will push back because a sanctuary undermines captivity as their business model,” he says.
Although pushback is expected, it hasn’t served as an excuse to stop envisioning and preparing a site to retire captive dolphins. In the end, Dr. Rose alludes that if other animals appealed to the human sense of wonder as much as dolphins do, they may be better protected. Or perhaps people need to reexamine animals—pigs, cows, bugs, goats, etc.—until they begin to take on an otherworldly charm.
“If there are some activists who think cetaceans are special, that’s their prerogative, but from an ecological and evolutionary standpoint, no species is privileged, and that includes human beings,” she says. “Biodiversity is essential for evolution and ecological health—all species play their roles. No one species should be set above any other—I truly mean that.”
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
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Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.
- Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
- More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
- SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.
Source: McKinsey Global Institute analysis [PDF]<p>Work in understanding the skills at the heart of the new digital economy is leading to novel assessments that allow individuals to prove mastery to faithfully represent their abilities—but also to give weight and stackability to the emerging ecosystem of micro-credentials that make education more seamless across time and education providers. And we are seeing the beginnings of a renewal in the liberal arts, focused on building human skills in affordable ways that are accessible to many more individuals and far more effective.</p><p>Amidst these dark times, there is much opportunity to refresh the nation's education and training solutions to support the success of individuals and society writ large.</p>