January 17, 2008 | Graham

Greennecks and Aqua Nullius

The general media narrative equates conservationists with civility, and their opponents are most frequently portrayed as rednecks. It’s easy to unconsciously slip into this dichotomy, so I found this thread on the bottom of an ABC article on the detention of two men who boarded the Yushin Maru No. 2 disturbing. If they weren’t greens, you would have to call the commenters rednecks. Racism, nationalist chauvinism, threats of force and sheer ignorance of the subtleties of the situation, legal and otherwise, were on plain display.
“Since WWII, Japanese tended to behave like who and always claim they are the right person for the right conduct,” says one commenter called Helen. Someone called Grommo helpfully informs us “the whalers are all members of the yakuza controlled fishermens/seamens union and ultranationalist bodies…Criminal gangsters are poaching in Australian waters, with the express purpose of killing endangered sentient and self aware mammals. They have stated they are willing to kill humans…”
BizBob wants to send the navy out to confiscate the Japanese ships and break them up for scrap.
The treatment of the Japanese as something less than human isn’t just limited to the commenters. I had to plough through a large number of news reports to even find the name of the Japanese whaling ship, while the Sea Shepherds’ ship the Steve Irwin is named in virtually every report. It seemed like simple even-handedness and respect to me that you’d use both ships’ names if you were going to mention either.
It’s hard to feel sympathetic for the Japanese – their whole whaling operation is based on a big lie, that it is scientific. But that doesn’t justify thrill-seeking exhibitionists in doing anything they like. The captain of a ship at sea is virtually a law unto himself. If you board his ship without permission, then you put yourself at his mercy. He might exceed his authority if he hung your by the yardarm, but I don’t think detaining you onboard and only putting you off into the hands of the civil authorities at the next port he calls at in the course of his business is unreasonable. If the Japanese had decent public relations skills that’s probably what they would say and do, rather than trying to negotiate some sort of exchange with conditions.
They might also have a closer look at Australia’s claim to these Antarctic waters. Much has been made in the past of the doctrine of Terra Nullius. The declaration of Australia’s economic interest in the Antarctic Ocean sounds to me very much like a case of Aqua Nullius. I’d like to know how anyone justifies it in today’s world.

Posted by Graham at 4:05 pm | Comments (3) |
Filed under: Environment


  1. So I guess don’t mention to these people that unless we stop killing animals ourselves, we don’t really have that large an ethical leg to stand on (apart from the endangered card)? >.So I guess don’t mention to these people that unless we stop killing animals ourselves, we don’t really have that large an ethical leg to stand on (apart from the endangered card)? >.<

    Comment by Chade — January 18, 2008 @ 10:07 am

  2. Interesting http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23075055-601,00.html article in The Australian today. Points out that as a founder of Greenpeace Paul Watson, the skipper of Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin, was on the wrong end of the French bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, and now boasts of having scuttled several ships belonging to whalers. Another ethical leg missing?

    Comment by Graham Young — January 20, 2008 @ 12:20 am

  3. Forget ethical legs, what you’ve hit on is more interesting. That the left-right and also civil-redneck spectrum is actually a circle, it loops back on itself.
    I think this is most evident in the different politics of anti-american australians. Some are of the Green type, some of the One Nation type, some of the Mark Latham type who seems a cross between the two.

    Comment by Benno — January 23, 2008 @ 9:08 pm

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