Sophistry is the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving.
The “We’re for ocean wind power, the Hell with the rest of the oceans” claque have been yammering their “it’s not the fault of the wind industry” chant ever since an unprecedented number of dead or dying whales and dolphins started washing up on New York and New Jersey beaches. Since December of this past year, when each of these incidents (was?) turned into a media event, it has been inevitably accompanied by some government (from Washington or Trenton) official, some (oddly enough, almost assuredly Democratic) legislator, some presumed objective scientist (doing an on-camera or recorded interview) with his or her hand held out for her or his share of what are very likely going to be billions of state, federal or wind industry research dollars, or some so-called environmentalist with the same goal. Just about all of them are insistently proclaiming “there is no proof that sonar testing (or any other testing being done by/for the wind industry) kills whales and/or dolphins.”
This is sophistry, and it is sophistry being fueled by a false equivalency-that no proof that the testing in question harms/kills whales/dolphins is equivalent to there being proof that the testing in question does not injure/kill whales/dolphins. This is reducing sophistry to its most elementary, its most transparent, and its most pathetic level. Whenever an employee of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU), President Joe Biden, NJ Governor Phil Murphy, or any of the organizations or corporations looking forward to turning our oceans into the seaborne equivalent of industrialized northern New Jersey, wants you to believe that “there is proof that sonar testing (or any other testing carried out in the campaign to industrialize our mostly pristine ocean) doesn’t kill whales and/or dolphins.” There isn’t any such proof, and if they had the strength of any convictions at all, they would be up front about it. But unfortunately, when it comes to elected officials, the convictions they seem to be focused on involve questionable campaign contributions or financial transactions, not accuracy in their pronouncements.
Had any of the functionaries who have been so intent on befuddling the public on this issue ever been exposed to an Introduction to Philosophy course (and gotten anything out of it other than a grade), perhaps they would realize this. But then again, perhaps not. Perhaps they also realize this themselves but think (or hope) you won’t. Or perhaps they realize that their future promotions and eventual retirement depend on not embarrassing the President or the Governor by contradicting either one. I was there in a prior existence, and I can definitely vouch for that one.
This is such a fundamental fact in dealing with the dead or dying whales and dolphins that I’m compelled to repeat it: There is no proof that sonar testing or related activities doesn’t kill whales or dolphins.
Without a major public outcry, what’s going to be a burgeoning wind-power industry’s virtually instantaneous creation-without the level of objective environmental, social and economic oversight that such a huge undertaking demands (or should demand)-might well cost us far more than most of us are willing to pay. And we’re not going to know until it’s too late.
The only logical response to the pro wind forces’ contention that “there’s no proof that prep work for offshore wind power is responsible for whales or dolphins dying.” has to be so what? Do the research, identify the potential problems, and then if the costs are worth it, get started. But don’t allow the wind development people to use the “public panic” that has been building for most of a decade to ignore federal, state, and local legislative and regulatory requirements that have evolved for most of a century in their race for the gold ring that taxpayers and ratepayers are going to be paying for.
Lauren Gaches, a spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said there is no evidence “to support speculation” that noise resulting from offshore wind site work is killing whales, adding the agency will continue to study the matter.
To get an idea of what coastal residents, recreational and commercial fishermen, boaters, commercial vessel operators, folks who like the oceans just the way they are, and all of those whales and dolphins are up against, do a web search on “whales evidence wind energy -orcas.” (the “-orcas” is to avoid the recent spate of media attention focused on a handful of orcas which have assaulted a smaller handful of sailing vessels in the Mediterranean). Many of the millions of hits will involve a relatively small number of purported facts, most of them echoing what NOAA laid out in the above quote. Coincidental? Not hardly! All resulting from a whole bunch of reporters doing an awful lot of independent research (yea, right! That’ll be the day!), or an awful lot of hand-holding and very purposeful “misdirection” by a bunch of bureaucrats who, considering the degree of public commitment by the President of the United States and the Governor of New Jersey, aren’t going to do, say or write (or probably even think) anything which isn’t toeing the federal line, ‘cause that isn’t going to get anyone ahead in either the federal or the state bureaucracy. Or get you on the imminent grant gravy train from the feds or from the prospective wind energy mega-moguls.
Some individuals and some organizations-more’s the pity-are trying to preserve their own little slice of the ocean pie regardless of any potential threats to the ocean environment and the critters-not just the whales and dolphins-in it. A far smaller number aren’t and are actively but individually campaigning against it.
Considering the knots that the anti-fishing environmental organizations have tied the domestic commercial fishing industry into (with the apparent tacit approval of NMFS/NOAA in many cases) over the last three or so decades, a bunch of individual uncoordinated efforts are probably not going to work out all that well. Reaching out to other groups and individuals who are as equally against turning our oceans into the oceanic equivalent of New Jersey’s Bayway Refinery in NJ might be a more effective option. But whatever you do, don’t sit on your hands, doing nothing while watching it all happen. Our oceans, our whales and dolphins, our inshore and offshore ecosystems and all of the critters they support are much too valuable -maybe even to the pols and the big wind developers-and the last thing that we should do is willingly let it happen. So get involved, get organized and remember that there’s no good reason to turn the Jersey Shore into an extension of the wall-to-wall industrial development in North Jersey. More environmentally acceptable sources of electricity are available today, and more are on the way.
One more question -
Much has been made about the relationship between increased international shipping in the Port of NY and NJ, ocean warming/climate change, vessel strikes and fishing gear interactions and abnormal (in spite of what NOAA/NMFS says) whale/dolphin mortalities. Not much has been made, however, of the fact that over the last several months the whale/dolphin mortalities appear to have dropped to somewhere around their “normal” level. Commercial fishing landings (and by projection commercial fishing pressure and commercial fishing activities) haven’t changed significantly. Reports are that commercial shipping traffic has not varied since the beginning of the covid crisis, and the weather/climate hasn’t changed noticeably. If BOEM and NOAA/NMFS are anywhere near accurate in their guesses about the causes of the abnormal number of cetacean deaths, why has the number of dead whales and dolphins dropped precipitously in the last two months? About the only remaining factors that could be a significant cause of mortality are seismic testing and/or related big wind activities. Would it surprise anyone to learn that the testing boats with their lucrative contracts with Big Wind, or some enterprising public officials, or some unscrupulous politician, or some on-board “experts,” might exert adequate pressure to insure that whale/dolphin mortality due to seismic testing be put on hold, via putting the testing itself on hold, until the media heat, which was reaching a crescendo just before the whales and dolphins apparently gained their new lease on life, moved on to the next cause célèbre? Or could the testing sites temporarily shift to areas that the whales and dolphins avoid, or did the on-board observers finally figure out how to do their jobs.
I’m not saying any of these factors are to blame, but until we know what is responsible, we’re not going to know how or if it can be controlled. To continue full-bore ahead with the wind power development off our coast without knowing that is at best irresponsibility, at worst it’s negligence (and perhaps illegal).
And finally, we have some possible light at the end of the “1,000 feet tall (measured from the sea surface) threats to our oceans ecosystem” saga from the intro to OFFSHORE WINDMILLS WILL COST CAPE MAY, NJ, $1B IN TOURISM REVENUE from the NJ101.5 website at https://tinyurl.com/3rub8ctm:
– Eric Scott
May 26, 2023
Cape May County Commissioners have unanimously passed a resolution opposed to offshore wind projects and vow to continue to fight the installation of wind mills off the coast.
A report supporting the resolution claims the windmills will cost Cape May County more than $1.1 billion in lost tourism revenue and will have a devastating impact on food service, hospitality, retail, rental housing and other segments of the local economy.
Wind developer Orsted, the report claims, has admitted 15% of tourists will not return to Cape May once its windmill project is completed and that it's turbines will be visible from every beach in Cape May County.
Cape May County Board of Commissioners Director Len Desiderio said in a statement that the county had been trying to work with Orsted to try and mitigate the negative impacts of the Ocean Wind One offshore wind generation facilities project, but "as time went by, it became clear that Orsted was not interested in finding any compromise."
"It is clear to us now that the approach among this foreign corporation and their partners in the state and federal governments is to build these things as fast as they can despite the potential for devastating environmental and economic impacts, " Desiderio said.
Cape May County has hired a Virginia environmental law firm and former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael J. Donohue as Special Counsel in preparation for legal action against Orsted and state and local government agencies.
Go to https://tinyurl.com/3rub8ctm for the full text.