David Moseley

Save Pandas! Save sharks! Save yourselves...

2012-09-27 07:42

There was an excellent article doing the rounds on the ongoing tragedy of shark finning. It was informative and enlightening; scary and sad. And as per the author’s title and opening paragraph, it won’t make headlines.

Briefly, "eco activist" and "head of digital at Greenpeace Africa" (his words) Michael Baillie lamented the fact that despite 26 million and 73 million sharks (being) sold a year, (8 000 sharks killed an hour), "it won’t make headlines, it isn't news". Tellingly, Baillie later tweeted, "it's a while since I've had such good comments on a blog. Enviro doesn't normally go down well".

As an ocean user, this news of shark murder is quite awful. The thought of a great white nipping at my heel is what keeps my surfing sharp. If they all disappear, what then to aid my performances in big swell?

Jokes aside, it's tragic that fisherman feel the need to lay 120km of line (you read that right, 120 kilometres) in order to haul these magnificent beasts out of their home. That's like lining the Ben Schoeman highway between Pretoria and Johannesburg with boerie rolls and cups of brandy - there and back - just to tease your average Bulls supporter away from his Victor Matfield shrine.

The demise of the shark is not to be underestimated, and I thank the author for his wonderful piece, something that everyone should read. But what really piqued my interest in his piece was the heading. “Why isn’t shark finning news?” he asks in what is surely an anguished state.

There is no news

Let's attempt to answer that question. Just yesterday there was another story grabbing headlines; the horrible fate of the children who've somehow made it out of Syria and into refugee camps. The images, and words, in local and international media outlets were grim; toddlers blinded by shrapnel, tweens who would otherwise be texting LOL to each other unable to talk because of the horrors they've witnessed and, most heartbreaking of all, little boys and girls lying on the floor, colouring-in seemingly without a care in the world when we, the viewer, knows the truth; that they're fucked forever.

Locally there was much interest in the fraud case of the man who gets so much media attention because the media gives him so much attention. And, of course, on that great starter of uprisings and precursor to "Springs", all the chatter concerned the cringe worthy Steve Hofmeyr roast (which, to be fair, I didn’t watch because I only have one brain cell and I’d like to keep it, and the shrieking shtick of John Vlismas is a sure-fire brain cell killer).

What were we talking about again? Oh ja, the Marikana miners. No, wait it wasn't that. We were trying to save the rhino. Nope, that wasn't it. Oh yes, job inequality in the Western Cape. Hmm, that doesn't sound right. The petrol price? Racism? The Knysna seahorse? Morne Steyn? Oh wait a minute, the end of the magnificent shark. That's it. (The end of the Sharks would be nice, but nobody wants to fish them out of the Tank).

In short, the days of caring; truly, deeply caring about something are over. That should answer the question of why shark finning isn’t news. People just don’t have the time and energy to give themselves to a cause. And when I say people, I obviously don’t mean the likes of Mr Baillie, who is doing his damndest to save our oceans.

I’m talking about you. Me. That oke sitting next to you on the Gautrain. He’ll read this, or Baillie’s piece on the sharks. He’ll nod, mention the article in conversation, say how sad it is and so on. He’ll retweet. Cause a stir for one evening, then move on to the next thing that catches his eye, ooh look black bags have to be called dark grey bags from now on. You know how it goes.

How about that great cause of the suburbs from the 80s, when if you didn’t have a Save the Whales bumper sticker on your car you were some satanic mammal devourer, who bathed in dolphin blood and sucked the eyeballs of puppies through a straw? See any Save our Sharks stickers lately?

The way I see it, Michael Baillie, despite the exquisite work you do, the ages of empathy are well and truly over. And the very tool that helps to spread stories of the good work you do will be your undoing too.

With so much to care about, with so much to be concerned with, it’s far easier and more self-satisfying to quickly spread tales like yours before moving on to the next crisis. No one is getting stuck in, no is getting their hands dirty, because no one really cares. Despite what they tweet.

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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