Wednesday, August 25. 2010
I was asked the other day whether WDCS would oppose an individual potential threat to the cetaceans in the Moray Firth if some colleagues we respect thought that any one individual activity would not pose an immediate risk. Traveling into work recently I found a way to articulate my thoughts.
Most days of the week I travel on a train. In fact, I travel on several trains to reach the WDCS office in Chippenham in the UK but that’s another story.
When I get on the train at a small rural station deep in the heart of Somerset, there are not many people on the train and it’s easy to find a seat amongst the many available.
Within twenty minutes the carriage is filling up with people and indeed often people are forced to stand because the seats are all taken.
During these twenty minutes what has also happened is that what was a relatively quiet space has now become a cacophony of discordant sound.
It begins with a single person putting on their MP3 player. Within minutes they have been joined by another and then another. I actually don’t have a problem with one or two people doing this, especially when they consciously ensure that the volume is not causing discomfort to those around them. But, that’s not the norm as many of you will know and have experienced yourselves.
It only takes one person to reject their responsibility to those around them and the undistinguishable beat of some popular song resonates down the carriage. Everyone is too polite to complain, and instead of someone requesting that the person adjust the volume, someone almost immediately dials their MP3 player’s volume up a few more numbers. Others elevate what were quiet conversations to presentations that would be appropriate for the Albert Hall or the Sydney Opera House.
Very soon the carriage is filled with waves and waves of jumbled clattering noise. For those of us unable to retreat behind the barriers of our own headphones, the environment has become uncomfortable bearing on excruciating. As we did not speak up at the beginning the only choice is now to move away from the source of our discomfort and move to another carriage. Unfortunately there is often only one on my route into work, so…
So when someone asked if WDCS would be complaining about possible seismic surveys that are to be carried out in the Moray Firth, Scotland, home to one of the last remaining UK populations of bottlenose dolphins and a multitude of other species I had to think about what we should do, especially as it’s been claimed that that the individual surveys are unlikely to cause any immediate impact on the bottlenose dolphins, and if it does it may be transitory.
I cannot help thinking that the Firth, as one of our great remaining UK wild places is already criss-crossed by human activity creating a background noise that is just about tolerable to acoustic creatures. The switching on another source of noise and the implied potential for much more in the near future reminds me too much of my train carriage. Of course the dolphins may be able to move ‘carriages’ so to speak, but maybe they can’t. And even if they can, thousands of peoples livelihoods now depend on the presence of these creatures – indeed, those involved in the tourist industry now often market themselves around the dolphins.
One single noisy person or thing may not be such a problem, but the cumulative effect can be devastating. That’s why WDCS will question all and any such industrial developments that contribute to this threat, and why we shall not be the passive passenger that allows this habitat to be eroded before we cannot do anything about it.