In August, actress, dedicated animal rights activist and Sea Shepherd supporter Pamela Anderson accepted an invitation from the Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sergei Donskoi to attend the East Russia Economic Forum. The invitation came in response to a letter sent by Anderson to Minister Donskoi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the hope of opening discussions on important issues surrounding the conservation of whales and other wild species.
Below is Pamela Anderson's address, who appears at the Forum on behalf of her charitable Pamela Anderson Foundation.
Thank you for this opportunity to address this forum.
I am very honored and I very much appreciate the invitation from The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment for the Russian Federation Sergei Donskoi to attend this Eastern Economic Forum.
As an international celebrity I am aware that I have a global audience and that my views are listened to, reported on and at times can be quite controversial.
I recognize that there are scientists, journalists, scholars and politicians who are much more knowledgeable than I on many things but I also recognize the value I have as a person in the spotlight and I take that responsibility head on in my passion for compassion regarding all living things.
Our modern media culture has given artists the platform to be influential communicators. This gives me the ability to be a voice on many issues.
Issues like the diminishment of bio-diversity, climate change, pollution, the treatment of animals, the destruction of our forests and health issues associated with the decline in ecological integrity affecting this entire planet.
I believe that our planet is in trouble. I believe that our oceans are dying. We are losing our coral reefs, we have removed over 50% of the living natural biomass from this planet since 1950. We have seen a 40% loss of plankton in the Ocean since 1950. Imagine if your economy diminished by 40-50%.
As you know, we are also seeing a dangerous diminishment of bee populations around the world.
We live in a world where economic priorities increasingly push ecological priorities aside. Yes the economy is important, but it should never be more important than the life support system that sustains us all.
Last month, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, “The last thing we want to do is strengthen the environment and at the same time damage our economy... to put the environment ahead of the economy.”
This is a willfully reckless and irresponsible statement, but not surprising from a world leader who has declared war on environmentalists. My own Prime Minister Stephen Harper shares Mr. Abbott’s views and these are views that will be condemned by future generations.
The world needs leaders that represent the needs of future generations. I have children and therefore I am very concerned about the state of the world, decades into the future.
It is evident that if we are to survive as a species upon this planet we must conduct ourselves within the boundaries of ecological law and specifically three very important ecological laws.
The first is the law of diversity. An eco-system is dependent upon the diversity of species within it. The greater the diversity, the stronger the eco-system. When diversity is diminished eco-systems are diminished.
The second law of ecology is the law of interdependence. All diversity within an eco-system is inter-dependent and this interdependence maintains the ecological integrity of the system.
The third law of ecology is the law of finite growth. There is simply a finite limit to resources. This means a limit to carrying capacity. Increased human populations and increased consumption of resources literally steals the carrying capacity of other species.
Thus increased human population growth and consumption of resources diminishes diversity and interdependence.
Humans tend to think of ourselves as separate from nature. We tend to view ourselves as superior to all other species. This is an arrogant point of view that simply has no place in reality.
I have come to address this forum today because I believe there is a need for stronger leadership that recognizes that the ecological systems that sustain us must be managed with broader intelligence and vision.
I believe that President Vladimir Putin understands the importance of interdependence. His recent public concerns about bees being threatened by industrial chemicals is an example of his ecological insights.
President Putin knows that if the bees disappear there will be severe consequences for agriculture and therefore he understands that the preservation of bees must take precedence over the profits of a chemical company like Monsanto. Unfortunately many of the world’s economic systems place short-term profits before long-term human, animal or ecological interests.
What, for example, is the value of a whale?
If harpooned, it is cut up into meat and consumed, sold to a limited market at a finite price. A whale is killed and money is made by a very few.
But there is a far more important value to a whale that benefits all of us.
As I said earlier, since 1950 we have lost 40% of our plankton population as well as about 90% of the fish biomass. The ocean has been severely diminished.
During the 20th century millions of whales were removed from oceanic eco-systems. One species, the largest mammal to have ever lived, the Blue whale, was driven to the brink of extinction. More than 300,000 of these incredible animals were slaughtered. The meat was sold and consumed and the money has been spent.
But consider the real value of those whales, if they had been allowed to live.
Every day, a Blue whale defecates about three tons of nitrogen and iron rich fecal material. This is not waste, it is essential food for plankton. The Blue whale literally fertilizes the pastures of plankton upon which it feeds and that plankton is the foundation of the entire food chain of the sea. Additionally, it is one of the planet’s most prolific producers of oxygen.
The whales need plankton. Fish need plankton and humans need plankton. Removing whales from marine eco-systems means removing the primary source of plankton fertilization. A living whale benefits all of humanity. A dead whale benefits only a few individuals.
In many ways it is like killing the goose that lays the golden egg. No goose, no egg. In other words, no whales means diminishment of iron and less iron means a diminishment of plankton. And less plankton means less oxygen.
For millions of years, completely independent of humanity, oceanic eco-systems have been kept in balance by the interdependence of the diversity of species within these eco-systems. A species takes, and a species gives, and it is this ‘give and take’ that keeps ecological systems running.
Within the last few centuries, humans have taken from the sea and returned nothing of value except chemicals, plastics, oil, noise pollution, acidity and radiation.
As a result, life in our ocean has been seriously diminished since 1945 and this diminishment continues at an ever-increasing and alarming rate. Too many people and not enough fish.
So, how do we replenish this system?
We need to call a moratorium on all industrialized fishing operations. We need to give time for the fish to replenish their numbers and we need to encourage the growth in population of apex predators like sharks, marine mammals and seabirds. Sharks, whales, dolphins, seals and seabirds contribute to the system within which they evolved, all interdependently producing and recycling nutrients. As strange as it might seem, the fact is that the more seals, dolphins, sharks and whales there are, the healthier the fish populations.
This can be seen historically. When marine mammal and shark populations were much higher than today, there was no shortage of fish. The agent of diminishment is the predation of humanity and not the species that have maintained the system for millenniums.
We must stop being takers of resources from the sea and we must make the effort to replenish bio-diversity.
Government subsidies to industrialized fishing operations must end. Yes, this will create some economic challenges but by continuing on the present course of subsidies, as well as massive extraction of fish, will only lead to greater ecological challenges that will certainly lead to economic collapse.
What we have here is something called “the tragedy of the commons.” A country may realize that their actions are destructive to the environment but they also know that if they desist from exploitation, that other countries will simply continue to exploit the resources.
An example in my own country: The cod fishery collapsed in 1992. Despite this crash, various nations continued to exploit cod just outside Canada’s economic territory. One country knew that if they stopped fishing, that another country would simply take their quota.
What we need is a nation to lead and to say enough is enough and that decisions must be made based on ecological realities and not just economic realities.
Russia is not a stranger to this kind of thinking. In 1962, Premier Nikita Khrushchev made the rational and correct decision to avoid nuclear war. He chose the path of sanity over national pride and if not for his decision perhaps none of us would be here today.
We also must understand that we share this planet with other species. We need them, for humanity is not a biological island unto itself. We are interdependent with all the other citizen species of the planet.
We not only need these species, we can also learn from them.
As various societies spend great amounts of money on a search for extra-terrestrial intelligences, we have all but ignored the possibility of communicating with intelligent species on this planet.
Many animals like the great apes, cetaceans and elephants for example, have demonstrated that they are self-aware beings capable of emotions and thoughts. In our arrogance we have steadfastly ignored the possibility that they may have something to say.
We measure intelligence by the ability to manipulate tools. We are a tool-making species. I believe however that there are non-manipulative forms of intelligence. Cetaceans have large complex brains and a complex form of communication between themselves. Apes have learned sign language, elephants have been observed displaying empathy and a comprehension of life and death.
But instead of learning from these magnificent creatures, we kill them and capture them for our amusement.
Humanity needs a great nation with the vision to look into the future and to see that we need to share our world with these other species. We need leadership to restore the ecological balance and we need leadership to guide us to evolve into more compassionate beings ourselves.
Russia could easily win the hearts and minds of tens of millions of people worldwide by becoming a nation that addresses ecological realities with positive actions and a nation that recognizes the rights of ecological value of animals.
India has declared dolphins to be non-human ‘persons.’ Cannot Russia do the same?
I would like to humbly request that Russia free dolphins from captivity and abolish the killing of whales and dolphins. I would also like to humbly request that Russia oppose the trade of whale and dolphin products, ivory and endangered wildlife products from transiting by air, land or sea through Russian territory.
Such a move would warm the hearts of tens of millions of people throughout the world.
This may not be easy, but I firmly believe it is essential for the survival of diversity, interdependence and maintaining finite resources.
My wish is that we find a way to unite economics with ecology in a system where the economy is organized to benefit natural eco-systems. A healthy eco-system maintains a viable economy.
Like the “Moon Race” of the 1960s, who will win the “EARTH race”?
Which nation will be brave enough and forward thinking enough to go first?
As a person of Russian decent, I came all this way because...
I’m betting on you.