By chance I happened to be in Dublin on Sunday night at the Abbey Theater for the last of a series of Climate Conversations, “The Call to New Horizons”.
“Bringing People Together for a New Understanding on Climate Change” – a series of conversations hosted in partnership with Christian Aid, the Environmental Pillar, Ibec, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and Trócaire.
We missed the beginning but caught a couple of fascinating presentations, the first by field archaeologist Michael Gibbons, and the second by visual artist Dorothy Cross.
Both were only tangentially connected with climate change, though both indeed dealt with change, of both nature and culture. Gibbons talked about the layers of settlements in the changing landscape of the west of Ireland over millenia, and how they had both shaped and been shaped by environmental change.
Dorothy Cross explained that a lot of her work “is about trying to find the residue of life -which sadly is through death- and take that and bring it to the studio, and try to relate the bones or the skin of something that once existed to make us look at our own perilous natures.” This she then related to climate change which she referred to as “monstrous”, a symbol of the perilous state of the whole of nature, or so she believes.
To illustrate her work she showed us two remarkable videos from the island of New Ireland off the coast of Papua New Guinea, about the dying practices of shark singing- yes, literally luring sharks into traps by singing- and octopus hunting.
In the first video, Cross shows a woman hunting an octopus with a spear. Barely able to swim herself, it takes her some 7-8 minutes to catch her octopus, a daily necessity for food.
The octopus hides in a hole in a rock and expands its body to resist capture; the woman waits while children swim out to her with poisonous leaves which she dives down again to poke into the hole forcing the tiny octopus to give itself up. It barely made a meal- the people there live precarious lives as there is less and less fish to catch, and as development slowly arrives on this remote island, this way of life captured on film is now almost gone.
In the second film Cross showed footage of one of the last shark singers, no longer allowed to go shark hunting himself as he was ostracized by the younger generation of fishermen who believed he had lost his magic, wiping tears from his face as he sang his mournful song for the camera.
I was still thinking about the harsh lives of the shark singers and the octopus hunters when I awoke the next morning and heard on the news the strange story of the Lobster Liberation that took place last Friday evening:
A GROUP OF animal rights activists say they ‘liberated’ nine lobsters by walking into a Dublin restaurant and pinching them from a fish tank.
The caged crustaceans were being kept in the tank in the window of Ka Shing Chinese restaurant on Wicklow Street before the gutsy rescue mission.
There were several news items covering this during the day and a couple of interviews with one of the vegan activists, who calmly and clearly stated that killing any animal is “murder” and abhorrent and unnecessary;
now I am not fond of shellfish, am allergic to shrimp, and do indeed find the idea of boiling lobsters alive somewhat abhorrent;
but I couldn’t help wondering whether that idealistic young activist from the National Animal Rights Association, should she ever encounter that octopus hunter- living at the time in a cash-less economy, with virtually no access to any of the amenities of the modern world, and relying on a diminishing stock of ever smaller octopuses to feed her family- whether she would see her also as a murderer, and whether she would consider it a valiant act of liberation to sabotage that hunt.