Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Look at All the Ships

Look at All the Ships

When Captain Kate Spencer, marine mammal spotter/teacher/advocate extraordinaire and Blue Theology partner, posted this screen shot from this week, she framed it this way:

“Have you ever thought about how many ships are moving right now? Moving our stuff: oil, grain, cars, toys, clothes, raw materials, livestock, deadstock, all the stuff that moves? Here's a screenshot just now. Go to this site ( and you can roll-over any of the ships and see what kind it is, and the names and details of some of them, where they're going, where they've been, where they're from. The pale orange arrows are fishing (look between Australia and Africa). The green ones are cargo (look at Singapore and Korea). The red ones are tankers (find the Arabian Gulf). Amazing. Incredible. The volume. The noise. The whales impaled. The pollution. The human beings at sea and away from families for most months of most years of their lives. The stuff we need. The stuff we don't need. Look. Keep looking.”

Captain Kate spends most days on Monterey Bay as one of two captains on Fastraft, a six-person, low, stable, quiet, rigid inflatable whale-watching boat.  (Most highly recommended.  She knows her marine science and her marine vessels.   

She got lots of interesting reactions and comments on this post: “Cool!”  “Too much!”  “I use this website to identify ships going by.”  “The number of ships will only increase with globalization.” 

One person wrote, “Kate Spencer – what products delivered by ships are you going to give up first?” 

She responded, in part, “That is a good question, which I will answer, though it also hints of an accusation. Our industrial complex is so heavily built that it is nearly impossible to live outside it, whether or not we like it, just as it is nearly impossible not to use cars. That does not make it off-limits to question a system we inherited, to critique it, and to work to change it. The fact that we did not make it perhaps makes it even more important that we question what we have inherited, lest we unwittingly benefit from the suffering of other humans and other beings simply because those before us were okay with causing suffering.

“My answer is wide-ranging. I have bicycled rather than driven a car most of my adult life, and have never purchased a new car. I shop used whenever possible. When I started reading the labels on foods more carefully, I started choosing those made in the US rather than imported.

“Of course I also use many imported things. It would be nearly impossible not to. I try to use plastic as little as possible and fish uncounted numbers of other people's discarded plastic balloons and bags out of the ocean. Hopefully that offsets some of what I do use.

“Am I perfect? Of course not. But I pay attention, I bear witness, and ask others to pay attention too.”

I said Captain Kate knows her marine science and marine vessels.  Her answer above tells me she knows her Blue Theology as well. (She sometimes gets free from the boat to be a naturalist for our Aquarium visits.)  Her style is what we try to do with youth and adults who come to our Monterey Bay church programs to learn more about ocean stewardship and ocean spirituality.  We say: Learn, think, feel, act, all on behalf of the ocean and all that lives in it.  Consider your actions and choices.  Bravely address difficult questions.  Progress not perfection.

Or as Kate puts it:  Look at the map, learn, pray for those folks who live and work on those ships, advocate for the vulnerable, like marine mammals navigating the same seas, consider how this information might inform your life style choices, and follow the call to care for all creation.  Pay attention, bear witness, keep looking.
________ for adult pilgrimages and youth service trips by the sea.  I post these “Tide-ings” every Wednesday here and on Facebook.

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