Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sea Shepherd - Popular Culture and South Park

When Sea Shepherds plans for a new reality television show with Animal Planet were announced - we had to the following to say about it:

"Perhaps one of the most chilling departures from the entire 40 year global eco movement was this year when Sea Shepherd traded it's last shred of dignity and credibility for the cameras of Animal Planet and thus began Eco-Edutainment Television, where media messaging and outright fabrication of events have subsumed the horrors of actual whaling. Where dead whales and story lines are traded with advertisements for SUV's and laundry detergent. This is a meeting of eco media and horror that never should have happened and now that it has will change the landscape of the global eco movement for years to come."

No truer words have been written about the ongoing embarrassment to the global eco movement that is Sea Shepherds Whale Wars.

We're not the only ones to take notice, popular culture commentators South Park decided to expose Sea Shepherd this week in what can only be described as "Skewering the Emperor with no clothes."

We have been covering Sea Shepherds media rise and mistakes for the past year in an ongoing series of blog posts. In one year Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd have managed to completely redefine the term for "conservation," taking the concept from quantifiable metrics for eco success to a series of often inane talking points and million dollar media spectaculars that leverage main stream media's desire to sell advertising as their conservation vehicle.

Meanwhile whales keep being killed, year after year, while Whale Wars ratings climb. It is high time we discuss and enable real and lasting conservation efforts. Reality television shows are not conservation, and fortunately South Park has just embedded that idea with the next generation of conservationists.

Sometimes the best way to enact conservation change is with a popular culture backlash.

Unfortunately Sea Shepherd is soon to announce a new reality television show with sharks in the coming weeks. We're pretty sure the folks at South Park are looking forward to that announcement as well, while the rest of the shark conservation world cringes at the prospect.

See complete Whale Whores episode here.