By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
From the bluffs of Palos Verdes in Southern California, environmentalists conduct an annual census of the gray whale migration. One volunteer has logged 11,000 hours over 15 seasons with her binoculars, counting, counting.
In Orange County, the whale becomes an educational tool; 35,000 schoolchildren went out on boats last year to watch the whale and absorb its environmental lessons.
And in Mexico, the gray whales are venerated by the poet Homero Aridjis, who led the fight in that country to protect a whale nursery from industrial development. Co-founder of the Grupo de los Cien, an organization of artists and intellectuals devoted to nature, Aridjis offers a judgment on the whale. For him, the gray is a rallying point for his country's quest for more political freedom. Aridjis calls the gray whale "an icon for democracy."
From fox food to democratic icon, the gray whale's symbolic metamorphosis merely spans the conversation of human need and desire.
The whale, after all, remains but a whale.
With all of these competing cultural interests stridently asserting their stakes in the gray, science might well have served as the lingua franca. In a calmly reasoned world, researchers could have shouldered the responsibility of translation: These facts we know are true.
Such is not the case.
Science has frequentlybeen ignored and compromised. Environmentalists are as careless with the data as bureaucrats and business leaders.
Indigenous peoples, consumer societies, industrialists, environmentalists, scientists -- all are locked in ongoing struggles.
These are the stories we will tell you, the stories overheard, witnessed and researched on the gray whale, its resurrection and the threats to its continued survival.