Sarah Bedolfe
We dedicate this to humpback whales, and to everyone who works on behalf of those – human and not – who need protection.

Have you ever given thanks for whales on Thanksgiving? The Pilgrims may have. It’s an interesting fact that when they first encountered the Native Americans, it was around the remains of a butchered whale – which at the time seemed bizarre and fearsome creatures. 

However, there came a time when humans took whales for granted.

We dedicate this to everyone who works on behalf of those – human and not – who need protection.

Whales have been hunted since at least medieval times: Great ocean battles between man and beast. The meat that was collected from their massive bodies could feed whole villages. Their oil filled lanterns, greased machinery, and was eaten as margarine, while their baleen gave structure to umbrellas and to dresses.

Commercial hunting began in earnest in the 1800s. Exploding harpoons and factory ships were gamechangers.

No more brave warriors taking on forces larger than themselves on the forbidding deep. This was pure economic enterprise – Machine vs Monster. And machine was winning. From 1900 to 1940, an estimated 100,000 humpbacks were killed by whalers.

This is not a history of hunting, however. This is a message of gratitude.

Whales drove entire human industries, but in retrospect, the most important part of our relationship is that humpback whales inspired a human movement for good.

The song of the humpback whale was discovered in 1966 and it mesmerized the world. The melancholy melody seems powerful enough to mourn all the planet’s ills. (You can listen here.)

The song resonated with people. It gave us a new vision.

Suddenly we humans looked at whales anew. Where we once saw terrifying leviathans – or simply meat – we were surprised to see our own mammalian cousins looking back.  

(We may have been more right than we knew. Research shows that their brain contains a type of neuron that was once accepted to exist only in primates.)

The music awoke us from our apathy. It fueled a bright new fire for the fledgling conservation movement . Passions were subsequently ignited to start fighting on behalf of other species, too.

Humans drove the humpback whale to the brink. But humans also created the protections that let them recover.

Now, humpback whales are our important reminder that the effort to protect species is a battle that can be won. That when people come together to defend something they love, they can have a huge and lasting impact.

Thank you, humpback whales, for inspiring us to be better.

Thank you for giving us something worth fighting for.

Thank you for showing that one can be both large and mighty, as well as graceful and gentle.

That one can be toothless, yet tough.

For showing us the benefits of teamwork

Thank you for amazing discoveries in rotor and turbine technology

Thank you for inspiring creative people of all origins and all artistic mediums – literature, films, music – to create beautiful things for us all to admire.

Thanks for inspiring Dory to speak whale and for giving us all a good laugh. And thank you for helping Dory and Marlin find Nemo!

And thanks for pooping – for circulating nutrients that keep the whole ocean ecosystem healthy.

Thank you, whale, for setting an example of resilience.

Let us take this Thanksgiving to be grateful for past achievements, and to take stock of what we still need to do on behalf of all those – human and not – who to need further protection.

We dedicate this to humpback whales, and to the conservationists who made sure that they are still around today.

For inspiring global action for the environment, and for the pure magic these amazing animals bring to our world, we say, Thank you.


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