Tibet and the Seal Hunt

Study the transcript of this episode as a lesson on LingQ, saving the words and phrases you don’t know to your database. Here it is!

Steve and Mark discuss a couple of controversial topics this week namely the current unrest over Tibet and the confrontations over the annual seal hunt in Eastern Canada.

Mark: Hello again.

Steve: Hi Mark.

Mark: Welcome to the EnglishLingQ Podcast. My dad Steve and I, Steve, are here.

Steve: You know we miss Jill.

Mark: We do.

Steve: We miss Jill.

Mark: In fact, she usually keeps us organized, so we missed doing the podcast yesterday; a day late, nonetheless.

Steve: And she always has a nice, different perspective on things.

Mark: Right.

Steve: But you know what I thought we’d do today Mark, since Jill’s not here, we’ll try to be a little controversial.

Mark: Jill might be coming in this week.

Maybe we can grab her for a podcast.

Steve: When she comes in?

Well, first of all, we’ll be busy admiring her baby.

Mark: Of course.

Steve: And we may even get the baby to squeal a little bit; a little early in her career, but who knows.

No, I thought we’d be a little controversial just for fun and, of course, the big news here in the papers is what’s happening to the Olympic Torch.

Mark: Big news aside from the fact that the Vancouver Canucks didn’t make the playoffs.

Steve: Right, but most people in the world aren’t very interested in hockey.

Mark: I know.

Steve: But no, so the first question I asked myself is given the sort of controversy that we know surrounds the Olympic Games in Beijing; there are all the issues of human rights in Tibet and the smog and so forth, why are they having this around the world Torch Parade?

It’s almost like they’re inviting.

I mean what a tremendous opportunity for the Tibetans or any other group to protest.

Mark: Well, I guess, first of all, is this not a standard thing?

The torch doesn’t normally tour the world before the Olympics?

Steve: Maybe it does, I don’t know.

Mark: I mean I don’t really know exactly.

I can only remember that in the Calgary Winter Olympics the torch was run across Canada.

I don’t think it went…maybe it didn’t go around the world.

Maybe normally it just goes through the country in which the Olympics are being held.

Steve: I have no idea.

I gather they’re planning to take the torch through Tibet…

Mark: Yeah, I saw that in the paper.

Steve: …as part of the preparations, so.

Mark: That should be fun.

Steve: I don’t know.

Well, certainly, the Chinese are better able to control crowd activities in an area that they control than in San Francisco, London or Paris.

Mark: Absolutely.

But at the same time they have to let foreign journalists into Tibet or at least they’re saying that they will allow foreign journalists into Tibet to cover the Torch Parade in Tibet, so that ties their hands a little bit.

Steve: But you know the Olympics have always been political.

The Berlin Olympics in 1936 were an opportunity for Hitler to show off to the world.

I know in Japan the Olympics in ’64 were considered a symbol of Japan sort of joining the group of advanced nations.

The Moscow Olympics were boycotted.

Mark: Yeah, I mean this whole we have to keep the Olymp sport and politics separate.

I mean if it wasn’t politically motivated China probably would not have attempted to host the games period.

I mean it is a political statement because their whole system is so strongly politicized.

Steve: Are you suggesting that the Chinese Government and the Communist Party that their motivation in bringing the Olympics to Beijing was not simply that they were interested in sports and wanted the population in Beijing to have a chance to see firsthand some of these international athletes?

Is that what you’re saying?

Mark: I know it’s a rather farfetched hypothesis, but yes I am.

Steve: I mean let’s put it this way, Vancouver is going to host the Winter Olympics in 2010 and there the motivation is purely commercial.

Mark: Exactly.

Steve: That’s all it is, money.

Mark: Absolutely.

Steve: (A) because they think it’s going to be good for tourism and (B) because it’s a chance to grab some federal money so that they can get taxpayers and the rest of Canada to pay for some infrastructure here in Vancouver.

Mark: Exactly, that’s all and hoping that there’ll be some kind of residual benefit from all these people being exposed to Vancouver during the Olympics and that it will payoff in the years following the Olympics.

Yeah, it’s entirely commercial; whereas, in China I don’t think it is.

Steve: It’s not commercial, no.

It will end up costing the economy, but it’s more of a statement of here we are.

We’re one of the leading countries in the world, this is our chance to show off and, you know, China is, after all, the most populous country in the world.

They’ve had this tremendous period of economic growth and they want to flap their wings and strut their stuff.

Mark: Yeah, they want to show that they’ve arrived.

Steve: Right.

Mark: So, obviously, this whole Tibet protest thing is causing a fair amount of consternation.

Steve: But, you know, it shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Mark: Absolutely not.

Steve: What an opportunity for the Tibetans to try to make their case to an international audience.

Mark: Absolutely.

I mean if I’m a Tibetan I’m biding my time.

I’m surprised, they’ve kind of started a little early, but I guess they want to build up to it.

Steve: Well no, no, I think their plan here is that the occasion of these Torch Parades in different world cities gives them tremendous PR.

Mark: Obviously, the crowds are not so easily controlled all over the world as they are in China.

Although, there was obviously a big period of unrest in Tibet last week I guess.

Steve: Well yeah, there have been various forms of unrest not only in Tibet proper, but in all of those areas where the Tibetans form the majority.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Which is not just in what we consider to be Tibet, but it’s in Chinghai Province and in the western part of Sichuan Province.

I mean it’s a very, very difficult issue and I mean there are all kinds of countries in the world where you have groups of people who are in some kind of an arrangement with a larger dominant group.

I mean in Canada we have Quebec where there are people in Quebec who would like Quebec to be independent and others who don’t, so these are very, very complex issues.

We won’t get into all the ins and outs and historical claims one way or another, but I think it is fair to say that the Olympics is a very political and a very commercial event.

Mark: Absolutely and that I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the Tibetans.

Steve: No.

Anyway, we chuckle.

Of course to the Chinese, especially people from mainland China, they feel this was their moment to be in the world spotlight in a positive way.

The best scenario would have been that the games were very well-organized, everybody had a great time, there was great camaraderie, people from around the world, hopefully the Chinese athletes did well in their events so that everything, basically, reflected positively on China.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Now we’ve got one black eye, regardless of who’s right and who’s wrong, whether the Dalai Lama is behind the disturbances or not, it really doesn’t matter.

Mark: No.

Steve: It all reflects badly on China and China’s response with some of their heavy-handed propaganda harkening back to the days of the Cultural Revolution where they are unable to refer the let’s say the Dalai Lama without calling him some bad name.

Mark: Right.

Steve: You know it all comes out in these standard Cultural Revolution-type slogans.

Mark: I can’t remember now what they’re calling him, but the Dalai Lama is a…

Steve: He’s a splitist, splitist.

Mark: There was another statement that I saw that described him as something else; I can’t remember.

Steve: I mean you’d think they should get some PR agent from…

Mark: To write their stuff?

Steve: To write their stuff because the stuff may work internally, but it makes it worse.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: It does, it makes it worse.

I mean if they simply said you know this is very unfortunate and, of course, there has been loss of life of Chinese people as well.

Mark: Right.

Steve: There are elements of this that if you wanted a tribal antagonism it’s antagonism between Tibetans and Chinese and some innocent Chinese people were killed.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So there’s a lot to be said on either side, but it’s just their heavy-handed propaganda that just makes it worse.

Mark: The Dalai Lama a running dog lackey is…

Steve: Whatever; whatever the term is.

Anyway, so that’s a little bit controversial.

I don’t know how much time we have left here, but one of the things that really struck me was that there was a very tragic event on the east coast of Canada where some of the I guess you would call them the seal hunters who are involved in the annual seal hunt drowned as a part of a rescue effort, probably a very sloppy rescue effort, by the Canadian Coastguard.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: A leading environmentalist said that the loss of these four human lives was less important than preventing the slaughter of the baby seals.

Here again, personally, I don’t know all the ins and outs of sealing.

I know that there is a position that if the seal population isn’t kept in check that has devastating effects on the cod population, the fishing population, which we as humans need to feed ourselves.

My view of the environment is very much human-centered.

In other words, whatever we do to the environment through our human activities, our only goal is what’s good for humans.

Mark: Ah, well…

Steve: In the long-term.

Mark: In the long-term, yes.

I guess the point is that I think that you’d hear from environmentalists…well, not all, I mean some would say that it’s not about what’s good for humans at all, it’s about what’s good for nature and yet that’s not exactly fair either because what’s nature?

Nature is always evolving.

One hundred years ago different species existed and different species did well and different species became extinct; nature doesn’t stand still.

There’s no state where you can say this is what we should aspire to in terms of which animals should do well, which animals should not do well.

Obviously, if one species does better another species is likely to do worse; a competitive species is likely to do worse.

I mean that’s just the way it is, so anything that happens has a…it’s like physics, for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

I mean I think the same is true in the natural world.

But with regard to the sealing issue I think, first of all, those environmentalists lose sight of what is real to people.

They get so caught up in we’ve got to save every seal that, you know, a few lives lost, well that’s nothing as long as we save the seals.

Steve: Well I mean I agree with you, I mean we lose sight of priorities.

Is the seal hunt such a big priority?

Even global warming, is that the major priority?

At great cost we can perhaps, perhaps, mitigate the effects of global warming saving a few lives.

In the meantime, in China – we were talking about China earlier – pollution, like particulate matter in the atmosphere, kills half a million people a year.

I mean that has to be a far bigger issue today.

Mark: Well absolutely.

I mean because global warming, no matter what the different government bodies might say, is far from proven.

Steve: You mean, in other words, the influence of the human.

Mark: Human-caused global warming and there’s even debate about whether or not we are in fact warming.

In fact the decade of the ‘90s was warmer than the current decade that we’re in.

And what are we comparing it to?

What’s the standard?

Is it 200 years ago, 400 years ago, 50 years ago?

At what point do we start from and then say okay that point was cooler than today so, therefore, we’re warming.

Steve: Right.

Mark: I mean it’s not at all obvious that (A) anything humans are doing is having an effect or (B) that the warming that we’re experiencing is out of the ordinary.

Steve: But you know what is behind a lot of that is this sense that the way we live today in the 21st century is somehow evil; modern industrial society, globalized society, capitalism, whatever you want to call it is evil.

And then in the case of Paul Watson who said that the death of four human sealers was less important than the fate of these seals, he goes on to say you know we should only have a billion people in the world not seven billion.

Well my response to that is twofold, one, if he really feels that way he should begin by getting out of the way.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Number one.

Mark: I was going to say, he’s free to lead the charge.

Steve: Lead by example.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: The second thing is the fact that we have seven billion people in the world today, the fact that life expectancy even in Africa today is longer than it was 100 years ago, is that in terms of what’s good for human beings our environment is more human-friendly today than at any time in the history of mankind.

And yes, there have been impacts on other forms of life and we don’t deliberately go out wanting to create an imbalance that destroys species, but we do eat other species.

We eat other species of vegetable life, we eat other species of animal life and that is part of how the world operates.

Our concern has to be what’s good for us now and what’s good for us for the foreseeable future.

Yeah, we should reduce our dependence on a resource that may not be around 300 years from now, but I mean when you hear these people say that there’s too many humans in the world, well okay fine then, you go first.

Mark: Absolutely and really you talk about the sealers; I saw statistics, I guess last year at seal hunt time, which said the major seal protesters pull in — in the two-week seal hunt — they pull in 80 or 90% of their yearly budget.

Their yearly donations come in in that time, so they have got to be out there banging the drum and causing a ruckus.

The fact of the matter is, I don’t know about Paul Watson, I mean he’s a bit of a kook; presumably, he’s not doing it for free either.

But I know that this organization that they talked about last time and I think it might have been the one that Paul McCartney was involved with there, but their chief operating officer or whatever he was I mean he was making $200,000 and the second in command was making $180,000 and all this money came from donations that people gave to protect the baby seals.

So it’s not at all, at least not completely, a selfless act I’m here to save the seals; I mean that’s their livelihood.

Steve: You know, maybe we should end on that note.

Mark: Which means…

Steve: Yes, yes.

Mark: Which then causes me to not take environmental organizations very seriously, unless you’re out there for free at your own expense.

Steve: Yeah, but I mean it’s all part of the…I mean who knows?

We could go back to the Tibetans, I’m sure their contributions are up as a result of all these activities too.

Mark: That’s true.

Steve: I’m sure the Dalai Lama lives at a certain level of comfort and flies first class or whatever.

Anyway, we tried to be a bit controversial.

Mark: Yup.

Steve: Hopefully, we’ll get some response.

Mark: Absolutely.

Steve: Let’s hear some people who violently disagree with us.

Mark: That’s right. Okay, we’ll talk to you next time.

Steve: Okay.

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