[MARMAM] documentary for educational use

Russell Fielding rtfieldi at sewanee.edu
Tue Sep 4 07:08:10 PDT 2018

Dear MARMAM list members,

I have used the documentary "The Islands and the Whales" in my own
undergraduate classes and wanted to share information about it with you
here. I found it to be a useful prompt for discussions about cetacean
conservation and issues related to environmental change and cultural
tradition. Here is some information from the filmmaker:

*In the North Atlantic archipelago of the Faroe Islands the traditional
hunting of seabirds and pilot whales continues to provide food for the
table, but many doubt the way of life will continue for many more
years.Local species of seabirds are in catastrophic decline as the
eco-system changes, and plastic flotsam fills their stomachs, while the
pilot whales are highly contaminated with mercury and PCBs.A local
toxicologist, Dr Pál Weihe, conducted a thirty year study of thousands of
the islands’ children. He found that eating the contaminated whale meat
could cause permanent cognitive impairment to children exposed in the womb,
and may be linked to the islands’ high rate of Parkinson’s Disease, as well
as other health problems. He concluded that the pilot whales were no longer
suitable for human consumption. Although not acute, the health problems
were significant, and affect us all, many species of fish also contain high
levels of the same pollutants. The Faroe Islanders say they are a canary in
the mine, their tale a warning to us all.As the islanders come to terms
with the health revelations, they face increased pressure from the outside
world to stop the whale hunts. Hundreds of anti-whaling activists arrive,
determined to physically intervene in the hunts. Their presence creates a
defensive reaction, the Faroese argue that the hunts are lawful and that
the whales are not endangered and vow to continue.*

“captivating and touching… it goes under the skin of a faraway population
and makes you feel the paradoxes that face them. Apart from the beauty of
the scenery and the excitement from the dramas, the film provides food for
numerous discussions that should stimulate cross-disciplinary student
populations, whether from the humanities, political science, medicine, or
environmental studies. This film is particularly well suited to expose
different perspectives, as there is no finger pointing or finger wagging.
It has multiple dimensions, and they are all beautifully depicted.”

- Professor Philippe Grandjean, Harvard University


Russell Fielding, Ph.D.
Department of Earth and Environmental Systems
The University of the South
Sewanee, TN 37383 USA

office: Snowden Hall 211B
phone: 931-598-1815
email: russell.fielding at sewanee.edu
web: sewanee.edu/faculty/fielding
forthcoming book: *The Wake of the Whale: Hunter Societies in the Caribbean
and North Atlantic
<http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674986374>* (Harvard
University Press, October 2018)
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