Breaking The Species Barrier

California Celebrates The Whales

by Sam Silver and Adi Gevins
Berkeley Barb
November 25, 1976

"If you want to save something, you have to celebrate it," said young Governor Brown to the jam-packed Sacramento Memorial Auditorium last Saturday night. It was California Celebrates the Whale Day, highlighted by a series of events in the state capitol that was put together in such haste that public service announcements couldn't reach the radio stations on time.

It was one hell of a party, with every major cetacean lover, from Dr. John Lilly to Joni Mitchell, doing what they could to help save whales from extinction. Not inadvertently, the proceedings helped polish the image of one Jerry Brown, so recently tarnished by the defeat of Proposition 14 earlier this month.

It was an all day, all night affair. The day session was free, and consisted of exhibits from 37 environmental and conservation groups. General Whale, the life sized ferro-cement likeness of the earth's largest creature, was used as a slide by children, while their parents listened to speakers pontificate on the reasons why humans must organize to preserve and protect whales, dolphins and porpoises. Other groups promoted the interests of the California sea otter, baby seals and the diminutive Tomales Bay Herring.

The high point for the inquiring mind was a rare address by Dr. John Lilly, author of Mind of the Dolphin and originator of the compassionate approach to cetacean research. Lilly spoke of his belief that dolphins "gossip like we do, have their history and sagas, and have their cultures, many cultures, in the sea." He has recently founded the Human/Dolphin Foundation, which has as its motto "Interdependence Through Communication" and is dedicated to breaking the barrier to higher dolphin/human communications.

Lilly told the audience he is confident that, utilizing new human technology, volunteer labor and private funding, the dolphins' complex sonic communication system will be decoded in a few years. His wife and research partner Toni agrees, but admits that they'll "have to sell a hell of a lot of posters and buttons to make it possible." The Foundation feels that the initiation of human-dolphin communications is imperative, or the great store of knowledge that the large-brained sea mammals possess will fall solely into the hands of the military.

One speaker, Dr. Clifford Uyeda of the Japanese-American Citizens' League who was prominently placed on the program attacked the ongoing consumer boycott of Japanese goods and explained how the boycott is being used by Japanese whalers to discredit the anti-whaling movement as racist and anti-Japanese. (The issue of the utility and propriety of the boycott has divided environmentalists.) At the podium, host Cleveland Amory said that he was glad to hear Uyeda's point of view. Then, expressing the irritation of many Save-The-Whale organizations, Amory muttered under his breath, "We'll stop boycotting when they stop whaling."

An East Coast Group, the Miami Dolphin Club, was represented by Mike Lavalle, the trainer of that most celebrated of dolphins, Flipper. Lavalle recently returned from Japan where he consulted with anti-whaling groups who are planning a "Japan Celebrates the Whale" event in March, 1977.

The evening program was the real money raiser. Those fortunate enough to obtain a $4.00 ticket were treated to six hours of entertainment which included a beautiful color documentary of whales narrated in person by researcher Dr. Roger Payne. In addition there was the kick-ass music of Country Joe McDonald, the spirited Paul Winter Consort, John Sebastian, the lamentable Fred Neil, and the headliner, Joni Mitchell.

It was also an opportunity to witness the remarkable spectacle of Jerry Brown's New Age politics in action. The chief executive was introduced by long-haired, leather-jerkined Stewart Brand, of Whole Earth Catalogue fame. Gary Snyder (Brown appointee to the California Arts Council) read some of his Pulitzer Prize-winning beatnik poetry to the enlightening strands of the Paul Winter Consort. Winter, incidently, has played his saxophone for whales as well as humans. On two occasions the entire assembly practiced vocalizing whale sounds in hopes of improving their ability to communicate with those beings.

If you want to hear the whale music of Winter and Country Joe, and you're not against helping the World Wildlife Fund, they will be in concert in San Francisco at the Masonic Auditorium on November 29th. The proceeds will directly benefit the International Bird Rescue and Research Center in Berkeley.


Printed from the official Joni Mitchell website. Permanent link: http://jonimitchell.com/library/view.cfm?id=3371

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