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Just in: Chas Smith kisses Kelly’s ass!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

Chas wants nuance? I'll give him nuance!

To: Chas
Cc: Kelly

Subject: Ass kissing

Oh I am sooooooo sorry for my sarcasm. For the thinly veiled jabs that would land upon Slater’s enlightened dome. For being the lucky fella who, despite his diminutive stature, needed not a ladder to indulge in this particular produce.

Chas believes insults should be cloaked by levels of irony so complex that only a Master of Applied Linguistics can comprehend. I’m sure Derek gets it and probably Nick C. and Longtom too but me not that smart.

So for the sake of avoiding further scrutiny, I’ll lay out some facts. Plain, objective truths that bear no malice or forethought. Try not to wince, fully or otherwise.

But before I rip this band aid, let me ask you a question:

Would you surf in Reunion Island? No?

What about Maui? Oh, yes?


Reunion Island population: 843,617
Maui population: 144,444 (as of 2010, probably higher now)
Reunion Island square mileage: 970
Maui square mileage: 727
Reunion shark attacks since 2011 – 20 (8 fatal)
Maui shark attacks since 2011 – 28 (3 fatal)

I present this data to demonstrate the power of the media and its trickle down effects on our culture, society, and beliefs.

Reunion Island has faced very many shark attacks in the past six years. True.

Maui, despite having a smaller coastline and a fraction of the population, suffered ~25% more attacks over the same period of time. True.

Kelly Slater has never called for a cull on Maui. True.

It must be noted that in 2013, Reunion instituted a swimming/surfing ban for more than half the coast. They continued this effort by providing nets around certain spots and employing trained divers to watch for sharks around high frequency surf zones. This should have a negative effect on the number of attacks in that period, thus skewing the data above, but it’s hard to know by how much. Alternatively Maui has opposed all types of shark protection, including nets and hunting.

Another major difference between Maui and Reunion is the number of fatal attacks, with 8/20 being fatal for Reunion versus only 3/28 in Maui. This could be related to the types of sharks involved in the incidents, plus a bit of luck in Maui’s favor.

Regardless of circumstance, Reunion’s near 50% mortality rate is highly disconcerting and the island has received a lot media attention because of it. And while it’s important that people are aware of societal issues, overexposure to the evils of a particular entity, especially a small faction of a particular entity, can lead to rash behavior. Think Muslim ban, cop-killing.

In the original post I noted my neutrality on this topic, but it’s important not to mistake ambivalence for indifference. I’ve pondered deeply over this issue, heard arguments from “experts” on both sides, and weighed the relative importance of current humans, future humans, sharks, and the environment in trying to pick a side. I just can’t bring myself to choose.

And apparently I’m not alone.

When interviewed about Western Australia’s cull in 2014, Slater had some interesting talking points:
– “I think it’s kind of silly, humans want to control everything. We try to control (beach) erosion, we try to control sharks … we just try to control everything on this earth and it’s just crazy.”
– “It’s like we’ve lost all feeling for other creatures on some level and I think that’s kind of sad.”
– “If I got eaten by a shark, I’d be honored.”

Here, Kelly seems to be thinking more about the animals’ rights (and feelings) rather than those of the people.

Alternatively, Kelly’s response to the Reunion crisis is an example of how regular exposure to and personal ties with a subject can tinker with one’s moral compass. I don’t know if Kelly had an individual connection with any of the Reunion victims, but his friendship with Jeremy Flores was likely enough to incite the knee-jerk response. Despite his good intentions, Kelly doesn’t know what a cull (isolated or not) would do to the ecosystem as a whole. Not because he’s stupid or uninformed but because its unable to be proven with conjectural science.

What has been proven is that we’re in the midst of the Earth’s sixth major extinction, and it’s no coincidence. Whether actively (Black Rhinos) or indirectly (Panamanian golden frogs), human beings have provoked one of the most all-consuming extinction periods in the history of the world. Thousands of species are falling off at unprecedented levels (for a period without a major natural catastrophe) because of our shitty practices. Don’t believe me? There’s a whole book about it, the author of which won a Pulitzer for General Non-Fiction in 2015.

So, is culling a few sharks wrong because it helps perpetuate the downward spiral of our natural world, as caused by humans’ inherently destructive existence? Or can it be justified in the name of saving a few lives today?

Big picture the answer is simple, but like Slater, I am not immune to the grief of others nor fears of my own. To put it simply – I don’t have an answer, but I still think Slater was wrong.

Nuanced enough, Charlie?

(Charlie: Yes!)