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The walrus and the ecoperson 

Tom Nelson is having some fun with uber-ecoperson Bill McKibben who has been tweeting about an AP story in SFGate about a huge congregation of walruses on the coast of Alaska. SFGate helpfully provides a photo:

According to the story, this so-called `haulout' is down to climate change:

The gathering of walrus on shore is a phenomenon that has accompanied the loss of summer sea ice as the climate has warmed.

Which is the kind of statement to get McKibben going of course.

Unfortunately for McKibben, Tom helpfully points out that the photo was taken at a walrus sanctuary that was founded in 1960. And that the first description of a walrus, dating back to 1604, was of a beach haulout at a place called Bear Island.

Now I suppose one might be able to make a case that more walruses were coming ashore because of global warming and receding sea ice, but one would have to demonstrate this somehow, perhaps by reference to global populations. Merely asserting that it is so does not cut the mustard.

Unless you are Bill McKibben.

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Reader Comments (32)

It is so easy to get a village idiot dancing.

Oct 1, 2014 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

Definitely another McKibben Truth....

Oct 1, 2014 at 1:27 PM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

Those walruses must not have read history, being thus doomed to repeat it.

Oct 1, 2014 at 1:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

1960 Walrus sanctuary eh!

Must have been for a John Carpenter Film......:o)

Oct 1, 2014 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

Who needs thermometers anymore? We got walrusometers now!!!

Oct 1, 2014 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterSean OConnor

Isn't that the Walrus "occupy" movement?

Oct 1, 2014 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Dunford

While we're on the topic of McKibben and jokes, I only just read this in Judith Curry's week-in-review:

Joke of the week from John Kennedy:

Climate Scientist walks into a bar, says, “A pint of…

Barman: “Why the long pause?”
Climate Scientist: <sobs>

Oct 1, 2014 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

And in a later broadcast Mr. McKibben elaborated this theme at length when he said -

"I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
I'm crying.

Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come.
Corporation tee-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday.
Man, you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long.
I am the egg man, they are the egg men.
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob.

Mister City Policeman sitting
Pretty little policemen in a row.
See how they fly like Lucy in the Sky, see how they run.
I'm crying, I'm crying.
I'm crying, I'm crying.

Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye.
Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess,
Boy, you been a naughty girl you let your knickers down.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob.

Sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun.
If the sun don't come, you get a tan
From standing in the English rain.
I am the egg man, they are the egg men.
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob g'goo goo g'joob.

Expert text pert choking smokers,
Don't you think the joker laughs at you?
See how they smile like pigs in a sty,
See how they snide.
I'm crying.

Semolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower.
Elementary penguin singing Hari Krishna.
Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe.
I am the egg man, they are the egg men.
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob g'goo goo g'joob.
Goo goo g'joob g'goo goo g'joob g'goo."

With apologies to fans of John Winston Lennon, & Paul James McCartney.

Oct 1, 2014 at 2:58 PM | Unregistered Commentertom0mason

use the activist search engine Goolible, type "walrus colony", click images and see how many old photos exist similar to the recent photos ..lots it seems

"Often they haul out on land or ice floes in herds of up to several thousand individuals lying in close physical contact."

ha one of the photos is on StevenGoddards site from 2010 when top Eco-PR guy Joe Romm was making a fuss ..yep the same story FROM 4 YEARS AGO !

Oct 1, 2014 at 3:00 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

You beat me to it, Tom.
And this could almost be a Baxter.

Oct 1, 2014 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

A warmist sees a sad walrus and asks what’s wrong.
“I’m not as cool as I was in the seventies.” laments the animal. “There’s only one month a year I feel really happy.”
“Ahhh, global warming.”
“No, in the seventies big moustaches were cool. Now I have to wait for Movember.”

Oct 1, 2014 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

'Doesn't cut the mustard'

Is mustard getting hotter due to global warming?

Oct 1, 2014 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterKen

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

Oct 1, 2014 at 3:47 PM | Registered Commentergeronimo

BTW I was wrong , the 2010 Joe Romm was saying "the Walruses are too far south ..confirms GLOBAL WARMING"
but seems to me it's
- too many walruses .."confirms GLOBAL WARMING"
- too few walruses .."confirms GLOBAL WARMING"
etc. etc.

Oct 1, 2014 at 3:52 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

The ice is shrinking because the sea is becoming cooler.

This was ably demonstrated by my landlord during a 'lock in' in the 'Lab bar' down at the 'Half Eagle' with several scotches on the rocks. Every time the scotches cooled their ice disappeared. As I drove home it occurred to me that though general propositions may be only partially reversible; it cannot be beyond reason that a warming sea would add ice aplenty and a warming world will create a snowball earth.

Oct 1, 2014 at 3:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

I believe the walruses are having a global conference on the terrible effects of climate change on innocent and defenceless humans who cannot afford their heating bills and have almost no blubber to protect them from the cold. They are considering setting up blubber banks.

Oct 1, 2014 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

The warmists are blubbering.......

Oct 1, 2014 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

"Tom helpfully points out that the photo was taken at a walrus sanctuary that was founded in 1960."

Not so. The photo was taken near Point Lay, Alaska, in the north-western part of the state (Chukchi Sea). The walrus sanctuary to which Tom Nelson referred is in the south-western part (Bering Sea). Tom pointed out that mass walrus haulouts are well-known. But it's certainly possible that haulouts are new in that location.

Oct 1, 2014 at 4:59 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Calling McKitten le bête du village is like water off a walrus' back.

Oct 1, 2014 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

During the Viking period (MWP!) walrus occurred as far south as Finnmark in Northern Norway. However Walrus ivory and Walrus leather (which is extremely tough) were highly valued so they were exterminated in their more accessible haunts. In North America they bred on Sable Island off Nova Scotia until exterminated in the eighteenth century. They aren't by any means exclusively arctic animal as many people think.

And walrus were described long before 1604 in Icelandic and Norwegian sources. Walrus ivory was a major export from the medieval Norse colony on Greenland. That there were walrus on Björnöya (Bear Island) in 1604 is not surprising. It was discovered by Barents in 1596, so there hadn't been time to exterminate them yet (there are none there now).

By the way, the idea that walrus prefer to haul out on ice is completely fallacious. They normally haul out on land, at highly traditional sites that are used for generations if they are not disturbed. I've seen quite a few walrus, and I think I have probably seen fifty hauled out on land for each one I've seen hauled out on ice.
Some of the "ordinary" seals do haul out mostly on ice, probably because it is safer, but walrus really have nothing to fear on land except humans.

During the last (i. e. latest) ice-age walrus occured as far south as South Carolina and northern California. But better not to tell McKibben et al. or the "cold is the new warm" concept may gain further traction.

Oct 1, 2014 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

"But it's certainly possible that haulouts are new in that location"

Which should be cause for rejoicing rather than despondency by McKibben and his ilk, since it suggests that the Bering Sea population is recovering and recolonizing former haunts.

Perhaps the Polar Bears will also come back to St Lawrence Island where they lived in considerable numbers until exterminated in c. 1850. Or perhaps not. Modern politically correct Polar Bears are undoubtedly aware that they are not supposed to live on an island that is surrounded by open water most of the time.

Oct 1, 2014 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

I guess McKibben would rather not look at official Arctic ice extent monitoring services. All of them show the ice has grown these past few years.
He and Peter Wadhams will need to attend the mutual support group for disgraced predictors.

Oct 1, 2014 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered Commentermikegeo

Some details on previous incidents of mass haulouts and stampede deaths that result:

Not polar bears, but being painted with the same brush of catastrophe...


Oct 1, 2014 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterSusan Crockford

A question for Antarctic ice experts : How come the GOCE report says ?

"And, between 2011 and 2014, Antarctica as a whole has been shrinking in volume by 125 cubic kilometres a year."
..are they talking about land ice and we skeptics talk about sea ice ? .. or are they cleverly cherrypicking dates ?

Oct 1, 2014 at 7:51 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

"are they talking about land ice and we skeptics talk about sea ice ?"

Yes. GOCE is completely "blind" to sea-ice,

Oct 1, 2014 at 8:09 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

Greenies are often stuck in a phase of development. They see something that is new to them and imagine that it's the first time it has ever happened since before time began. The hole in the ozone layer is just one of many examples.

It's an extreme form of solipsism. Or like teenagers who just know that their parents could not possibly have ever had sex.

Oct 1, 2014 at 8:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Jack Hughes

Both the parents of famous Glasgow psychiatrist RD Laing assured him that they never had sex. That's how psychiatrists are made.

Oct 1, 2014 at 8:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterE. Smiff

i can just hear the cry of these walruses " where are all the carpenters!"

Oct 1, 2014 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave38

The french are now reportng it as a sign that the planet is warming (rechauffement de la planete.

Oct 2, 2014 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

The Time Has Come The Walrus Said, To Speak With Truth and Honesty about Wildlife and Climate.

For Walrus read Polar Bears, or Penguin, or just about anything really, if you are Bill McKibben, or the Center for Biological Diversity, or WWF

Spot the difference, familiar comments in recent times:

“This is a victory for the polar bear, and all wildlife threatened by global warming,” Kassie Siegel, a lawyer for the Centre for Biological Diversity, said. “There is still time to save polar bears, but we must reduce greenhouse gas pollution immediately. (When CBD got them listed as endangered)

"These penguin species will march right into extinction unless greenhouse gas pollution is controlled," said the center's Kassie Siegel. "It is not too late to save them, but we must seize the available solutions to global warming immediately."

Unless we dramatically reduce our greenhouse emissions, the walrus is on a trajectory toward extinction,” said Rebecca Noblin, the Center’s Alaska director.

A walrus gotta do what a walrus gotta do:

Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary: Best known among the Walrus Islands is Round Island, where each summer large numbers of male walruses haul out on exposed, rocky beaches. Round Island is one of four major terrestrial haulouts in Alaska; the others are Capes Peirce (Togiak NWR), Newenham (Togiak NWR), and Seniavin (near Port Moller).

Walrus return to these haulouts every spring as the ice pack recedes northward, remaining hauled out on the beach for several days between each feeding foray. Up to 14,000 walrus have been counted on Round Island in a single day. However, the number of walrus using the island fluctuates significantly from year to year. The peak count for all of 1998 was only 1,746 walrus.

Walrus - Life style
Walruses spend about half their time in the water and half their time on beaches or ice floes where they gather in large herds. They may spend several days at a stretch either on land or in the sea.

Monday 13 September 2010,
"Scientists investigate massive walrus haul-out in Alaska - Scientists fear declining Arctic sea ice may have caused an unprecedented mass migration to dry land."

John Lennon clearly knew what many people don't, that walrus are musical: In a 2008 Independent story, the walrus became people-friendly, comedic and musical.

“Walruses: The friendly, fun-loving, musically talented creatures are under threat from climate change.”
“By about 7000 years ago the massive glaciers of the last Ice Age had retreated to the mountain peaks of the eastern Canadian Arctic. Tundra vegetation had become established, and was grazed by caribou, musk oxen, and, in some areas, by bison. The gulfs and channels between the arctic islands had long been at least seasonally ice-free, and provided a home to populations of seals, walrus, and whales.

There is considerable evidence that for the next 3500 years the arctic climate was noticeably warmer than today, the tree-line was north of its present position, sea ice was less extensive, and animal populations were large and well established.”

Ah well........

Oct 2, 2014 at 12:41 PM | Registered Commenterdennisa

The concentrations in August-September occupy a much larger area than those in February-March: about 300,000 km2
in western and southern Chukchi Sea (Soviet waters), at least 150,000 km2 in the eastern Chukchi Sea (Alaskan waters), plus several thousand square kilometers in the vicinity of the major hauling grounds in Bering Strait, the Gulf
of Anadyr, and Bristol Bay. Hence, the problem of obtaining adequate samples would be greater, and the feasibility of conducting a preliminary visual or IRS reconnaissance would be practically ex-cluded. Also, because the behavior of
animals using coastal hauling grounds probably differs from that of animals in the pack ice, the results might require
different interpretive methods for each area.


Lots of reference to Hauling grounds and large numbers of Walruses.

Oct 2, 2014 at 1:22 PM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

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