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Posts Tagged ‘rescue’

Photo: Reuters Marketplace/UK World Online Report.
Endangered Green Sea Turtles are placed in bins and kiddie pools to help them warm up gradually.

Sometimes a crisis can bring out the best in human nature. Consider all the people making food for health-care workers in the pandemic or the volunteers manning pantries for 2020’s many unemployed.

This morning, as I was reading about the failure of the Texas electric grid, I learned that one supermarket, having suddenly lost power, couldn’t operate cash registers and let customers go home without paying.

Meanwhile, Texas nature lovers, despite hardships of their own, are rescuing sea turtles from the extreme cold. Many thanks to Hannah for pointing me to the story.

Raechel Allen reports at Slate, “An unprecedented winter storm provoked massive disruption in Texas this week: Millions lost power, hundreds were displaced from homes. [And] because of the temperature, thousands and thousands of sea turtles cannot move.

“An endangered species, these sea turtles usually live off the waters of South Padre Island, which is off the southern coast of Texas. Over the past week, they’ve been loaded into dinner cruise boats and minivans. The rescue center at the nonprofit Sea Turtle Inc. is used to rehabilitating injured sea turtles and responding to minor cold snaps but cannot hold all the turtles — so they’re also filling up a convention center. … Slate spoke to Wendy Knight, Sea Turtle Inc.’s executive director. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Rachael Allen: Can you walk me through what’s been going on this week with the turtles?
Wendy Knight: We are in the midst of the single largest cold-stun event in history. We have approximately 4,800 cold-stunned, federally protected, endangered sea turtles. … On Sunday things really started to hype up and we had local boat owners go out and find hundreds of floating sea turtles.

“What does it mean for a sea turtle to be cold-stunned?
“Sea turtles are cold-blooded so they need the temperature of water to regulate their own body temperature. … If the water gets below a certain temperature, the turtles are no longer able to sustain their own body temperature. Usually, they don’t think about all of their instincts — moving their flippers to swim, eating, diving to the bottom of the ocean, lifting their head up to draw breath. In a cold-stun event, they’re still aware they need to do those things, but because their body is frozen, or cold-stunned, it’s is not reacting to the instinct message. As a result they’re not able to swim, so the turtle floats to the top of the water and because their body is not responding by lifting their head to breathe, they drown in the ocean. I’m sure as we get farther away from the stun event, there will be perished turtles found, regardless of our best efforts.

“How did your team rescue thousands of turtles?
“This is a nesting beach where thousands and thousands of hatchlings are born each season, so everybody is keenly aware that we’re sharing space with sea turtles. We have almost 500 registered volunteers, plus all the city employees, who participate in training at the beginning of cold-stun season. That plan was executed here, just on a much bigger scale.

It’s important to remember that when all this was happening these hundreds of community members didn’t have power of their own. They hadn’t had electricity or running water in days. …

“They had their own personal tragedy happening. And despite that, they took time away to serve an animal that can’t serve itself.

“I can’t explain what it’s like to stand in a convention center that’s probably a football field and a half, and see 4,200 sea turtles laying tip to toe as far as the eye can see. And that’s not even all of them — that’s the overflow. … Nothing happens when they’re stunned — no bodily functions. It’s like a catatonic state. The best thing you can do is to let them rest. As things go along, they will start to wake up, but there are consequences that can come from cold stuns that require antibiotics and IV therapy, like pneumonia. We’ll watch them all closely, and as they recover and become more alert, we’ll start releasing them incrementally back into the Gulf of Mexico.”

I shouldn’t overlook the fact that there are people who volunteer year-round. Which is just to say that it doesn’t always take a crisis to bring out the best in human nature. More at Slate, here.

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Photo: Barbara Crossette/PassBlue
Fathiah Zakham studied tuberculosis in Yemen until a bomb destroyed the university where she was working. Through the Scholar Rescue Fund, she received safe haven in Helsinki, Finland, to study.

Scholars and scholarship are generally endangered in authoritarian countries and in war zones. Fortunately, there are activists determined to keep the search for truth alive among all nationalities. The Scholar Rescue Fund was established to place refugee scholars in safe institutions where they can continue their work. Even in today’s isolationist America, refugee scholars are getting a future.

Deborah Amos reported on international placement efforts at National Public Radio (NPR) last fall.

“Around the globe, more scholars are now threatened and displaced than since World War II began. In response, U.S. universities have sponsored endangered scholars and recently created a consortium that offers a broader academic community to refugee scholars threatened by war and authoritarian governments.

” ‘There is a moral obligation to do something,’ said Arien Mack, a psychology professor at New York City’s New School for Social Research, who launched Endangered Scholars Worldwide in 2007 to draw attention to the threats facing academics. She now oversees the New University in Exile Consortium, which will bring exiled scholars together over the next two years for seminars, workshops and conferences. The New School has recruited 10 other universities to the consortium, and is urging more to join. …

” ‘We are trying to nurture intellectual capital, we are saving brains,’ Mack said at a Sept. 6 event in New York City to launch the project. ‘Even when [refugee scholars] are safe, what is painfully absent is that they don’t get integrated, they are isolated, they suffer from estrangement.’ …

“Syrian academic Mohammad Alahmad, a specialist in Arabic literature, had to negotiate with Islamist radicals to continue teaching at Al-Furat University’s campus in Raqqa. In 2014, the militants declared Raqqa the capital of the Islamic State. …

“He escaped the city with his family, smuggling them across a dangerous border into Turkey after ISIS shut down his university. He was awarded a fellowship by the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund, an organization that helps arrange emergency placement and funds for academic figures at risk. He was matched with Georgetown University where he is now a lecturer at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. …

“The Scholar Rescue Fund, established in 2002, has helped more than 700 scholars find academic placements in 43 countries. About 40 percent have been placed in American educational institutions.

“Indian activist and academic Binalakshmi Nepram says her work advocating for gender rights and a women-led disarmament movement in her home state of Manipur, in northeast India, led to threats and intimidation. … Now she is a visiting scholar in residence at Connecticut College.

” ‘We have all left everything behind,’ she said. … Her placement in Connecticut is a lifeline. She has continued her activism, giving a recent lecture on how the women of Manipur state worked together to confront violence in a decades-old armed conflict between insurgents and the Indian military.

‘Before I got this job, [American] people told me I could be a bartender or a babysitter,’ she said. ‘Every job has its dignity, but we have our skills.’

More at NPR, here.

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What I liked about this story on rescuers in Iceland was how the volunteer tradition started when “women banded together and organized a rescue crew to curtail the loss of their men at sea.” The part that wasn’t so great was about tourists endangering everyone with harebrained feats for their bucket list.

Nick Paumgarten writes at the New Yorker, “Iceland, with a population of little more than three hundred thousand, is the only NATO country with no standing Army. It has police, and a coast guard, but these, like the citizens they are paid to protect, are spread thin, so come accident or disaster, disappearance or storm, the citizens, for the most part, have always had to fend for themselves.

“[Slysavarnafélagið Landsbjörg, or, in English, the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue] has evolved into a regimented volunteer system that serves as a peerless kind of national-emergency militia. It is not a government program, and so represents a tithing of manpower. There are close to ten thousand members in all, with four thousand of them on ‘callout’ duty, on ninety-seven teams. … They are well trained and well equipped, self-funded and self-organizing, and enjoy a near-mythical reputation among their countrymen, who, though often agnostic regarding the existence of elves and gnomes, are generally not inclined toward reverence or exaggeration. …

“Landsbjörg traces its roots back to the formation, in 1918, of a rescue team in the Westman Islands, an archipelago just off the southern coast. The women on shore banded together and organized a rescue crew to curtail the loss of their men at sea, and in time other fishing communities established similar groups and protocols. Eventually, the fishing industry, as it grew, supported these efforts with donations. On land, farmers, left to their own devices, looked after each other, as they will.” More at the New Yorker, here.

You may get a kick out of the fundraising based on selling fireworks. Setting them off is legal in Iceland once a year. “Last year, Icelanders blew up five hundred tons of fireworks.”

Photo: Benjamin Lowy / Getty Images for The New Yorker
“People think of the rescue teams as the Guardians of the Galaxy,” a mountain guide said. “They forget these are normal people.”

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