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Opinion
Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: The News That Matters, Underneath The Waves

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@MyFWC via @NOAAFish_SERO / Twitter

One problem with the internet is that it renders every piece of news with roughly equal force.

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The other day, when I signed on after lunch, Twitter had gone crazy with two pieces of news: President Trump had been impeached – again – and NBA superstar James Harden had been traded to Brooklyn.

The takes were coming so fast and hot that for a minute there it felt like James Harden had been impeached, and Trump had been traded to Brooklyn. Which, let me tell you, would not have been a good deal for Brooklyn.

But as I kept scrolling, I found a tweet from an account called NOAA Fish Southeast. It’s a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This particular account covers the oceans and waterways of the Southeastern states. Basically, fish news. And it turned out there was some breaking fish news, or to be technical, mammal news: Two North Atlantic right whales had been born off the Florida coast.

One of the stories about how the right whale got its name is that they were the right whales to kill — they were easy marks, swimming high in the water and near the coast. Fishermen killed them off in such great numbers that now there are only about 400 left. They spend most of the year off the coast of New England and Nova Scotia. But the Southern coast is their nursery. Around this time of year they come this way to give birth, usually somewhere between Cape Fear, North Carolina, and Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Between 2017 and 2019, scientists documented just 22 new right whale calves. As I write this, we’ve already spotted 11 this season alone.

I took a few minutes to scroll through the baby pictures, the moms and their calves photographed from above, and after a while I forgot about impeachment and basketball trades and pretty much anything but the endless cycle of birth and rebirth out there beyond the horizon.

What humans do matters when it comes to the right whale – their survival depends on how we treat them, and how we treat our planet. But in a larger sense, they don’t care about us. An NBA star, even our president, means nothing to any creature in the sea.

We need to remember that what is happening in our news alerts and on our chirping phones is not all that’s happening, or even close to the most important thing that’s happening. It has been a monumental few weeks in a monumental four years, and most of us are flat worn out. But you don’t have to back off too far for all of it to feel small.

If nothing else, it feels good to know that while the rest of us are living minute to minute, other living things are playing the long game.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section at wfae.org. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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