Op-Ed by Kate Kheel of Stop 5G International
The technology revolution has now expanded to the ocean in the form of the Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT), aka a Smart Ocean. Plans are underway for the ocean to become an integral part of a worldwide network of “smart” interconnected infrastructure and objects that will complement satellites in the skies, and 4G/5G cell towers and satellite dishes on land. Money is being poured into research and development of new applications and infrastructure to enable seamless connectivity throughout the ocean, Earth, and heavens.
Commercial interests and the armed forces view an internet-connected ocean as essential for their operations. But the impacts on marine life are not being considered. In addition to the noise, pollution, and debris from an ocean bustling with anthropogenic activities, the Internet of Underwater Things will rely primarily on sonar which for decades has been known to adversely impact whales and other marine animals. Recently, scientists have discovered the role that whales play in ocean ecology and how they help mitigate climate change.
Data Transmission Technology and Possible Applications
Whereas data transmission on land and in space rely primarily on radio waves (RF/Microwave radiation) and laser, these are less suited for underwater applications. In the ocean, data transmissions rely most heavily on sonar.
The Internet of Underwater Things will consist of underwater sensors that communicate with one another and with relay stations on the surface of the water. These stations will in turn communicate with satellites and/or ground-based 4G/5G infrastructure on land.
This vast ocean-based network will be integrated into Systems Warfare — 21st century warfare that weaves together the different branches of the military into one coordinated AI web of destruction. The “smart ocean” will include autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), robots, submarines, underwater drones, torpedoes, and anti-torpedo defense systems.
The IoUT will also play an integral role in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) “arms race” we are currently witnessing play out in the US, China, and other nations.
In what’s known as Dual Use Technology, the Internet of Underwater Things will also be used by the private sector for its purposes: mining for minerals on the ocean floor, seismic drilling, monitoring oil and gas pipelines, global trade, surveying shipwrecks, and scientific research.
Effects of Sonar on Marine Wildlife
As mentioned earlier, the IoUT will operate primarily through sonar waves which are ideally suited for underwater propagation. (Optical communications are being developed for shorter more data intensive communications.)
Due to the unique ability of sound to travel underwater, through millennia marine animals have evolved to rely on sound to navigate, communicate, find mates, forage, avoid predators, and defend territories. See, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_mammals_and_sonar
In much the same way that extremely bright beams of light shined directly into our eyes would hamper our ability to function optimally, or at all, so too sonar waves and anthropogenic noise interfere with whales and other marine mammals’ ability to tend to their needs. High intensity sonar, around 240 decibels, used by the US navy, can cause deafness, bleeding in the brain, stranding, and death in whales. Their experience of high intensity sonar at 240 decibels would be much like our experience of a rocket at takeoff… for extended periods of time.
Disoriented from the unrelenting sound that can permeate the ocean for hundreds of miles (and in the case of low frequency sonar, thousands of miles), in a desperate effort to escape the sound, whales fling themselves onto the shore and die. Lower intensity sonar, though somewhat less harmful, can temporarily and cumulatively impact whales’ ability to communicate, forage, navigate, find mates, and avoid predators.
Effects of a “Smart” Ocean on Climate
“Nature has had millions of years to perfect her whale-based carbon sink technology. All we need to do is let the whales live.” Michael Jasny of the Natural Resources Defense Council
Whales play a key role in the exquisitely designed eco system that supports all life on Earth. Recently, scientists discovered that excrement from whales, known as “fecal plumes”, create the ideal nutrients and conditions for phytoplankton. These microscopic creatures produce 50-85% of the oxygen on Earth and serve as the “lungs” of the planet.
Furthermore, both phytoplankton and whales help sequester large quantities of carbon, each in their own way. During their lifetime, whales absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Upon death, they fall to the bottom of the ocean where the carbon gets buried in the soil and will remain for centuries. Due to a whale’s size and lifespan, a single whale absorbs large amounts of carbon. According to Nature’s Solution to Climate Change, a great whale sequesters on the average, 33 tons of CO while a tree absorbs roughly 40 pounds yearly. Phytoplankton sequester carbon through photosynthesis.
The Military and Our Ocean
“The military base is being replaced by what has been called a ‘high speed, kill web.’ It uses information as a primary weapon of war. It will enable Empire to rain down terror on any spot of the earth: a swarm of drones, hypersonic missiles, submarine torpedoes, bombers; and all with the ease of calling an Uber.” Koohan Paik-Mander
“The submarine threat is growing in the seas of the world, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, from the Indian Ocean to the South Pacific. Renewed activity by the Chinese, Russian or American navies, increasing naval defense budgets, construction of submarines of all sizes (mini-submarines, coastal, conventional or nuclear-powered submarines) to create or expand existing fleets: the result is hundreds of submarines traversing the world’s seas at all times, keeping States on the alert to preserve their sovereignty and interests. And underwater weapons are a key element of their naval strategies.” Naval Group
The Internet of Underwater Things will be integrated into the armed forces around the world in what is known as Systems Warfare. This 21st century brand of warfare weaves together the different branches of the military into one giant coordinated AI-controlled web of destruction. Systems Warfare is increasingly controlled by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and works by using the massive amount of data generated from the Internet of Things on land, in the ocean, in the air, and in space. This data, coupled with the IoUT infrastructure will aid in manning submarines, controlling torpedoes for both offense and defense, and in the detection of stealth underwater vehicles and drones, and Supercarriers. (See this newest $14 billion nuclear-powered Supercarrier soon to be speeding over the water.) Data and AI will also assist in executing coordinated attacks from multiple branches of the military simultaneously.
With the speed at which technology is evolving, new weapons and systems are manufactured and tested each year. These military exercises, or wargames, involve practicing bombing ships, firing missiles through the ocean, and testing new offense and defense weapon systems. As Koohan Paik-Mander so poignantly explains: “We essentially have nonstop war now taking place in our oceans, and we have for a decade, even with no war officially being waged.
But war is being waged…That is a war on all the living spirits that populate the undersea community and enable our oceans to support life on Earth: the whales, dolphins, turtles, crabs, sea horses, jellyfish, algae seaweed, eels, plankton, manta rays and coral.”
The armed forces have repeatedly been exempted from accountability and pledges in worldwide climate negotiations. Most recently, this petition, spear-headed by World Beyond War and the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament addresses this “oversight”.
Is the Trade-Off Worth It?
Are the downsides of an internet-connected ocean a necessary trade-off for gaining military and commercial advantage? Do we really need more oil to fuel more war? Are more lethal weapons of war, data gleaned from connecting everything to the internet, extraction of “riches” buried deep within the ocean worth the suffering and possible extinction of whales and perhaps myriad other marine life forms so necessary to our eco-system? Is it wise to continue to compete as we unconsciously escort ourselves and all of life toward techno-ecocide?
Perhaps human nature hasn’t really changed that much over the millennia. It’s possible that violence and competition have for many long centuries driven human activity. Or perhaps these have escalated in the last few decades. Either way, what is clear is that the increased magnitude of harm that this mindset engenders now, is threatening the survival of all living beings on the planet.
Earth can no longer sustain our violent, competitive, extractive way of life. We must open to a shift of consciousness if we are to survive. It is time we pivot from an ocean of technology to an ocean of consciousness focused on embracing our interdependence on one another and on all living beings in this intricate and awe-filled sacred Web of Life.
Save the Date: Meet Dr. Marsha Green of the Ocean Mammal Institute December 21, 2021 for a Solstice event: “An Ocean of Consciousness.” More Information coming soon.
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