What’s in a name?

26 Apr

As Juliet once said: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

How about the titles and descriptions by the media about protesters and activists?  Typically, in a newspaper article the person being interviewed or talked about is mentioned by their first and last name, then their title/job description. From then on, in the article, they are referred to by their last name only (though sometimes a title such as Dr. continues to be used).  In the last couple of weeks two names have been very prominent in B.C. news reporting and I found it interesting to look at articles and see how the sources that agreed with the point of view of the activist used very specific language when talking about these people.

David Suzuki has a PhD in zoology from the University of Chicago. He is referred to as Dr. Suzuki on the David Suzuki Foundation website but very seldom in the media.

Suzuki has been a prominent figure in Canada for decades particularly for his work with his foundation and for his popular tv show “The Nature of Things.” It is fair to call him an environmentalist because throughout his career he has looked at many of the problems affecting our environment and has educated many people about them.  Some titles such as “Canadian icon” are disputable as is “Canada’s patron saint of the environmental movement.” That is a very lofty title that certainly raises Suzuki above all other environmentalists in Canada.

More often than not the conventional “Suzuki” is used by the media.

In contrast, the media has a much more emotional connection with Alexandra Morton. She graduated with a BSc in the 70’s. She studied whales in the Pacific for many years. One term often used in articles to describe Morton is “biologist”  or “marine biologist.” There is some discussion about whether the term biologist is accurate and one article actually calls her “a self-trained biologist

In 2010 SFU conferred upon Morton the honorary degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa. Because of this honor Morton is sometimes referred to as Dr. Alexandra Morton. This title is questionable though because honorary degrees are only really meant to bestow an honour on someone, not recognize their scientific knowledge and abilities. Putting “Dr.” in front of your name leads people to believe that you have done at least seven years of specialized studies to earn that title.

Honorary doctorates are just that, honors. This year alone, SFU will be handing out nine honorary degrees, and it’s pretty unlikely that any of the people who are to be recognized are going to put “Dr.” on their business cards afterwards.

For example, former B.C. senator Pat Carney received an honourary doctorate on the same day as Ms. Morton. I have never seen Carney call herself “Dr. Carney” anywhere.

Some writers refer to Morton as a wild salmon activist. The term wild salmon advocate has also been used. The problem with these titles is that they imply working for something. The truth is that Morton is against salmon farming. She completely ignores any other possible causes for the problems she has seen in the ocean such as over fishing, climate change or habitat loss. If she were for wild salmon she would be active in fighting every obstacle in their way, not the one pet peeve she has set her sights on.

The most accurate descriptions for Morton and her work are in reference to her work against aquaculture: Opponent of open-net fish farming or anti-fish-farming activist.

What has she ever done that was actually “for” wild salmon?

Speaking against something doesn’t count. Words are cheap.

Salmon enhancement projects are not.

I have seen the salmon farming companies year after year support wild salmon enhancement projects with donations of cash, equipment and expertise. But from the lack of attention these donations get, you’d never know it even happens.

Does a rose still smell sweet if we call it by another name? Yes. Do activists become more credible because of fan-boys who hold them on a high pedestal and call them lovely names? No.

Call a spade a spade, a rose a rose and an activist nothing more than an activist.


Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Opinion


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11 responses to “What’s in a name?

  1. lajen6

    April 26, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Great perspective.

  2. Heather Olney

    April 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Thank you June Sharkey for a well researched and well worded article about how being called by a particular title doesn’t render the party worthy of the title !!

  3. salmonfarmscience

    April 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Nice work! Lots of links here to back up what you’re saying.

  4. alchurchill

    April 27, 2012 at 11:03 am

    It is a shame that you do not see the underlying issue that “protesters” are trying to solve here. It is to make the environment as clean and safe for EVERYONE. I understand that by attacking fish farms, may result in the loss of jobs initially, but if people don’t take a stand to demand information about what they plan to eat or how the environment can be kept clean, then who knows what we are putting into our bodies. Most protesters want to stand together with all human beings for a better future, it appears however, that you are looking to divide people and are seeing this as a battle an “Us & Them” mentality. Which is a huge shame.
    People are constantly being dumbed down by their governments, in attempts to silence them and to feed them whatever militant tactics they seem fit to increase a countries power and wealth in their ever increasing search for world domination. This is the egocentric psychopathic tendencies that unfortunately carry on down through to the people of each country.
    When we all understand that our governments do not actually care for us and they only care about feeding their own interests, will we make a stand for what we believe is right and fair for all living beings on the planet. This includes fish. Whatever the ‘science’, there are many fish with diseases, dead fish are being pulled out of fish farms all the time and taken off for composting. They are not wild or free and do not live a good existence. This seems to echo our lives as humans. Once roaming the land as free animals, but now farmed and manufactured through outdated school systems to become a tool in the big picture, planned out by governments around the world. Tied to money, dependant on our government and in no way ‘connected’ to nature.

    It is time to truly connect to what is important, it is not money, it is connection with other animals on this planet, you and I included. We are fed many dangerous things in our lives. Why do cleaning products come with a ‘danger’ or ‘warning’ symbol? If they are dangerous to us, why are we using them, why are we even making them?! Because of money. It’s time to change from the bottom up. I never want to render someone unemployed, but I do want to make sure that all humans are not fed anything that is bad for them. Until we can prove otherwise, farmed fish will never be on my plate. Will it be on yours?

    I hear your side of the debate here, but unfortunately it lacks any compassion and love. I wish you only good things in your writings, hopefully you can learn to use your skills to change this world for the better. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to say my piece.

    • Rossco

      June 29, 2012 at 11:05 am

      Farmed salmon IS on my plate. It contains no more contaminants than are found in wild salmon, and both wild and farmed salmon have very, very low levels of any harmful compounds.
      What I don’t understand about your statements here, is how it is more “natural” or “compassionate” to consume wild salmon? I do not hunt for deer or elk or moose….I buy red meat from farmed sources. These animals are raised for this purpose, as are farmed salmon. Is it more compassionate to kill a wild animal for food, than to raise it for that purpose?
      Fish stocks all over the world are being threatened from over-fishing, among other threats. Farming salmon in a sustainable manner seems much more compassionate to me. What do you think?

      • alchurchill

        July 1, 2012 at 7:26 pm

        Do you work for a salmon farming company?

      • Rossco

        July 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm

        Yes I do work for a salmon farming company….and I am not ashamed to admit it. I have chosen to work in salmon farming, even though I have other options, because I know it is a sustainable and productive industry, with a small environmental footprint.
        I should point out for the readers of this site that you are a vegetarian (according to your website) which I respect. But you must aadmit, it biases your opinions on this issue. As long as you respect my right to eat meat if I choose to, I will continue to source the majority of mine from farmed, rather than wild, sources.
        I compost, I recycle, I grow my own food, and I am trying my best in everything I do to leave future generations a better planet, and I would not take part in an industry that I knew was not in line with my values, and I can say that most of my salmon-farming colleagues share these same values.

    • Steve

      June 1, 2014 at 5:48 pm

      There is nothing necessarily wrong with demanding information to make informed choices. However, when anti fish farm activists are providing misinformation how does that provide the public with the information they need to make the choices you talk about? Instead, ignorance is being promoted. This actually is worse for the environment. No, I do not work in the salmon farming industry.

  5. Quentin Dodd, long-term freelance writer/reporter, especially on aquaculture, in British Columbia

    April 27, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Morton was asked at the Cohen Commission inquiry on Fraser River sockeye, by one of the more ENGO-friendly lawyers, whether she preferred to be called Dr Morton. She replied that she did. I would suggest that whether she continues to “earn” that title and the circumstances to use it under are issues that are up to others to decide.

    • Randy Lake

      October 16, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      She admitted she wasn’t an expert on fish disease which was telling, and she was not qualified as an expert by the commission. She also continued to quote old flawed data in addition to new flawed data. She isn’t a scientist by training, and she couldn’t have learned much about biology with an Arts degree, oops I mean a biology degree from a 2 year Arts program, so she would have to be self taught.

    • Steve

      June 1, 2014 at 5:39 pm

      The university that bestowed the honorary degree says otherwise.

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