The New York Whale and Dolphin Action League

Letter to Palestine Government and Media Regarding the Release of 21,915 Balloons

May 20, 2008

Dear NY Pod:

On May 16, after hearing of the release of 21,915 black balloons, I sent this to several dozen national and international newspapers, as well as the Palestine government, regarding the release of balloons by a government to commemorate a political event. I stress that we have no political position here, but rather protest the release of balloons to make a political statement. Balloons are airborne litter that end up in the stomachs of sea turtles, birds, dolphins, whales and even fish. I hope you understand how this statement needs to be made, regardless of which side or position in the actual political issue you are on.


Dear Editor,

We are outraged and deeply saddened that the Palestinian government chose to symbolize a national event with the environmentally reckless release of tens of thousands of large pieces of litter - balloons - into the atmosphere!

It is not "just OK" to have released 21,915 black balloons for this event. In fact, the release of balloons should never to be condoned or applauded, whatever the occasion, however strong, or tragic, the sentiments of the moment may be.

Here is the reality: latex balloons may take a year or more to deteriorate, while often the ribbons and strings, as well as Mylar balloons, never degrade in the environment. 70% of the time airborne balloons fall to the earth over the oceans, or another body of water. The wet wriggly fragments of deflated balloons resemble jellyfish, plankton or even vegetation and are frequently eaten by ever-hungry sea birds, endangered sea turtles, marine mammals and even fish. Balloon fragments are part of the usual non-degraded synthetic contents found in the stomachs or intestines of dead whales, birds and other marine animals.

Whether one sympathizes with the cause or not, to be frank, releasing balloons into the environment, especially the enormous amount in this instance, is a condemnable and mindless assault on the environment. The action sadly betrays a disregard for the environment and the species that are now struggling to survive in this era of climate-changing and extinctions. In these days, we hope for better from governments in the world, and what we received here is an environmental slap in the face. Beyond that is the insult to those who struggle to engage in meaningful beach clean-up events, knowing full well that most of the balloons that are released into the environment don't make it onto shores but are lost at sea to become a deadly part of the marine food chain.

For all the media coverage of the Palestine-Israeli 60-year events and the balloon release, the press should also ask how many marine mammals, sea birds or endangered turtles will become the victims of an unnecessary and thoughtless massive balloon release from afar! Wildlife are not fighting this battle, have nothing to do with the problems in the Middle East and do not deserve to become victims, no matter how impassioned is the "cause".

We are not saying, "Don't commemorate an event!" but we are saying that whatever the occasion, however serious or even frivilous it may be (as balloons are released even at birthday parties!) there are other non-destructive ways to make the statement. This action will always bring shame upon the offenders as there are millions of people around the world who understand the problems connected with the release of balloons, and find the action ridiculous and damnable.

As was reported on this same day, human beings have caused 25% of the world's species diversity to have disappeared, with many more following as we continue through this unstoppable sixth great extinction cycle. If human beings do not start thinking of the consequences of their mindless actions, there will never be any hope for the living species on the earth, and that includes us.


Taffy Williams, Director
New York Whale and Dolphin Action League
A Project of Cetacean Society International

The New York Whale and Dolphin Action League
PO Box 273, Tuckahoe, NY 10707 USA
Phone: 914-793-9186
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A Project of Cetacean Society International

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