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News Opinion

Aquarium's newest exhibit: Millennial pandering [Letter]

The debate over the dolphins at the National Aquarium has taken on an unpleasant aroma ("Free the dolphins," May 20). I've been a National Aquarium member for 20 years and regret we are the only group not brought into the marine mammal brouhaha. It's about time we were!

Unfortunately, I'm picking up a scent of generational conflict in the debate. It's the Millennial generation against the rest of us so I'm glad Aquarium CEO John Racanelli identified what's behind the campaign to free the dolphins.

"Millennials" is a moniker for those born between 1981 and 2000, just the same way I was lumped into the "baby boom" generation. Before the aquarium panders and rolls over, we need to hear why the dolphin exhibit should stay.

I've watched plenty of dolphin shows. These animals have bonded with their trainers and are happy. How cruel to exile them to an alien environment with little human contact. In the proposed "happier" location they would live behind an ocean fence, where they could interact with other sea creatures. That's like sending a beloved family dog to the animal shelter.

I happen to be a passionate defender of the environment and of wildlife. If it weren't for places like the aquarium, few would care about the water world that takes up vast parts of our planet. I deplore today's overfishing that's destroying our oceans in order to feed the world's enormous population. I grieve for the thousands of dolphins entangled in drift nets and left to die horribly. I cannot stand the idea of certain fish being vacuumed from the ocean floor only to be ground into pet food or fertilizer. There's so much more the Millennials should be concerned about today.

Clearly Mr. Rancanelli humbles to this generation by stating, "They have a real high level of desire to see action." That's true but it's not how the world works. It's definitely true that immediate gratification defines the Millennial culture. They were brought up in a fiber optic universe of Internet, social media and hashtag activism. And if the aquarium CEO thinks a lot of people believe the dolphin exhibit is a way "to make a buck off sea life," he should reconsider. If I thought the dolphin exhibit was a means to profit off the backs of miserable, exploited dolphins, I'd be at the barricades right now. Remember, I've been an aquarium member longer than most Millenials have been alive.

Mr. Rancanelli goes on to say Millennials "don't want to hear a lot of platitudes." According to my dictionary, "platitude" is a "trite or banal remark or statement." I consider this an insult. As a dedicated aquarium member, I cannot remember one trite or banal statement uttered by that organization. The aquarium dolphins are well cared for and trained to interact with humans. Aquariums and their exhibits are a reason we have ocean activists like Dr. Sylvia Earle and ships named Greenpeace.

So if the dolphins are removed to a fenced ocean park, far from the life and people they've known, what will replace them? Seems like there are plenty suggestions but what happens when the Millennials demand all 17,000 Aquarium animals be released? Will the Aquarium comply and turn itself into an enormous ocean hologram? After all, the jellyfish and lizards should be liberated, too.

One idea not mentioned for the 1.2 million gallon pool is a water ballet. There's one available now in Charm City — Fluid Movement, a Baltimore-based performance art group. So The aquarium could sponsor synchronized swimming performances and hold public auditions. Surely, that would attract a crowd.

Rosalind Ellis Heid, Baltimore

To respond to this letter, send an email to Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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