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The Inertia

In mid-January, Gary Golding found a dead baby dolphin on the sand in southern California. He cut it apart, pulled a few organs out, threw it on a grill, and ate it. TMZ picked up the footage and the internet swiftly reacted. Gary Golding, the (very) outspoken star of the Discovery Channel reality series Naked and Afraid, quickly became the focus of an extraordinary amount of rage.

I saw the video and thought it might be interesting to get on the horn with Golding to ask him about it. At first, I figured we’d just shoot the shit before I asked him a handful of dumb questions, like what he was thinking and how the dolphin tasted. You know, just a few words that most people wouldn’t read to go along the video they definitely would watch. It was quickly apparent, however, that Gary Golding is… well, really, really interesting. He screams angrily into the phone, jumping from subject to subject with reckless abandon. He is hard to follow. He is offensive. He is raw. But he knows exactly what he’s doing, and you know what? I like him for it. Gary Golding has a very important message, and he’s shouting it as loud as he can. He’s not doing it in a way that most people like, but that’s part of the plan. Let me explain.

“Do you know who I am in the Naked and Afraid world?” Gary asked me when I first called. He was quiet at first, but a kind of measured intensity was bubbling away in his voice. It was before the yelling started. “Do you know that I’m known for stumbling across dead, maggoty animals and eating them in front of people?”

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I laughed a little awkwardly. “I guess I do now,” I answered.

“To survive in Africa [on Naked and Afraid], I stumbled upon a big dead maggoty animal and all the little crybabies out there with me were like, ‘we’re not going to eat that.’ So I ate that shit for a week and rubbed it in their fucking faces.”

That final sentiment is indicative of how Golding is trying to get his message out there. Like the dolphin stunt, it attracts attention. It creates a platform. That mentality got him on Naked and Afraid, which, according to Golding, is viewed by 91 million people around the world. And from that platform, he is beating his chest and positively screaming his message. It’s a simple one, and it’s tattooed across his back in large, black letters: CONSUME AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE. It’s a little ironic that he’s getting that message out by consuming something, but if one is to try and change the mindset of an entire society, drastic measures must be taken. I have no idea whether Gary’s measures are making a dent, but the effort is there.

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According to the USDA, as of 2010, somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply is wasted. That’s about 133 billion pounds or $161 billion dollars. Food that’s a little ugly, a day too old, or just plain thrown away because we’re full ends up in landfills all the time, and we don’t give it a second thought. We simply head to the grocery store and pick up more food, usually with no idea where it came from or how it got to us.

“I am baffled by people who call themselves survivalists who find hundreds of pounds of meat,” he explained. “They look at it like it has to be from a restaurant. I’m going to be completely honest. It baffles me how fucking stupid people can be.”

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By now, about 15 minutes into our first conversation, things were quickly going off the rails. I tried to get us back on track, so I asked him about the dolphin again. It didn’t work.

“Here I am a guy who ate a fucking dolphin off the beach, and people want to judge that guy. I was surviving in Africa butt-naked. I was surrounded by 300 fucking elephants every day that were deforesting the region. If the elephants continued on — the giraffes were dying… the rangers that were protecting me with guns were pointing out how there are no more acacia saplings so the fucking forest won’t even regenerate and then the elephants will start dying. So the best thing you can do is kill some fucking elephants and eat those fuckers in that part of Africa.”

In that part of Africa, of course, is the operative phrase there. It’s a complicated subject, but there are many cases around the world where human intervention is needed. It’s needed because of our intervention in the first place, but still, it’s needed. Wolf culls in British Columbia, for example, or the open season on axis deer on Hawaii’s Big Island. Because of us, the natural cycle of things is way out of whack, so it stands to reason that it’s our responsibility to try and get things back in line.

When I come along and tell you what the fuck’s going on with that piece of shiny shit, they’re like, ‘you hurt my feelings.’ WELL, THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE HURT, YOU BITCH! Do you know what the fuck you’re doing to the earth so you can feel good?

In Gary’s eyes, it all comes down to how our society is built. We are undoubtedly a society with a voracious, unending appetite. We want more of everything. More food, more baubles, more cars, more fuel. We’ll burn down entire ecosystems for Big Macs. We’ll carve out vast holes for shiny rocks that we’re told should be valued. We’ll drill wells for crude oil, slurp it out, and burn it so we can go from point A to point B in comfort. And to be sure, we are, for the most part, a comfortable society. We’re fat and spoiled, like kings on a feathered throne, belching out CO2 and farting out single-use plastics. We know it’s not sustainable, and yet we keep right on trucking. That what is at the center of Golding’s gripe, and eating that dead dolphin was simply a way to make more people notice him in hopes that more people would hear him.

“I’m a loving man,” he said. “I care about people’s feelings in areas where feelings matter. But why do you buy gold and diamonds for a woman? Because it makes you feel good. Because your fucking feelings feel good. And then when I come along and tell you what the fuck’s going on with that piece of shiny shit, they’re like, ‘you hurt my feelings.'” Gary paused here and took a deep breath. “WELL, THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE HURT, YOU BITCH! Do you know what the fuck you’re doing to the earth so you can feel good?”

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There is one problem with eating that dolphin, aside from attracting the ire of a million internet commenters: eating it might have been illegal. When the video went viral, officials from the Laguna Beach Lifeguards and the law enforcement branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) took notice, and now they’re looking into the fine print of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

“One of the reasons that we ask people to report strandings of marine mammals is so that we have a chance to examine and learn from them, understand why they died, and what that may mean to the population,” NOAA spokesperson Michael Milstein, told The Orange County Register. “We lose that chance if they are butchered on the beach.”

A few days after our conversation, Golding responded to the news that he might be in some legal hot water. “I would never touch or harm a Living Dolphin in or out of a protected area and I would never condone anyone harm any Marine Animal EVER,” he wrote on Twitter. “That is absolutely not acceptable behavior.”

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Golding is definitely loud. He offends a lot of people. I wondered why, if tactics like eating a dead baby dolphin offend so many people and could potentially get the law on his back, does he keep doing them?

“When people ask me why I don’t pull it back,” he said, “I go, ‘look, picture this. If you were on a bus full of children, and the bus driver fell asleep while you’re going down a mountain road and you see that the bus is about to fly off a fucking cliff, would you take your time and walk up to the bus driver all politically correct and say, ‘excuse me, bus driver? You need to wake up?’ No. You would be standing up in the back of the bus going, ‘STOP! STOP THE FUCKING BUS! HIT THE FUCKING BRAKES!’ We’re on a fucking bus, and it’s got every fucking child on earth on it. It’s that fucking urgent. I’m yelling to get us to hit the fucking brakes. And you think I’m crazy? God damn, I wonder why you’re not screaming. What the fuck is wrong with you people that makes you think I’m the one who looks crazy?”

By the end of our conversation, I wasn’t sure if Golding was a little off his rocker, some kind of performance artist, or perhaps most likely, just a man who is extremely passionate about his chosen cause. What is for certain, however, is that Gary Golding has a cause, and he’s one of the most intensely passionate people I’ve ever spoken with.

And he could be right: the ones who aren’t screaming from the back of the bus are the crazy ones. Golding ate that dead baby dolphin to make people notice him, and it worked. Now that he’s got their attention, he’s got to make his message stick. And if there’s one thing I learned about Gary Golding, it’s that he’s not going to stop trying.

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