I guess I’ve always been kind of a climate denier.
Yes, something was wrong; things got hotter and more volatile, but I couldn’t be sure that was something people did.
Nature has undergone massive changes in the past, but we have always come out of it. When I was a kid in the 1950s, scientists predicted that we were getting closer and closer to another Ice Age.
Now we have clearly put our lives on the line with the heat – sweltering and suffocating heat – and ocean storms, unstoppable forest fires and collapsing ecosystems. Our governor even had the nerve to blame the failure of our power grid during the massive February blizzard – unlike anything we’ve seen in Texas – on an addiction to wind turbines.
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This blackout had been predicted years ago, but no one did anything until it was too late. So we’re going to appoint another committee to study it and then do nothing until we have another crisis in our hands and then try to transfer the problem to someone else.
What I’m trying to say is that the fish populations, the wild fish populations like salmon, are in trouble as we try to get permission to dig and move millions of tonnes of the delta. the Alaska River in Bristol Bay in order to get a few ounces of gold that no one needs except the big interests who put the money in to fund the “Pebble Mine”.
It’s been on the table, then off the table, then on again and now again, as we have changed presidents and governments who have divergent views on the importance of saving and preserving stocks. salmon and fragile ecosystems or letting some people make big money by ignoring the impact on these same fish.
OK, this is the sermon. Now here is what squeezed me so tight that I practically vibrate. It’s a book, “Kings of the Yukon”, by Adam Weymouth. He’s a young British author who lives on a boat in London and hasn’t responded to emails, at least for a few months.
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Weymouth was never an angler, but he wanted to write something about salmon and what is happening to him all over the world. He chose the king salmon, or Chinook if you prefer, and their decline in the waters of Canada and Alaska.
My wife bought me the book and I read it about 24 hours after an information marathon about the famous Yukon River salmon, which travels nearly 2,000 miles from Canada to the Pacific Ocean. . Weymouth decided he would like to paddle the river and talk to the various indigenous peoples he met, as well as the European descendants of the white settlers in the area.
It was an incredible and courageous epic adventure on a wild and beautiful river that has been the lifeblood of Alaska and the Yukon for longer than there has been anyone around to write and keep track. Weymouth did it with a brave heart and sturdy back, coupled with a keen eye for the social and historical aspects of life built around a single fish.
Kings are, or were, giant salmon who kept indigenous peoples alive through freezing winters and long arctic nights. The fish supported entire native populations, almost all of whom had their own “fish camps” to which they returned each spring when the salmon began their grueling return to the various waters where they were born.
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But, instead of clear, swift water, they encounter dams, nets, and modern fishing techniques that threaten their very existence, and with it the existence of the humans who colonized rivers and depend on salmon for their livelihood. life.
Their traditions, myths and legends about fish have been trampled and plundered along with salmon. Many of the fishing lodges are empty and rotting now, as it seems that every year for decades, fewer and fewer salmon are returning to the Yukon and other northern rivers.
The huge Alaskan canneries that grew after people in North America and around the world found salmon to be good food, easy to buy, and cheap to put on the table have for the most part closed, this which means that the inhabitants of the river are now out of a job, as well as a source of food.
Weymouth pulled his canoe out onto the shore, small town after small town, talking to the people and learning all he could about kings. He learned that there were other salmon as well – sockeye, sockeye, chum and more – all of which were part of the traditions and the lunchtime, inseparable from people’s lives but essential to their very survival.
In some years hardly any salmon returned to the river to spawn, and slowly the younger ones left the river and moved to the towns, where they could find work and perhaps a spouse and raise children. without the stories and adventures of the fishing camp. .
It is a very sad and predictable story of what happens when some people mistakenly believe that animals and fish are a bottomless resource that only exists for their profit and use.
We have an almost endless list of examples here in North America. Beavers have been trapped almost out of existence just to make fancy hats for guys. Whooping cranes are still on the brink of extinction, where they have been hunted for feathers to make women’s hats. Old growth forests were razed to make newsprint for papers and to provide lumber for homes, taking with them birds such as the red-horned woodpecker and others.
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Grizzly bears are almost extinct in the Lower 48, but in Alaska they are latching on, thanks to the salmon that still return each summer to spawn and keep their species alive.
We could go on and on with this, but the truth is there for us to see, if we’re brave enough to see and react to it. I don’t have the answers. I only know that we have to act now or suffer the collapse of the species and after the species that we cannot replace and that we have to keep ourselves alive.
Weymouth does not spare his own country in the writing, covering the decline of Atlantic salmon populations in England and Scotland, and I can attest to that. My family and I spent two weeks a few years ago renting a house on Loch Ness in Scotland.
The fishermen there are meticulous in keeping records and can tell you at any time how many salmon have been landed on their river in any given month. They put it on the Internet. I have seen numbers around 30-50 fish per month across Scotland. I tried to find a guide to take me to one of the rivers for a day of fishing, but couldn’t find one that even took my money. “No fish, no fishing,” I have been told over and over again.
It was brutal and disappointing, and I never forgot to walk past these surprisingly clear and beautiful rivers and hardly see anyone fishing there.
I knew then that we had to do something, but what? I do not know. I just hope I can catch some bass this summer.
If you can read “Kings of the Yukon” without reacting to the plight of the fish and the inhabitants of this mighty river, you are welcome to experience it. Weymouth gave us some food for thought, something I think about as I prepare to head back to Alaska this summer to fish for rainbow trout and salmon.
You can find it on your Kindle reader, and it’s worth buying it. “The kings of the Yukon. Buy it. Read it. And worry about me.