Sunday, August 29, 2010

Get Up Off of Your Ass and Do Something

The following article speaks for itself and there is really nothing more I can add to it. It speaks to me and if you give a shit about the environment, conservation, wild fish and a whole myriad of other things that we fly anglers are supposed to care about then it should speak to you as well. I not implying that what is good for Shane should be good for all of you but this is just common sense.
Know this much though. There has not been a single wild salmon, trout or steelhead that has been saved by posting on Facebook or an internet fishing forum about what a damn shame it all is and how mad we should be.
I can talk this way because the same goes for me and my's not enough!
Thanks go to Tom Davis of Native Fish Society for emailing this to me and others.

Calling All Fanatics
Protecting nature should be more important than enjoying it

by Derrick Jensen Orion magazine
 I’VE ALWAYS kind of hated that quote by Edward Abbey about being a half-hearted fanatic (“Be as I am—a reluctant enthusiast . . . a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic”). Not so much because of the racism and misogyny that characterized some of his work. And not even because of the quote itself. But rather because of how that quote has been too often misused by people who put too much emphasis on the half-hearted, and not nearly enough emphasis on the fanatic.The fundamental truth of our time is that this culture is killing the planet. We can quibble all we want—and quibble too many do—about whether it is killing the planet or merely causing one of the six or seven greatest mass extinctions in the past several billion years, but no reasonable person can argue that industrial civilization is not grievously injuring life on Earth.
Given that fact, you’d think most people would be doing everything they can to protect life on this planet—the only life, to our knowledge, in the universe. Sadly, you’d be wrong.
I think often of a line by the psychiatrist R. D. Laing, “Few books today are forgivable.” He wrote this, I believe, because we have become so very alienated from our own experience, from who we are, and this alienation is so destructive to others and to ourselves that if a book does not take this alienation as its starting point and work toward rectifying it, we’d all be better off looking at blank pieces of paper. Or better, actually experiencing something (or someone). Or even better, entering, as Martin Buber might have written, into a relationship with something or someone.
I agree with Laing that few books today are forgivable (and the same is true for films, paintings, songs, relationships, lives, and so on), and I agree for the reasons I believe he was giving. But there’s another reason I think few books (films, paintings, songs, relationships, lives, and so on) are forgivable. There’s that little nagging fact that this culture is murdering the planet. Any book (film, painting, song, relationship, life, and so on) that doesn’t begin with this basic understanding—that the culture is murdering the planet (in part because of this alienation; and of course this murder then in turn fuels further alienation)—and doesn’t work toward rectifying it is not forgivable, for an infinitude of reasons, one of which is that without a living planet there can be no books. There can be no paintings, songs, relationships, lives, and so on. There can be nothing.
The conservation biologist Reed Noss has called his field a “combat discipline”: we are in a crisis, and our attitudes and actions need to reflect this. And so I sometimes try to apply the Ed Abbey quote to the work of a firefighter. If you were trapped in a burning building, would you want the firefighters to be reluctant enthusiasts, part-time crusaders, half-hearted fanatics? Should the mother of a very sick child be reluctant or half-hearted in defense of that child?
I’m not saying we don’t need recreation. I’m not saying we don’t need amusement. Hell, I have three mystery novels in my backpack right now. I’m not saying a firefighter doesn’t need to rest—having hauled seven unconscious people out of the burning building, we could hardly blame the firefighter for grabbing a quick drink of water or sometimes taking a day off; and I’m not saying the mother doesn’t need to sleep or take some time away from the stress of caring and advocating for her child. We all need the occasional escape, or even indulgence. But we must be able to pursue those escapes and indulgences with the knowledge that others are rushing into the burning building, that others have taken over the job of advocating for whatever is necessary to heal that child.
And that, frankly, is part of the problem: there aren’t nearly enough of us working anywhere near hard enough to stop this culture from killing the planet. Obviously, or the world would be getting healthier, instead of being desecrated with ever increasing speed. If there were more of us trying to stop this culture from killing the planet, then those who are working themselves to death could afford to take a little time off and not feel as if things would fall apart while they climbed the mountains or ran the rivers.
“It is not enough to fight for the land,” Abbey continued; “it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there.” But this part of the quote might actually bother me more, in part because of its fatalism and in part because we—humans—are not the point. Yes, absolutely we should enjoy and commune with and make love with and touch and be with and absorb and be absorbed by the land. Yes, absolutely we should sit in the sun and feel it warm our bones, and we should listen to the whispering voices of trees, and we should open our ears and our hearts to the voices of frogs. But when the forests are being flattened and the frogs are being extirpated, enjoying them isn’t enough. So long as there’s still something we can do to protect them, shouldn’t protecting them be far more important than enjoying them? Because, once again, we are not the point. The trees, the frogs, do not exist for us. It is our culture that is killing them, and it is up to us to stop it.
Have you ever had anyone you love die or come to grievous harm needlessly, from some unnecessary act of stupidity or violence? I have. And in the aftermath I have never wished I had spent more time enjoying this other, but rather wishing I had acted differently such that I was able to prevent the unnecessary losses.
As my artist and writer friend Stephanie McMillan wrote in her essay “Artists: Raise Your Weapons”: “If we lived in a time of peace and harmony, then creating escapist, serotonin-boosting hits of mild amusement wouldn’t be a crime. If all was well, such art might enhance our happy existence. There’s nothing wrong with pleasure or decorative art. But in times like these, for an artist not to devote her/his talents and energies to creating cultural weapons of resistance is a betrayal of the worst magnitude, a gesture of contempt against life itself. It is unforgivable.”
I would extend her comments beyond art: in times like these, for anyone not to devote her/his talents and energies to defending the planet is a betrayal of the worst magnitude, a gesture of contempt against life itself. It is unforgivable.
The questions I keep coming back to are these: in this time, as countless multitudes of humans and nonhumans suffer for the profits and luxuries of a few, and as species go extinct at rates greater than any in the last scores of millions of years—as large-vertebrate evolution itself is being halted—what does the world need? What does the world need from me?
I want to be very clear: I don’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t love the world or each other (human or nonhuman). Or that we shouldn’t play games or have fun. I’m not saying we shouldn’t rest or go hiking or read good books (and Desert Solitaire is a great book). I’m not even saying I have a problem with Abbey’s quote as such; my main problem with the quote is the many would-be activists who use it as an excuse for inaction.
We are in a crisis, and we need to act as such. We need to rescue people from the burning building. We need everybody’s help.


  1. Living in the mental state of "crisis" all the time is like taking poison pills for breakfast. You can't do it forever, and the longer you do, the sicker you get. Maybe tougher folks than me would disagree? Either way, I think our planet needs positive, healthy, effective advocates much more than it needs pissed off, grenade-throwing, destructive ones. And that's coming from a guy who is easily pissed off and would love to have a big box of grenades. My point is we need a prescription that allows for mental health while we're fighting this fight, and living in crisis mode is not the way. For me, the healthy approach has been to step back and try to see Pacific salmon populations on a geologic time scale. They survived the last ice age. Hell, they survived the era of splash dams, industrial harvest, fires and put-and-take hatchery programs. I believe they will survive humanity. And that world view helps me breathe and sleep at night.

    My love of the natural world, and specifically of Tillamook's rivers, requires that I find a way to be an effective advocate. My effectiveness is directly tied to my mental state. Anger, fear and blame, however appropriate, work against my mission.

    Furthermore, I don't believe our coastal rivers are in crisis. Not yet anyway. Population growth is an ominous cloud on the horizon, to be sure. But today, I believe our north coast rivers are in a mode of healing, in spite of the impacts of human use and development. I want to make sure the healing continues, and the biggest key to that is protecting water quality and summer flows. Following the lead of heros like Tom Davis and Paul Englemeyer, I'll do my best to be a positive force for healthy rivers.

  2. I spend a hell of a lot of time on the coastal rivers of Oregon and I can confirm, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are in deep trouble. Come and do a redd survey with me in the late winter/early spring and you will see what I mean.
    Yes you are correct in that wild salmonids are resilient and can take a lot of abuse while still bouncing back. The one thing that they cannot seem to bounce back from is the hatchery influence. I can name you a lot of rivers where the wild populations of steelhead have plummeted since the increase in hatchery production.
    It is tough always being in a combat mode when it comes to wild salmonids and I know I cannot do it but these "internet warriors" who say shit like isn't it a shame yet will not leave their comfort zone and get involved are the worst enemies our wild resources have.

  3. We all come to advocacy in our own time, on our own path. That guy you view as an enemy may end up being your best friend down the line. He may already be doing more than you know. Shouldn't we focus on what we are doing, and let others find their way? These folks need leadership and encouragement, best provided by example.

    I empathize with your fear, anger and frustration. Big time. But when I look around to the folks who are making progess in these areas, they are cool-headed, positive, and encouraging. They continually impress upon me the importance of civil dialogue and smart gamesmanship. Our anger needs to stay in the foyer, lest it undermine our credibility and effectiveness. And that goes for our recruiting efforts as well. We need to BECOME effective first, then lead by example.

    Your perspective on the health of the Nestucca and other area rivers means a lot. I am perfectly comfortable bowing to your experience and knowledge of the watersheds and fisheries. My perspective is quite different. I've only been active in the county since the mid-90s. In that time I've seen a big rise and a big fall in adult returns for all species. The last few years have been relatively poor, which was to be expected given the swings in ocean productivity. I'm not ready to ring the alarm yet, and I think we'll see a rebound over the next few years. But if that doesn't happen, I'm going to feel like a real asshole.

  4. Ring the alarm bell? Hell that bell has been worn out from people ringing it the last several years and I guess you better prepare yourself to feel like a real asshole.
    I am not a patient person. We've gone the route of trying to work with ODFW and other groups to get our wild salmonids into a sustained recovery mode. That tact has failed under the bullshit guise of "increased angling opportunities"
    I've always said that anyone who is turned off to wild fish issues by my or anyone else's militancy and use that excuse for not getting involved never really cared anyway.
    This relaxed concerned crap is what has gotten us to where we are today. Ever wonder why the gill netters always get what they want? They are united behind one cause and while non-selective harvest is dead wrong we can learn something from that group.
    I am an alarmist and for good reason.I know first hand that the fish (wild winter steelhead, fall chinook and cutthroat trout) are not there! The north coast streams are in big trouble.

  5. Considering that the uppermost leadership at ODFW (director and pro-hatchery cronies) are a bunch of chuckleheads who couldn't give a shit about wild fish, I am highly encouraged by the direction that ODFW is moving. We have a chief of fisheries who is dedicated to protecting wild fish, we have a statutory wild fish policy in place, and we have conservation plans being drafted under that regime. In fact, the guy writing the conservation plans is one of the authors of the recent study showing a one-to-one relationship between hatchery steelhead and lost wild steelhead. I am blown away by this scenario, and I am not sure who to thank. So pardon me for being hopeful, but I think we have a tremendous amount to be thankful for and hopeful about.

    Like you, I spend a lot of time on the water. I have witnessed the recent declines, especially in the Nehalem. I don't have a hatchery program to blame on the big Nehalem. But our chinook went from 30,000 fish to 1,500 fish in a few years. Nobody knows what happened. I think it's important for Nestucca-area anglers to keep that in mind, and perhaps take it into account before blaming wild-brood or any other hatchery influences for the Nestucca's recent crash. Those programs aren't good for wild fish, no doubt. But I think the problems our wild fish are facing goes way beyond a piddly, piss-poor hatchery program. Just my opinion.

  6. Re-reading my last comment, it sounds like I'm dismissing the Nestucca's wild-brood program, when I meant only to insult it for it's lameness. But I'm trying to hold ODFW accountable to their existing management plan, of which they are in blatant violation as we speak. The wild-brood steelhead program is not being operated according to the guidelines laid out in ODFW's plan, and they have just figured that out. Expect some minor ass covering and delay tactics as they try to fudge their way to the finish line--that being the creation of the new recovery/conservation plan. Hope that makes sense.

  7. Shane,

    I'm genuinely curious what data you have that supports your claim that "I know first hand that the fish (wild winter steelhead, fall chinook and cutthroat trout) are not there!"

    I'm looking at Steelhead Redd Abundance data from '03 through '10, and the average Wild redd abundance for the north coast region over these 8 years is 19,875 redds. 2010 was estimated at 18,928 redds, which is only 5% below the 8 year average.

    A 5% variance is pretty much a rounding error as far as I'm concerned, and doesn't start ringing the alarm bells for me.

    Overall, I'm very concerned about our runs in the long term, and am absolutely in the same camp as you and chaveecha. Looking at the history of anadromous fish runs on the eastern seaboard and california, I think big changes do have to be made, or our fish runs will probably suffer the same fate as in those regions.

    But, I try to base my opinions on hard data, and looking at steelhead numbers, I don't think we're screwed quite yet. If you have some different data that shows things going in the wrong direction, I'd be very interested in seeing it, because that's absolutely critical to know about.

  8. We have tried to get spawning data from ODFW almost since the inception of the broodstock programs but they have been uncooperative thus far. The were supposed assess the program after I think it was 5 years and we are in the 10th year of these programs.
    I have done surveys the last three seasons and my friend, who is an NFS river steward for the Nestucca has done them for years before that.
    What we see in a main stem spawning river like the Nestucca is a down turn in active redds. Sorry I cannot supply you with the data you need right now but I will work on it and see if I can get ODFW to get me the information.
    I am skeptical of the numbers because from what I hear the Tillamook guides are doing those surveys and I believe they are cooking the books because the broodstock programs are most beneficial to them monetarily.
    What I do know and what ODFW has admitted is the failure of their fall chinook broodstock programs.
    Out of 70,000 juveniles released they are the SAR is .001%
    The district biologist Chris Knutsen gave me that information.
    Cutthroat data is available through ODFW and even though populations have not show significant increase and in some cases even declines in the last few years they opened a harvest anyway.
    It is widely know that ODFW director Roy Elicker has mandated that "anglers opportunities" be identified and that means harvest with less than compelling information.