The Way of Wild Salmon
Driving over Snoqualmie Pass two weeks ago, the larches shone gold on their Eastern slopes. Aspens and alders and vine maples shimmered red in the morning light. There’s no wonder the passing of things are marked in such a resplendent way. This march toward home – toward winter – toward death and the glint of new life beyond should be celebrated. It is The Way of things. We can no sooner stop the coming of winter than stop the colossal power of the river behind us by planting our feet stubbornly on the river-bottom.
Salmon show us the Way. As they always have. If they always will, remains in great part now, up to us. As David James Duncan writes, salmon give of themselves – until they have no more to give and by giving, bestow new life upon the Earth.
If ever there were a time to give, it is now. But how?
In The Breach, we had one call to action: Eat Wild Salmon. Eat Wild Save Wild. This seems counterintuitive at first blush. Why would you kill something you purport to love? But the contention has been and remains, if we demand wild salmon on our plates, we will demand the pristine habitat for them to continue coming back to us in perpetuity.
But what else is there? Love Something.
In our new film, The Wild, we focus solely on the issue of the ongoing threat of the proposed Pebble Mine potentially being built in the headwaters of the largest wild salmon run on Earth in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The central question in The Wild is:
How Do You Save What You Love?
Well, as implied, first of all you have to love something. Love slays fear. Love diffuses the minefield of chaos, fake news and corporate double-speak. Love needs nothing else. It is the soft, strong weapon of the heart. And it is enough by itself.
We humans have this other incredible organ, protected by armor, perched on our necks. It has reduced human suffering by eradicating disease, found more efficient ways to feed ourselves, move our physical bodies from place to place and communicate with each other in almost miraculous ways.
Our brains have also gotten us into a lot of trouble. And it almost always comes back to one arrogant thought. We can out-think nature. Especially in our relationship with wild salmon.
For hundreds of years we’ve dismantled the forests that cool and protect salmon spawning streams. We’ve vastly over-harvested salmon – shoving mountains of their bodies back into the water to rot when they couldn’t be processed fast enough. We’ve completely blocked their spawning rivers with dams and to this day are still thinking we’ve come up with better solutions than nature’s way of free-flowing rivers. The latest offering is to shoot salmon over these dams with a “Salmon Cannon.”
And when we sufficiently destroyed and disrupted wild salmon’s migration routes to the point of species collapse – we once again averted our gaze from the mirror and deferred to our thinking machine and decided “Hey! We don’t need to curtail any of this resource extraction business that makes a very few very wealthy for a very short time – we’ll just make fish instead! Then we won’t need those bothersome rivers at all!” Thus began the age of hatcheries and fish farms – making fish with our technology instead of simply taking care of the perfect system already in existence.
The question now is where do we go from here?
Right now, in Bristol Bay, the threat to its wild salmon runs is once again rising – and quickly. The folks at the Pebble Limited Partnership are back at it, emboldened now by a Trump Administration EPA who will stop at nothing to aid them in their quest to get permitted for their massive copper and gold mine in the headwaters of Bristol Bay salmon country.
This last Wednesday, I interviewed Tom Collier, the CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership for his perspective. One of the final questions I asked him was, “What do you say to all the pro-resource-development, Trump-voting Republican fishermen I’ve spoken with, on the record, who despite their social and political leanings still think this is the wrong mine in the wrong place?” His answer was short:
“I tell them…get ready…”
Here in the Pacific Northwest, there are still a few remnant salmon in our local streams in their brilliant spawning colors – the golds and reds of remnant autumn leaves in the trees above them coruscating in late-autumn light. I took a couple of my young nephews and nieces to see them last week and they were awed, the same way I was (way) back in the 1970s when I saw these big fish in small water for the first time.
Wealth beyond measure.
Those salmon and those trees don’t need to be told when it’s time to change color or how to find their way home – and they can’t, and won’t, find a way to bypass winter.
Because they accept The Way.
And because they are bound by a deep, mysterious love – a force far greater than themselves. That’s what happens when you sacrifice your immediate want for the need of harmony and wellness in the world for ages, stretching into millennia.
So now, I ask you what I’ve been asking myself for the last two years when trying to out-think the current situation we’ve put ourselves in.
How Do You Save What You Love?
Join me on this journey as we prepare to release The Wild into the world in 2018 – and let’s discover how to save what we love, together.