A fishing story
A new book about our planet’s future – our future, in fact – is just out, The Uninhabitable Planet by David Wallace-Wells. Despite the title, the book surveys both the threats and the solutions that are now available, without the usual pious “hopes for future technological solutions”. Yet, as the author concludes, the biggest puzzle remains “with a world of solutions – we chose doom.”
Why do we assume the worst? Why stick our heads in the sand, hoping it’ll all blow over or we’ll each be gone before the worst hits? Why so much pessimism when optimistic and realistic remedies exist?
These questions wouldn’t stop ringing in my head, until I recalled a winter vacation to a smallish fishing village on Mexico’s west coast, the undeveloped Costa Brava. The town’s beach is lined with big skiffs, each with a powerful outboard motor, used by two-three fishermen every pre-dawn to noon. We loved buying fresh fish and cooking them ourselves. Red snapper, mostly, but also a mackerel-type white fleshed fish, plus other species.
Yet, waiting my turn in the fishing co-op warehouse, where they sold the fish, set out on crushed ice, I was surprised to see not only a few nice-sized snapper and mackerel, but piles of small torpedo-like fish, and plastic bags full of very small multi-coloured fish I couldn’t identify. They might have been tiny snapper, weighing a few ounces each. The women picking up the bags must have planned fish soups, sauces, or ground-fish dishes. There were small octopuses and squid.
The fishermen were keeping everything they caught. No size limits, no protected species – everything.
They had to. They needed every cent they could pull from the sea – to pay for the boats and motors, monthly, all the equipment and gear – as well as support their families, probably each extending over three generations.
“Species loss” is one of the threats Wallace-Wells details facing our planet. He cites startling numbers, and startling predictions for life left in the oceans. But these fishermen won’t read this book, and all the explaining, lecturing about species crashing, global warming and storming, plus our growing population tsunami – all this information won’t stop these fishermen from bringing in every single thing from the local reefs.
Far out and closer to the port of Manzanillo are gigantic shapes on the horizon, cruise liners – and factory-fishing vessels.
These fishermen, and our own loggers at home, need solutions which can be explained easily – and which lead to measurable results. Appeal to any expert we wish, their solutions must solve the economic/social/educational causes of this extermination, within a year. Maybe two years.
The point is that “solutions” must end the problems. Recipes for long-term evolution, for attitudinal changes, for complicated chains of actions which ultimately might result in a solution – these are near useless.
Ideology is irrelevant. No ideology so far has steered humanity away from destruction. Some may make it easier but ideological rants are a waste. Each crisis has to be stopped in it tracks, not become an argument for a political position. No predictions, no historical explanations – just solutions. Within a year.