Maggie says

Here are a few nuggets from the celebrated Margaret Atwood, who read in Tofino last Saturday from her new dystopic book, Year of the Flood. Still a lively and witty lady, and it was a good West Coast crowd that gathered to see her.

What most impressed me, though, was the co-reading given by her partner Graeme Gibson from his book, The Bedside Book of Beasts. What sounds from the title like a whimsical tour of the animal kingdom (real or imaginary) — and looks, at first blush, like a picture book of animals through the ages — is actually a meaty read, full of surprising thoughts and connections. There’s some deep thinking in it about the human characterizations of animals, and what that says about us. I came away wanting to buy a copy.

From my random, chicken-scratch notes of the evening:

Graeme:

Tree-hugger? Why not a tree-lover?!

Quoting someone: “The whole of Nature is a conjugation of the verb ‘to eat,’ in the active and the passive.”

“Forest bathing” (a.k.a. walking in the woods) … Nature Deficit Disorder…. Some interesting revelations about how time spent in wilderness eases behavioural disorders. People heal faster when they have a scenic view — even just a painting — as opposed to a relentless cityscape.

If you don’t have predators, you don’t have a forest. The predator-prey relationship informs everything about the forest.

Humans domesticate any number of other species, but we ourselves are the only evolved domesticate.

Some of Graeme’s recommended books: Thinking Like a Mountain (Otto Leopold); Last Child in the Woods (author?); Rogue Primate (John Livingston)

Maggs:

This is a book, and these are its covers. The advantage of a book is that you can close the covers and what’s in the book stays in the book. The job of everyone here today is to make sure what’s in the book doesn’t get out of the book.

Ecology as potential religion…? It’s here. Check out The Green Bible.

Once everything is owned by governments and corporations, there will be no neutral third party left to say “No, you aren’t allowed to do that.”

Do I have hope? Hope is built-in. Back in the paleolithic, if you were too bummed out to get out of bed in the morning to find something to eat, you weren’t around for long. We are evolved to hope.

Writing a book is a hopeful thing to do, in and of itself. You hope that you’ll finish it. You hope someone will publish it. You hope it will find readers, and you hope they’ll like it.

I want everyone here to make a pledge today. Coffee is the second most traded commodity worldwide, after oil. It has a huge impact. If you’re only going to do one thing, I want you to pledge that you’ll only drink shade-grown, organic, fair trade coffee from now on.

I’m about a third of the way through Year of the Flood. Tain’t timeless lit’ra’chure, but it’s interesting.

Dear, dear salmon

Sent in reaction to a Westerly News article (Nov. 29) headlined Salmon crisis on West Coast:

Dear editor,

That was a grim article (Salmon crisis on West Coast), on the slide of our West Coast salmon runs into extinction. For the people who are, on paper, supposed to be dealing with this — various DFO and governmental bureaucrats — it must be something of an embarrasment.

For those of us who live here in Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds, however, it’s a little more personal. Salmon is the phenomenon that has made human life possible on the West Coast for several thousand years, sustaining us along with (directly and indirectly) the whole temperate rainforest and all of its denizens.
That I should be living here at the time when this huge, ocean-spanning “resource” declines precipitously into extinction … well, that makes me feel deeply ashamed.

I have come to expect nothing more than lip service on these matters from my federal and provincial governments, whose aims these days, it seems, are strictly economic, coddling everything job- and profit-creating at the expense of the troublesome natural world.

But it is time, and well past time, for vigorous action on this front. What we’ll get instead, I expect, is arm-waving: “Oh, we don’t know exatly what’s causing the decline.” But if we wait for sciencific “proof” before we act, we might as well just go poison all those salmon streams ourselves right now.

There is a growing body of evidence that fish farming is implicated in the decline of wild salmon. It happened in Norway, where every fjord that harbours fish farms is now devoid of wild salmon. It has been well documented in the Broughton Archipelago by researcher Alexandra Morton, who is now in the courts forcing the federal government to live up to its legal responsibility. And it has been happening here in the West Coast for years — more industrial fish farms, fewer wild salmon — during which little has been done.

It is time to invoke the precautionary principle, which mandates erring on the side of caution when dealing with permanent extinction. At the very least, fallow the Clayoquot Sound fish farms during the period when smolts are running past them to the sea, which should ameliorate the sea-lice infection problem.

In the meantime, we must get onto the science to better understand what is happening. And we must fund hatcheries as a stopgap measure.

This is not like the forest, where if an old-growth area is logged, at least a semblance of what was once there eventually grows back. This is extinction — no salmon in those areas ever again.

I no longer expect my governments to act out of a sense of responsibility anymore, even when it means enforcing their own laws. But it is no longer acceptable to me to stand by while they dither as our wild salmon die. I dearly hope my fellow West Coast residents not only feel the same way, but will call and write their elected representatives to express their concerns.