Thursday, August 13, 2009

What Will Tomorrow Look Like?

There's a human trait called landscape amnesia. It's the tendancy to see what you've seen in the recent past as 'normal' while forgetting about what your world was like a generation or two in the past. But it's more than an amnesia, it can be an anaesthetic numbing us to rapid change that ought to be stirring us to ask what's going on.

Another bad year for the Fraser River sockeye run. There's barely a million, million and a half sockeye returned this year. Sounds like a lot until you realize there ought to be another nine and a half million that are nowhere to be found. Nobody knows what happened. Nobody has seen anything like this before. The run totalled 1.4 million last year, 1.7 the year before that.

Our Department of Fisheries is left guessing. One idea is that rising ocean temperatures may have sharply cut the availability of plankton the sockeye feed on but that's just a guess. Who knows, maybe we'll discover that new predator species have travelled up from the south to take the salmon, spurred on by the earlier collapse of salmon stocks in California and Oregon (both states have shut down salmon fishing entirely for the second year in a row).

We were all taken by surprise this week when 300-500 giant Humboldt squid washed up on Long Beach near Tofino. Those things are supposed to be in the Sea of Cortez down in Baja, Mexico. They shocked the good people of San Diego last month when a mass of them washed ashore down there. How and why the Humboldt migrated up here no one knows.

The once rare giant sunfish, normally from the south, is now spotted fairly commonly in BC waters. Anchovies have moved into regions normally inhabited by herring. Humpback whales now have to migrate into the Beaufort Sea because the krill have moved north out of the Bering.

We're seeing these events with our very eyes and they're occuring over a span of years, not decades. Our ecological landscape is rapidly changing. Makes you wonder how long it will be until we forget the way it was around here even ten years ago. Makes you wonder what tomorrow will look like.


LMA said...

This is the theme of the '70s movie "Soylent Green", a scifi depiction of overpopulation leading to synthetic food which is actually human remains. As Edward G. Robinson's character Sol is being euthanized, he watches pictures of the earth as it once was, lush, green and populated with an abundance of wildlife. All gone and all but forgotten.

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm lucky LMA. I can still vividly recall what Canada and a bit of the United States was like in the 50's and early 60's.

Over the past half century we've resembled bacteria in a Petrie dish placed in a warm, dark, humid cabinet.

Natural means of growth weren't enough so we furiously developed artificial means to support growth. I wonder who was doing the math, calculating that with this technology and so much land and water and this type of seed and that fertilizer, we'd be swelling the carrying capacity to some modern day number - except that the water would run out and the land would become exhausted and the fertilizers would contaminate the groundwater supplies and so on?

I can't imagine that the current predicament was not foreseeable. We're pretty sophisticated in the arts of horticulture and agronomy today. Why didn't some of them notice we were riding a runaway train?

Even today, with all the environmental crises that have befallen mankind, our political classes are utterly besotted with the mantra of growth. Grow production, grow consumption, grow the population.

It's enough to make you sick.

Anonymous said...

The frogs are dying off as well due to a fungus no one knows how to control. I also remember what it was like to go out in the harbour in a dory and catch a cod three meters long. I also remember what fresh air really smells like. It's a no brainer that we cannot continue to populate (humans) as we are's the major resason we are in the mess we are. Now we are hoping we can get to Mars to continue our stupidity. It's a myth and a grown up fairy tale that God will provide. A. Morris