Last Sunday night, we gathered with our friends and neighbors to watch the PBS Nature premiere of Salmon: Running the Gauntlet. We're so excited that our issue, which is just as important nationally as it is regionally, is getting this kind of great exposure.
Going beyond the debate over how to save an endangered species, the film investigates the parallel stories of collapsing Pacific salmon populations and how biologists and engineers have become instruments in audacious experiments to replicate every stage of the fish’s life cycle. In its exposure of a wildly creative, hopelessly complex, and stunningly expensive approach to managing salmon, the film reveals one of the most ambitious plans ever conceived for taking the reins of the planet.
The story of salmon is one of the nature stories of our time – how we became entangled in the life of creatures at once resilient and fragile, manipulated and wild, and whether they, and we, might recover from that intrusion.
“If the fish were in any worse shape, they wouldn’t be savable, if they were in any better shape, people wouldn’t care as much. This is the time.” — Former Chief of Fisheries for Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Jim Martin.
But even as we watched the industrial side of the story, we were brought back to one crystal clear fact: salmon are survivors.
They aren't limping along because of the techno-fixes, they are fighting harder to live in spite of it. If we stepped up and took the one action that scientists have pointed to for decades — removing the four lower Snake River dams — it would be the largest river restoration in our nation’s history and a motivator for the rest of the country to “win the future” by building a bright future not just for salmon in the Northwest, but for other endangered wildlife and communities across the US.
Co-producer and writer, Jim Norton said:
If you give salmon a wild, free-flowing river, they will survive. The Columbia-Snake Rivers may not be in your own backyard, but the effects of this decision certainly will be. Take action to save wild salmon!
We hope audiences will simply celebrate salmon themselves – their truly extraordinary life history and why they stubbornly remain icons of wildness, resilience, and abundance. Certainly, we hope this episode will contribute to an appreciation of their role in stitching together oceans and continents, estuaries and alpine meadows, coastal rainforests and high deserts. By extension, people should come away with an understanding of why their decline is so consequential on so many levels.
Also, we hope audiences will explore the original assumptions that informed our approach to managing salmon – and how committed we remain to trying to make that story work despite 150 years of evidence that those assumptions might be leading us astray. At incalculable cost, we constructed a reality out of our illusions and have forgotten which is which. Maybe it’s time for a new story.
Read more about this fight, over on Patagonia's blog...
Watch the full episode of Salmon: Running the Gauntlet here.