At dinner with my parents yesterday, I had salmon. This is quite common, I often eat salmon when I’m at their place. But after dinner, my father commented “That might be the last of it.” At first I thought he meant that we’d eaten all of the salmon they’d bought, although I’d thought there was about half left… then he explained that he meant that it might be the last I’d have with them because salmon might no longer be available.
It’s been terribly overfished. It’s been overfished around Ireland to such an extent that it apparently might never recover. Wild Irish salmon might simply be a thing of the past.
I knew there was overfishing, but I didn’t think it was that bad, or that its ill effects were so close in time. But it is, and they are, and the worst thing is that this might be representative. Representative of the rest of the century, as we consume more and more of the planet’s natural resources. And more and more things that we take for granted—things that seem like mainstays in our lives—will disappear, possibly never to return.
Maybe the salmon situation isn’t quite that bad. Maybe it’ll make a miraculous recovery. The comment, and the harsh reality that’s behind it, is nevertheless extremely disturbing and upsetting. As a species we’re overtaxing our environment, and it’s so hard to see what any of us, as individuals, can do about it. Stop consuming? Would things have been better if I, and others like me, didn’t eat salmon? I have my doubts, and I think that without regulation of our resources we won’t be able to stop individual consumption. Without cooperation that involves accepting restrictions on what we consume, I don’t think we can address these problems. I don’t think there’s some other magic fix out there. Unfortunately, we may have already put ourselves in a position where nothing less than magic will suffice.
But no, I don’t believe that. In fact, that kind of fatalism probably makes things worse, because it feeds the mentality that there’s no point in trying to change things. There is, and even now we can make major strides. But the action necessary is becoming more and more radical as time passes.