What ever happened to the precautionary principle? Did it go out the door with Locke, the enclosure of the commons, the birth of capitalism? Is caution the antithesis of making money? I sure as hell hope not, because then the planet and the people are really in a bind: If we want to keep living on the freedom of paychecks and global exchange, then the time we have to do it might be quite limited indeed.
Take, for example global warming. Some sort of systematic changes seem to be afoot, whether or not my lifestyle is the cause may still be questionable, but with the stakes as they are, who the hell wants to find out?
Take another example; marine salmon farming. Growing as many fish in as little space as possible with as little investment as possible. What do you think would happen if tomorrow you set up a cage filled with dogs on the edge of a forest? They would poop, drop food, generally be the delight of poor vermin in the areas. Rats and fleas, wild parasites too would come out of the woodwork and enjoy the feast. What about a local fox, lynx, or any sizable mammal? They’d probably be attracted by the excess food and whatnot, and then fall prey to the vermin, parasites and diseases that would invariably become endemic.
Wait, that’s not salmon farming (what is wrong with salmon farming?), that’s dogs in a cage, what the hell is the comparison? When we look a the vast endless ocean, we don’t really think of it as something we could easily pollute, like pissing in the neighbors swimming pool. But it doesn’t matter how big the pool is, piss enough and the water will eventually get dirty. This is the problem we’re facing with salmon farming right now. Next time you go to your grocery store check out the seafood section (don’t even get me started on fruit and produce . . .). You’ll see two delicacies that one generation ago would have cost you an arm and a leg. How the hell did shrimp and salmon get so cheap? Why is it that I can buy them wherever I go? The answers simple and you well sharpened crayons have probably figured it out; farming. Salmon and shrimp have become favourites of global capital; they’re seen as delicacies and people have for a long time paid a premium for them. That means, when they see it at a reasonable price, they gobble it up.
Now back to our dog pen analogy. We don’t see the oceans the same way we see the forest, but the similarities are there. We’re still talking about evolutionary development, niches, parasites and hosts and pollution.
But we, right now, are interested primarily in sea lice (even Fox News has reported on it).
Alexandra Morton is nearly a household name in BC, and has long been crusading against salmon farming in that province. She’s an interesting character and largely the driving force behind the Raincoast Research Society. Currently I hear much bitching about Morton. I’m working on a research project funded by the BC government, at a BC University (enacted by legislation, completely funded and ‘micromanaged’ – so says the dean of arts – by the provincial government), basically with almost $100,000 dollars granted to a PhD who is expected to report back to the government on hos this debate got so thick (over whether or not salmon farming and sea lice are threatening wild salmon with extinction, check out http://www.farmedanddangerous.org/, over a million dollars has gone under the same program to study genetics and biology of sea lice). What bothers me here is that 1) most of the salmon farms are owned by multinational corporations that left Norway because they didn’t want their fjords and related ecosystems ruined by intense aquaculture, 2) there seems to be little to no research coming out of BC universities seriously questioning the risks of salmon farming and 3) by the precautionary principle we should think first, act second.
I’m spent, today’s rant is short. Take home messages are to question your eduction system and the news you get (especially who pays for them) and to trust your gut. Thanks for listening kids, see you next time. And luckily because my readership is probably in the dozens (I’m dreaming . . . ), I don’t have to worry about my griping getting back to my bosses 🙂
Update: Check out Global Earth’s brand new climate change layering here