David James Duncan is the author of The River Why and The Brothers K. He is also a committed environmentalist who speaks with his own memories of the salmon that once swam up the Columbia/Snake river system.
He adds his voice to the call to remove the lower four dams on the Snake River – built in the 1960s and 1970s – that would help restore the salmon runs in the Northwest.
I had written elsewhere of the plight of the southern resident population of Orcas in Puget Sound. Restoration of the Chinook runs would provide a healthy population of fish for the Orcas (resident Orcas do leave Puget Sound to hunt for fish).
His essay is both an elegy and a jeremiad.
It’s difficult to believe in his lifetime, and mine, Native Americans used dip nets to harvest salmon at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River – a practice that ended in 1957 when the Dalles Dam submerged the Falls and surrounding area.
Much of his blame focuses on the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). Starting with the need to provide power for aluminum production in World War II, BPA continued building dams and producing power to manufacture aluminum cans.
The results have been obvious with the decrease of salmon and steelhead runs. Add to that the increasing effects of climate change, and the salmon – and people – may not stand a chance.
There will be those who say this is just another “tree hugger” recommending things that will hurt the economy.
It looks to me like those who champion the economy above all else, except for their own profits, are creating a world in which there can be no economy. As David Brower wrote, there is no business to be done on a dead planet.
You can read his essay here.
I’ve head people say that