Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Doubt and uncertainty in writing the future

I woke up this morning and didn’t know where I was. A strange place, but where? DC? No. Far from home…Europe? No. Scan the mental list, a slug of confusion and some seconds that seem like minutes, then oh yeah, Boston. Some stinking hotel in a random town on a freeway that could be anywhere. Ugh.

I’m in the middle of a haze, cross-country travel for 35 hours in Boston. A redeye flight and two days of work on one night’s sleep before flying home. Can this possibly be worthwhile?

The task is good. How shall we save the world’s oceans? Are there some evildoers we need to fight? Or is it a matter of gentle persuasion and seeking shared goals? And what’s to be our relations with the grand beasts of the sea who do nothing more than get in the way?

OK, awake and oriented, so now what. It’s 730 by the clock, but what good is that since it’s always 730 somewhere.

What shall we do? Who knows at this rotten 730. Maybe it’ll make sense after a coffee and bagel…oh what’s that?…some nice lox. Here’s a dilemma waiting to happen. Can I possibly scoop up this seductive slice onto the breakfast buffet toasted bagel? It looks good with capers. It has the right color, even if it comes from pigment-laced pellets. It’s salmon alright and a quicktaste says it’s good. Now it’s most assuredly not of the prime variety, sustainable wild Alaskan salmon caught by an enlightened Proust-reading calloused crew of cavaliers. No, more likely it’s the wrong kind, farmed Salmo salar grown in a netpen. But it’s the closest thing to an anchor that I can see and as I sink my teeth into the savory flesh I feel good about the choice. It’s food of the ocean and the fog begins to clear and I can see a way forward.

Thank you salmon, for salmon you are. Farm-raised or not.

Is it glamorous and fun to fly allover with my frequent flyer card and spout opinions on this and that? Absolutely. Is it a pain in the ass too when it comes with a 10:30 pm flight east and trying to sleep on a plane with one of those stupid eye masks, earplugs and a sleeping pill? Yes. Is it frustrating when my Great Wisdom fails to save the ocean overnight. Of course. Am I optimistic that we’ll bumble through and find a way to make tomorrow’s ocean better than today's? Believe it or not, I am. Now that I’m flying home over one Dakota or another, with a milelong list of what to do tomorrow, would I do it again? I suppose so.

What is this nutty addiction? Is it really Doing Good? I sure hope so.


Sophie said...

Yesterday I read about 'peak phosphorus' and the fact that we might empty phosphorus mines in 50 to 100 years, possibly endangering all productive agriculture in the future by wasting so much of it right now.
I asked myself : "how did plants grow when there were no humans to mine phosphorus ?". Well it turns out that salmon and bird migrations were the sources of phosphorus inland. Huge reproductive migration of salmon, which died massively after spawning, provided upstream zones with phosphorus. It was also dissipated by bears, who ate a lot of salmon. Migratory birds droppings were the other source.

Then I thought of how, in my country, bears have almost disappeared and the last ones are shoot by shepherds, and most rivers struggle to see a few salmons a year. As for migratory birds, well, colonies only remain in isolated islands.
And we are depleting the only other source of phosphorus available without thinking much of it.

Jives said...

Wow Mark.
If I'd have known Boston would have sent you on an existential zen koan I would have insisted on meeting up with you while you were here.

You've been doing this for a lot longer than I, so I don't really know what you're going through. But I will say this: your hotel room had a nice TV.

Now cheer up buckaroo!

natlaquarium said...

Hi Kate and Mark. I couldn't find a "contact" link on your page so I'm just posting here.

I wanted to let you know that the National Aquarium in Baltimore has launched a new blog that discusses everything aqua-related ( We like the information on your blog (conservation is paramount to us as well) and think your readers might also like ours - would you be open to putting us on your blogroll? We would really appreciate it. Thanks!

(You can contact us at NationalAquarium at

Mark Powell said...

natlaquarium: Done! Thanks for checking in. Contact for MP is in my profile, blogfishx (at) gmail (dot) com. Drop a note if you feel like it!

Mark Powell said...

Thanks Jives, would have loved to meet you in Boston. I didn't actually notice the TV until I saw the picture. Damn, that was some haze. Better now.

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