Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Week in Wellesley with David James Duncan

Once upon a time, I spent a week in a magical winter wonderland called "The Frigid North," and completely neglected this blog. 

This is acceptable, because A. it felt good to de-internet in a Dr. Seussical place like this...



...and B. blogs are just bottomless pits of narcissism, where you can do whatever you want. 

So there. 

I am grateful you've decided to drop by, though, so I'll reward your patronage in two ways. First, I'll hit you with a little more Massachusian beauty, to lull you into a state of natural-wonder-euphoria...



...and second, I'll get you riled up about protecting said natural wonder, with an expansive quote from the afterword of the splendid novel The River Why, by David James Duncan. 

DJD is one of my favorites because A. He's such a good writer he makes me feel like an ignernt hick with the expansiveness of his (hilarious) wisdom, and B. I once wrote to him to whine about a hard time I was having, and he replied with a beautiful letter that made my eyes leak. I read The River Why for the second time, this past week, and it was just as good as the first.

If you haven't yet read Duncan's work, do so. Until then...

"... When I finished The River Why twenty-some years ago, there were some changes I saw coming and some I didn't... I did not foresee the end of sustained-yield forestry. I didn't foresee the sacrifice of National Forests and healthy rivers for the long-term good of no one, the shamelessness and ruthlessness with which the timber-rape politicians would lie, the short-term effectiveness of their lying, the spiritual suicidalness, biocidalness, deicidalness of it. I didn't forsee the futility of local protests against the rape, or the danger of even the most nonviolent protestdidn't foresee, for instance, that friends of mine who passively resisted herbicide helicopters poisoning their home water supplies, and were sprayed for their courage, would now be dying of degenerative nerve diseases.
. . .
     The darkness of almost any conceivable River Why sequel is one reason I chose not to write one. I didn't foresee a breed of CEO willing to sacrifice the last giant redwoods to balance corporate debt created by junk bonds. I didn't foresee the wild salmon of the Columbia/Snake driven toward extinction to balance a California power deficit created in large part by criminal accounting practices at Enron. I didn't foresee the unmonitored international orgy of trawlers now clearcutting the ocean floors, bringing collapse not to a few but to potentially all of the great ocean fisheries.
     And I didn't foresee, God help us, the coming of the Anti-salmon. I had glimpsed, but hoped we'd outlaw, the frothing superstitions that govern the 'science' of corporate monoculturalists and genetic gamblers. Instead, yesterdays outlaws now concoct their own tax breaks, government, and laws. I never foresaw a day coming when the provincial government of British Columbia would fire its fisheries biologists as it did in 2001, let corporate ignoramuses call the biological shots, and set loose upon the oceans, the rivers, and the world's supper tables a 'farmed Atlantic salmon' that is in fact a genetic mutant shot full of antibiotics to counteract the fact that it's grown in pens saturated with its own excrement and raised on a diet consisting largely of slaughterhouse offal.
     During the investigation of mad cow disease, The New York Times blew the whistle on the stream of animal protein now used to fatten corporate meat-animals for slaughter. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy broke out when cows were forced by corporate notions of efficiency to cannibalize their own kind. Multinational meat-growers now feed a grind of similarly mangled protein to chickens, swine, shrimp, and farmed salmon. In the United States this protein stream includes pets: euthanized, ground-up pets. The city of Los Angeles alone sends two hundred tons of dogs and cats to rendering plants each month, where they become sacks of feed just one remove from our tables and bloodstreams.
     Net pens and mad-cow feedlots are similarly filthy incubators of contagion. 'Mad salmon disease' is plausible. Other net-spawned diseases are already wreaking havoc with wild Pacific salmon. Even without major contagions, escaped net-penned 'salmon' drove the wild Atlantic salmon of Norway to extinction via genetic mutation in just eleven years. Life-forsaking corporate thought has bequeathed us an industrial parody of the god-given life cycle of salmon. British Columbian 'farmed salmon' are now the most widely sold species on the market. By underpricing those who catch wild salmon, the purveyors of mutation are wiping out Indian cultures and fishing communities. Net-pen fecal material, too abundant to be flushed by tides, is changing the ecology of British Columbian estuaries. Seals, sea lions, and every fish-eating bird are routinely shot on sight by the 'farmers' protecting their 'crop.' Killer whales are in decline for lack of the mammal species that are their prey. 'Farmed fish' escape net pens by the tens of thousands, carrying mutated genes and infections into the open seas, spawning in rivers, and competing with wild salmon for habitat and food while their corporate guardians deny all of this and blackball biologists and journalists working to expose it.
     'Farmed salmon' also threaten to negate the meaning of literature by destroying the world depicted in novels like this one. I'm sorry to be reduced from storytelling to the clanging of alarm bells, but please: know that the things in restaurants and supermarkets labeled 'Atlantic' or 'farmed' salmon are not. Genetically barred by their captors from ever becoming true salmon, they're an antibiotic-laced, cess-pool grown, disease-spreading abomination that threaten all salmon and salmon-dependent organisms, including even an organism called literature.
     To support wild salmon, eat wild salmon. It's a strange paradox, I realize.
     So is the Eucharist feast."

A lengthy quote, yes. But seeing how Duncan and I are pretty much besties, I'll go ahead and violate whatever copyright laws I've got to in order to help get the word out. 

Have a grand Christmas season. Do something useful. Fight the power. 

- - -
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