Thursday, May 5, 2011

I read a quote from Sarah Palin today-

"A faceless government is taking away their lifeline, water, all because of a 3-inch fish," Palin said. "Where I come from, a 3-inch fish, we call that bait. There is no need to destroy people's lives over bait."

   Thoughts like this are what lead to species extinction.  Sarah Palin is talking about the delta smelt.  A diminutive fish that seems to have no value except that it exists and is about to be extinct.  The issue is: Where do we draw the line?  Save only game fish? Save all fish?  What about the frogs and birds and the insects?   There is a great article written by David Quammen called "Synecdoche and the Trout" which appeared in the book Wild Thoughts from Wild Places.  Essentially, Quammen argues that the trout represent the environment.  Trout are an indicator species, which we can look to in order to help us understand what state the environment is in.  The bull trout is a perfect example; they can only live in the purest and coldest waters.  We can look to their numbers to judge the success of a stream restoration project.  Similarly, the plight of the delta smelt is an indicator of our overuse of water.  The more we drain the delta, the more smelt will die.
   We care about the smelt not because we want a smelt dinner or have a new delta smelt pattern we are dying to try out.  The line has to be drawn somewhere.  The plight of the delta smelt represents our indifference to the destruction of nature.  How much damage do we need to do before people can see the connection between leaving their sprinklers on in a rain storm and the extinction of a species hundreds of miles away?  The fight for the delta smelt is about water, and LA uses a lot of it.  The agriculture industry in southern California uses a lot too.  Their is so much water pumped out of the Sacramento delta that it flows backward when the huge pumps are turned on.  The fact remains that no one will tell you what to plant in your yard or how often to water your grass. We can only hope the connection between the hose, the delta and the fact that southern California would be nearly a desert without imported water will eventually sink in.
   As for Sarah Palin, she gets paid too much to say the stupid, uninformed and ignorant stuff she says, so I doubt anything will change her mind.