As a former commercial fisherman and owner/operator of a salmon troller, as well as one who lived near the Freshwater Creek watershed for many years, I was pleased to read last month's cover story, "For love and money: restoring salmon habitat" by Jim Hight.
Although he is both thorough and fairly accurate, I feel compelled to make two comments. First, we need to recognize that the core problem with restoring salmon habitat is perhaps "too little, too late."
While the concern and activism of commercial salmon trollers is acknowledged, nowhere does the article mention the years of "overfishing" by everyone. Perhaps Jules Rovai, an old Italian commercial fisherman said it best back in the early 1970s: "When we cross the bar, we almost sink the boat, fish in the hold, fish on the deck, fish to the top of the splashboards."
It wasn't just logging that stopped most of us from making a living at sea. We had a hand in it, too. Although salmon trollers were the initial activists in this fight, we need to acknowledge that years of damage cannot be repaired quickly.
As for the profits quoted in Hight's first paragraph, I disagree. Incomes began falling in the mid-1970s. By 1988, perhaps a record year elsewhere, the local season was shortened to a few days. I'd like to shake hands with any local independent salmon troller "with average luck" who cleared $90,000 that year.
This is an environmental disaster not only for the great salmon but for a way of life that is rapidly fading away. The folks who have made their living at sea -- with long hours, backbreaking work and an independence of spirit that matched the fish --Ýare gone. It saddens me to know that I will never see Johnny at the wheel of the F.V. Argo. My eyes fill when I see fish plants sitting vacant. My mind reels from the sight of hundreds of vessels on this coast, slowly being lost to dry rot, pile worms and age.
My great-grandfather, captain of a sailing vessel, would have been proud to see me reef and caulk a wooden boat, or navigate this coast, or untangle gear, or deliver fish. My own grandchildren don't know that I've ever been to sea. Maybe the salmon aren't the only losing species.
Suzanne F. Pitt, Eureka,
Editor's note: Last month, a column by Ron Ross called "Are we energy hogs?" produced an unusually high number of letters.
I'm amazed at how Ron Ross can be both so clear-sighted and near sighted at the same time. His point that "When voluntary exchange occurs, both parties benefit" is true. However, he completely overlooks the costs of pollution from fossil fuels.
The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world's population, does consume 40 percent of the world's energy output. The rest of the world is following our example. Yet as world energy use increases, so does the potential for greater pollution.
Economists recognize that spillover costs such as pollution are not automatically reflected in prices. Consequently, for society, prices solely determined by buyers and sellers tend to be too low and stimulate too much demand and too little technical improvement.
Are we energy hogs? Ron Ross' column notwithstanding, the answer is "Yes."
Dan Ihara, Manila
I'm really very happy that you print Ron Ross' column. He makes me think, and that's good.
Here's what his last column made me think:
1. Ron does financial planning for a living, yet his energy budgeting plan for the United States is this: Use up the finite and irreplaceable fossil fuels without any concern for energy bankruptcy because "someday we are bound to invent" an alternative.
So, if a welfare mother says, "I'll spend my check on a trip to Nevada to gamble because money for next week's food is bound to come from somewhere," she is modeling her financial planning on Ron's thinking.
2. Ron says we Americans shouldn't feel guilty about using up a disproportionate share of the world's energy. Why not? Because, he says, we buy the energy, and what's more, no one ever tells us "what corrective action to take."
How about not wasting energy on luxury and frivolity? We could start by defining for ourselves what is necessary for us and cutting back on the rest. Ron should like that; it's individual action without government intervention.
3. As for the idea that "we pay market prices" for energy which makes it okay to use it all up, the issue is not whether we pay for it, it's whether we do anything useful with it.
Squandering our inheritance is not wise, even if we do pay for what we get. We are not stealing from each other when we squander resources, but we are stealing from our children.
4. Who do we pay for it? We get a lot of oil from Nigeria, for instance. We pay someone for it, but is it the people of Nigeria? No, we pay oil companies and the rulers of Nigeria, neither of whom are likely to do anything useful for the people of Nigeria or the world with "their" money.
Yes, we should feel guilty about using up 40 percent of the world's energy. We should feel guilty about encouraging other countries to be energy hogs. We should feel guilty about using up all the world's petroleum supplies, estimated 20 to 30 years left, and not developing other ones.
Energy companies around the world are hooked on oil and actively discourage alternatives by buying up patents on new technologies and burying them. How many Americans are preparing to use solar energy or windmills when we run out of oil?
Most of all, we should feel guilty about polluting the world. The American love affair with cars has brought our country to a crisis in air quality. (Has Ron Ross never been in Los Angeles?)
We can no longer base all our decisions on economics; we must consider the quality of life. Do we want to live in a dangerously polluted world, or do we want clean air and water, even if that means conserving energy in a thousand different ways and perhaps relaxing our relentless drive for a "higher standard of living?"
Janice Parakilas, Whitethorn
Fossil fuels are a finite resource. True, there are other sources of energy such as nuclear, biomass, solar, thermal, hydro and wind. But these sources are inadequate to maintain the level of production and consumption we have reached.
My bigger objection, though, is to the total paradigm of energy consumption being good for the world. Maybe it is good economically, though our track record on equitable distribution of wealth is dismal.
Growth is undesirable ecologically, however. As we consume our finite resources; pollute the air, land and water; strip forests and cause erosion; thin out minerals until they are no longer economical to extract; and deplete farmland through conversion to urban uses; I fear we will leave our descendents just a few generations hence in an imperiled state.
Let's stop hogging the energy. Let us Americans set an example for the rest of the world.
Albert H. Huneke, Hoopa