Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Saturday, November 12, 2022

Climate change killing famed sockeye run

Sunday October 23, 2022 


Such a miracle is the salmon!

            Of the 4,000 or so eggs that a female sockeye deposits in the Adams River, B.C.’s most famous salmon run, only two will survive long enough to start a new generation.

            In between, those eggs hide deep in the river gravels to avoid freezing in the winter. Once hatched, the young salmon swim downstream to the lake, where they spend a year maturing. Then they swim 500 km down the Thompson and Fraser Rivers to the ocean, where their freshwater tissues and organs have to re-invent themselves for life in a salty ocean. 

            For three years, those sockeye salmon navigate way out into the middle of the world’s largest ocean, the Pacific. They go as far north as the Aleutian Islands and Alaska. They come all the way back down the coast to the Fraser River. 

            Where they do a second conversion into freshwater fish again. 

            And then the survivors of the original 4,000 potential salmon swim 500 km back upstream, somehow sifting traces of their home river’s unique chemical mix out of the turmoil of human waste, industrial pollutants, and the runoff of hundreds of other streams. 

            They haven’t eaten since they left saltwater. They’ve lost their silvery scales. Their mouths have developed hooked beaks like an eagle’s. Their backs have turned deep red.

            They have only one goal – a single-minded dedication to reach their own home stream, their own stretch of gravel, and start a new cycle of birth and life and death.


Four-year cycles

            There’s a salmon run every year. Every fourth year, though, is the biggest run.

            A week ago, I drove up to the Adams River to see what was supposed to be a banner year, a dominant year. 

            I’ve been there before for a dominant year. So many salmon were packed together, each one seeking the best grovel for spawning, that I felt I could walk across the river on their backs. 

            Not this year. 

            I never saw more than a dozen salmon together. 

            A couple of park rangers explained the problem. The water’s too warm, and too low. Almost a metre lower than it should be. Which affects stream flow. And leaves some of the best spawning gravels high and dry.

            Also about four degrees too warm. The river should be 7 or 8 degrees (Celsius); that day it was 11.

            “There’s a hundred thousand salmon milling about at the mouth of the river, waiting to come upstream,” said one of those park rangers. “They’re waiting for it to cool down.”

            Most of that dominant run, he said, will die before reaching their spawning destination.

            With a shock, I realized that global warming has – pardon the mixed metaphor -- come home to roost.


Canaries in the coal mine

            I’ve known about global warming, and its effects, for years. But it hasn’t hit me directly.

            In the great Heat Dome,  I had air conditioning.

            When the Atmospheric River of 2021 flooded the Fraser Valley and cut all highways to the coast, I wasn’t going anywhere anyway. 

            Forest fires were on the far side of the lake. Or the far side of the mountains.

            This summer, we had a prolonged drought. Since a cold and rainy June, we’ve had no rain worth mentioning. My lawn baked as brown as an oatmeal cookie. 

            Still, I knew it would come back

            But the salmon won’t come back. If that great mass of waiting salmon don’t make it to their destination, there will be only a few alevins and fry to make that four-year migration out into the Pacific and back. 

            The salmon are – to mix my metaphors again – the canaries in the mine. They warn us of impending dangers. They warn us to act before it’s too late.


We are the salmon too

            As an Indigenous leader said, long ago, “We are the salmon.”

            Whatever affects the salmon, affects us.

            Yes, we are the salmon. And the eagles, And the wolves. And the moles and the mushrooms and the sparrows. 

            As climate change rushes upon us, no individual, and no species, is exempt. 

            They are all my relations. And we’re all endangered.

            We’re long past the point of debating who did this. We did. Our ingenuity, our industrial technologies, have changed the world.

            I feel helpless. I can do nothing to help this year’ Adams River sockeye run. 

            I feel angry That we didn’t listen, 30 years ago, when scientists like David Suzuki first warned us about global warming.

            I look down into the clear running waters of the Adams River, and I ask myself, “What have we done to you, my friends?”


Copyright © 2022 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

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Your turn


No one told me I was wrong about Hockey Canada and its various policies and procedures for protecting the image of hockey in general, and Hockey Canada in particular. On the other hand, only one correspondent told me I might have been right. 

            Isabel Gibson wrote, “In trying to protect the abstraction of the game or the organization that supposedly exists to support the game, they have done grievous harm to both, while also harming the women who made complaints and the men who were the subject of them.

            “It's a lose/lose/lose scenario.”






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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think some of these links are spam.)

            Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.

            I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures. Her Thanksgiving presentation on the old hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, Is, well, beautiful -- https://www.traditionaliconoclast.com/2019/10/13/for/

            Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)



            The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns




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