Artificial Future on the Horizon
About an hour south of Humboldt on the Trinity River lies a small, old beat down cabin in the woods. Here I reside for most of my summer days in the same way my father, grandfather and great grandfather have done in decades past. This is where our family traditions are held and holidays are celebrated, it is the heart of our family, however it is beginning to bleed.
It’s a hot summer day in the middle of June, the heat is scorching off the rocks as I am tying my fishing line on the bank. I cast over and over anxiously waiting for any type of feeling at the end of my line. Finally I feel some tension, my line tightens and adrenaline rushes through my body. My moment has come. I reel in frantically and slowly see my catch emerging from the depths of the river. It’s a branch from a dead tree and my heart sinks into my stomach. I untangle my line and cast again questioning more and more each time why It is that I continue to do this. Stories of incredible catches and fishing days that my relatives have told me my whole life quickly come to mind. I stand patiently with my line in the water, envious of these stories that motivate me to continue on. Suddenly something catches my eye, it’s a shiny object floating down the river near the top of the surface. I step closer to the water to get a better look and am heartbroken by what I see. It’s a large, half-dead salmon that is to weak to swim up current in order to complete its life cycle and reproduce. It’s at this point that I realize I’m not living in the same world that is mentioned in the stories by my relatives.
I would end up seeing about ten more of these struggling salmon throughout the summer and many more dead on the banks. It is not uncommon to see a dead salmon rotting on the bank, but only in the months of September and October. This is because they swim to shore to die after reaching their original birthplace and spawning their eggs. All of the salmon I saw throughout the summer were unable to do this and therefore never completed their lifecycle, harming generations to come.
Concerned about what I had seen I contacted my great grandmother who has owned the cabin since 1934 and has lived on the Trinity River her whole life. I regularly call her when at the cabin to tell her how everything is going and how the river is running because it is difficult for her to visit due to being nearly 100 years old. These are some of my favorite conversations and always end on a positive note, however this one was entirely different. She was devastated by what I told her. She had never seen or heard of a half dead salmon floating down the river in the summer in her lifetime.
My distraught grandmother went on to discuss the wildlife that she had seen vanish in her lifetime. She explained a time when quails, foxes, eagles and bears could be seen on a regular basis, all of which I have only seen a few times or never. I never realized what I was missing out on and that other species in the area have already gone through what I was seeing happen to the salmon. Curious about why this is I asked her what was different from the time she started coming to the cabin in 1934 and now. She responded “greed”. Her simple one word response has made me question the way I live my life. She went into detail on how pollution has taken its toll on the local wildlife and how people have abused the land to their advantage. She stated a big difference in wildlife after an energy company built four dams on the Klamath River which feeds into the Trinity. These dams limited the water supply and stopped salmon in their tracks, damaging the whole
My grandmother finished off our conversation bitter towards the human race. She explained how all of these issues were caused by humans and encouraged me to work to reverse some of the damage. She expressed concern that salmon could easily go extinct in our area if changes are not made. Upset about our conversation she finished it by emotionally stating “Well I just hope that your children are able to live in a world where humans aren’t the only species, because that’s where things are headed”.
I hang up the phone more concerned than I was before, now wondering what it is that I can do to undo some of the damage that has been done. Questions rush through my mind. What is the next step to take? How can I inform others? How can we reverse the damage? How can we save the salmon? It’s time to start addressing these questions so that our future generations don’t have to live in an artificial world.