We have become so disconnected from nature that we have forgotten what real food is. It is time to relearn how to live with the planet.
By Alexandra Morton (Professional Biologist; Founder of Non-Profit Salmon Coast Field Station for Research)
As I stand behind a young mother at the market checkout counter, the biologist in me wonders if my species no longer recognizes food. Item after item bears no resemblance to any food item that our species evolved to consume. Even the apples in the plastic bag were too toxic for any insect to touch. This would be like watching a mother bear trying to feed her cubs rocks and empty shells. I would not give that bear’s lineage high potential for survival. I look sadly at the mother, who without a doubt is trying her best to please and feed her children. She is just too distant from her roots as a living creature on planet earth to recognize what real food looks like.
Ten thousand years ago, glacier melt-water scoured the rocky British Columbia coast and the humans that first stepped into this landscape could barely survive. Birds brought the seeds of the hardy little shore pine, empty rivers beckoned to salmon as they swam past. Forest, fish, and humans hung on and eventually flourished.
These people’s lives depended on salmon and salmon are dependable because they return on a very precise schedule. The world around them can prosper if they set their clocks to the salmon. Legends and rules steeped the culture of the first people. They must have damaged some salmon runs and they must have learned from that, because without our current wealth of understanding of salmon biology, they managed the wild salmon runs extremely well.
They did this because their lives depended on it. I would argue we are no different today. In a world of corporate food experiments gone bad, there should be a global body created immediately to safeguard the remaining natural systems that produce clean air, food, and water. B.C. is one of these systems, and our wild salmon are a food resource we may dearly wish we had better managed.
Consider this. The city of Vancouver is a world-class city, producing waste like all other cities and yet one of earth’s largest wild salmon runs is still trying to migrate through its streets. This is a miracle, a gift no other city in the world can boast of! But, like the young mother, the city no longer recognizes food. The fish are vanishing and we don’t care because we think it has nothing to do with us.
Oh the folly of us humans. It pulls deeply at me as I have children and know we are risking their lives simply because we are disconnected and foolhardy. We actually think fish farms will feed the world. We drill deep into the earth, suck up oil, refine it, pour it into generators, all to throw food – real fish caught and moved the length of the planet and made into pellets – into pens where over-fed, fat farm fish defecate tons daily, despoiling the natural systems around them.
Lift your heads people and look at the sky. Power we cannot even measure blows storm clouds, oxygenating the ocean with waves, pouring water into watersheds where billions of salmon hatch. As they flow from the rivers, trillions of natural solar panels absorb the sun, making food which salmon collect and carry back to us land dwellers, and lay it at our feet even as they start the cycle over again.
This is the stuff of life. This is what made us. This is what we need. This is food security. We will live or die as a species based on whether we relearn how to work with the planet or not.