Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sushi restaurant serving whale meat in Los Angeles is closing

© 2010 Joshua Stark

I'm sorry you missed out on the Sei whale special, but if you didn't get down there for it, the L.A. Times reports that you are too late.
This is just another example of the truth of the world, that we do need laws to protect the environment, even when we think that the laws are superfluous due to public pressure.

A few years ago, I was privileged to sit in on a discussion about access on our public lands.  The forum, organized by the National Park Service, housed a fine number of some of very thoughtful land managers, rangers, and professors concerned with the subject, and much of the conversation was wonderful and enlightening.

One professor, however, did stray into unfortunate territory on the topic of how to increase lackluster visitation.  He said, effectively, that fewer boots on the ground meant fewer impacts on the resource.

This is a comforting fallacy, but devastating in its falsehood.

I stood up and immediately commented that these resources are always going to be "used" for one thing or another.  There are companies who would be more than happy to log protected sequoias (just like they are logging unprotected ones), or mine El Capitan.  It sounds preposterous, but if folks will sell and eat endangered whales in downtown Los Angeles, then know for certain that nothing in this world is safe unless we declare it so and protect it.

Remember, there are people in this world who buy and sell people.  What is a mountain top to them?  What is a bird?

The only counter to these ills is to declare things protected and valuable in and of themselves. And the only way to get people to agree to that is to let them experience the beauty and awe of these places.

Experience.  That means access.

At the same conference, I heard a story about a person wanting to keep Yosemite Valley completely pristine, arguing to seriously restrict access to it.  She argued, "how will we create the next John Muirs of the world?" if Yosemite Valley weren't pristine?

She had forgotten that John Muir was made precisely by being in Yosemite Valley.  If he hadn't had those experiences, there would have been no Muir in the sense that she knows him.

She had also forgotten that John Muir spent thousands of hours in Yosemite Valley... logging it. 

Of course we need to manage access in a way that minimizes the negative impacts of our presence while enhancing our positive impacts, but if we don't get folks into these places, they won't care about them.

And when that happens, the whale-eaters move in.


Cork Graham said...

Nice meeting at Hank's goat shindig, Josh. Great description about the difference between conservation and preservation: one very much part of the natural world, the other a fabrication by humans.

Hunters are a dying breed and as a result, the funds from hunters that would be collected through the Pittman-Robertson Act to improve, and protect, habitat for game and non-game animals continues to dwindle...

Josh said...

Cork, nice to meet you to, and thanks for stopping by here!

I have a slightly different take on preservationism vs. conservation, as I think they are both human concepts that have grown with us for untold millennia. As tribal and familial societies, humans often keep certain places off-limits, usually for religious purposes, but in the context of a religion that is very attuned to the local places. As humans developed an agrarian life, we also learned about fallowing land and overconsuming resources (or we didn't, at our peril).

The past century, our greatest outdoorsmen developed this concept on a national level - the National Park System - as an act of conservation: places where species can replenish, great landscapes can be maintained and preserved, and where people can access, but must do so differently.

In a nutshell, I believe that preservation fits into the larger concept of conservation, and I believe conservation fits into the larger concepts of impact, place, and responsibility. I often find myself caught between the disparate factions arguing about access because of this (for example, I'm in favor of roadless areas AND no quota in Yosemite Valley).

Your Pittman-Robertson comments are dead-on right in my opinion - and a fact I use when I tell environmental organizations that they need to help bolster hunting and hunters' numbers.