When I was growing up in a small fishing village on the Oregon Coast, I never gave a second thought to the possibility of running out of natural resources. Whether lumber, fish, trees, or whatever, there was always an abundance. I can recall going down to the protective rock jetty at the boat basin with a handmade spear consisting of a stick and a coat hanger and stabbing flounder after flounder as they came in with the tide through the rocks. Or putting four hooks on a fishing line and dangling it from a boat in the sheltered harbor at Sunset Beach and pulling up four hooks filled with black cod every time we lowered our lines. My brother and I used to go out behind our home, which was attached to the back of my dad’s tavern. There were a bunch of old cars turned upside down and sideways in a swampy area. We would spend hours with our BB buns shooting waterdogs as they rose to the surface. For those of you who don;t know, these are a type of salamander apparently called mudpuppies in some sections of the country.
We typically did nothing with any of these “prey.” We wouldn’t eat them or give them away. As far as I remember, we’d just dump them back in the water or probably leave them to rot on a beach. Looking back, it is embarrassing. But that was the culture where I lived. Salmon fisherman were out to take as many cohos and chinooks as they could and they began complaining when the government started talking about setting limits. Lumber companies–Weyerhauser, Menasha, Georgia Pacific–raped the steep hillsides of Douglas-Firs, Western Hemlock, and Port Orford Cedar until forced to restock with seedlings and to leave large stands of choice timber alone.
Today, of course, the world faces one of its worst environmental dangers, the potential destruction of our planet because of greenhouse gases. As 70 nations meet to discuss the damage and remedies, most of us citizens go about our business polluting just as we always have. Cutting back on emissions would be a nuisance and an inconvenience. After all, there are plenty more waterdogs in the pond.