Save Salmon, Save Ourselves

The Revelator –

If you want to know how well the environment is faring these days, look to the fish. Especially salmon.

“Our greatest assaults on the environment are visible in salmon,” writes author Mark Kurlansky in his new book, Salmon: A Fish, the Earth and the History of Their Common Fate.

Following decades of environment abuses, salmon populations in many places, especially the Atlantic, are in dire shape. Some Pacific runs have disappeared, too, and most populations are greatly reduced. Farmed salmon now outnumber wild ones.

How did we get here?

Kurlansky takes readers on a long historical trip to communities throughout the northern half of the world — anywhere you can or could find salmon — to understand how the fish went from ubiquitous to imperiled. Along the way he reveals the role of salmon in historical and contemporary indigenous communities, the destructive march of industrialization, the complicated role of hatcheries, and the growing threat of climate change.

“Human inventiveness keeps proving inadequate for replacing the natural order,” he sums up.

Salmon, Kurlansky’s 33rd book, is part natural history and part cultural history — there are even a few recipes. And it’s reminiscent of some of his previous hits including, Milk!: A 10,000-Year Food Fracas and Salt: A World History.

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