Leviathan Delusion in Paradise Lost

In the SJ Update Mailbag this morning, we have this letter from Steve Ulvi…

Glancing at caller ID on a recent snowy morning, I guessed that my old Alaska pal, Archie was riled up about something.   Most likely a retaliatory shot in response to the brow-beating I served up previously. I had been pretty steamed about the sheer insanity of Alaska oil revenue politics, opening the Arctic Refuge when we won’t need any more oil and trying to restart the abominable Pebble Mine idea. I let it ring and go to message, deciding whether to pick up.

“Hey Champ, if you ain’t too busy exfoliating or plucking your eye brows, pick up to hear some truth…”.

Warming to his familiar voice I jumped in “back away from the ledge and count to ten, Archie, the moon of booming ice is nearly over!”.

He laughed and slurped a spoon of piping hot, high-test brew through his three front teeth. He had most of his teeth pulled by an itinerant hack dentist, while in the fog of a hangover, after reading about some guy going around the bend due to silver fillings in a John Birch Society magazine in the 1980s.

Not one for polite chit-chat, my favorite chain-smoking libertarian gleefully launched into his favorite thread. A view that can be summarized in sanitized terms as ‘you gave up everything real to leave the wild northland and retire in the environmentally pummeled, foo-foo San Juan Islands’.

“I see that the legions of Orca worshippers have infected your Guv with their delusion that all the @%#@#* of the past century can be repaired just by throwing a billion dollars at it! Anyone ever hear of Humpty Dumpty? Hope in one hand, Champ, and spit in the other and see which gets full faster!”

Ignoring my quick jab about his odd infatuation with Sarah Palin, he launched into his full broad-side with vitamin D deprived vigor. “So let’s examine the divergent trend lines… after 100 years of mindless destruction of salmon, their natal streams and vital estuaries you have an exploding tech economy welcoming growth toward 10 million people clogging the shore lines by 2040. Your ‘pinko’ neighbors in Hockey Land are frothing at the mouth to send a lot more oil to Asia. Meanwhile nasty pollutants still flow freely into your fabled Salish Sea from the linear parking lot you call the I-5 corridor, Canadian toilets and your coddled Military-Industrial complex, who in their right mind would think…”.

Archie finally came up for air, so I tried to get in a shot “whoa there you freezer-burned curmudgeon, this three-pronged effort is widely supported and critical for…”.

He stopped me cold with a derisive snort and shared his blinding flash of the obvious (as though he was Perry Mason dropping an irrefutable cluster-bomb of fact on his sleepy prosecutorial opponent).

“This Orca crisis didn’t just happen! Same old capitalist mantra for growth and jobs! Forget any precautionary principles! Technology will bail us out if you just give the free market a chance!”. In the short pause, I could hear Archie noisily gumming his favorite snack of saltine crackers smeared with mayo, as he forged ahead, “Look out your window!   Your Canuck friends are going to destroy the Fraser River salmon while bowing and scraping at the feet of new industry and defending filthy Norski fish farms. You all gloat over cheap hydro-power that has burned up at least a billion salmon in Washington alone!”

I could tell that Archie had put on his glasses so he could read from scratched notes, with the cadence and tone of a wide-eyed Baptist preacher. “Your swarming, un-capped Whale Watch Industry is touting the same ol’ big lie about ‘visitor learning is appreciation leading to preservation’ that Sea World has used to justify its Orcacide over many decades. You have an untouchable Recreational Sport Fishing mega-business that has all but eliminated family commercial fishing and burns more gas, to chase fewer, smaller, fish every year”.

“But, by far the biggest threat to salmon are the legion of biologists and politicians who agree to ignore ‘shifting baseline syndrome’ about salmon numbers over time in order to collect a paycheck. And best of all, the so-flag-waving-proud, highly subsidized farmers and ranchers and their captive legislators, that never give an inch to restore free flowing rivers and crippled salmon runs without a nasty fight. Or maybe even a made for TV National Refuge building takeover!  They would rather bank on their stinking cows and sheep running roughshod on public lands darn near free, than think about saving salmon for the greater public good. Salmon, the magnificent life-blood of the entire Pacific North West, are on the ropes.”

I lamely spit out “switch to de-cafe Archie! I agree with most of your rant, but how can anyone in good conscience, with an eye toward future generations, do anything less than pull out all the stops at this stage?”

“Problem is Champ, by the time lobbyists get done slowing these eleventh-hour efforts, the cascading impacts of climate change will be discombobulating everything we think of as normal. The masses who blindly ignored the high-risk crap game being played by corporations and lapdog officials gambling on your future, will be running in circles with their hair on fire about the economic collapse. Like it came out of nowhere just like Hurricane Katrina didn’t”. Archie calls me Champ because on one boozy evening of boredom, I bested him by forty seconds in a stupid “ferret down trousers” contest that required a box of band aids and a full tube of Neosporin afterward (no ferrets were harmed).

“Hold on Archie, I have a lot of faith in our earnest Governor working toward the best for Ecotopians….”.

“Give me a break, Champ, we have legal weed in Alaska, too! A lotta good he will be trying to sell his plan to reluctant working Washingtonians while out on the national campaign trail. He’s trying to sell climate change as an imminent crisis, to people who don’t care. Jaded regular folks would rather have a root canal without drugs, than give up their big shiny SUVs, poisoned green lawns, and garbage cans filled with plastic junk and food waste. Meanwhile, back home three-piece suit lobbyists and Eastern side knuckle-dragging politicians in Olympia will gleefully slash every tire on his pretty plan while he is away in Podunk, Ohio and Rustbelt, Michigan posing in front of the cameras…”.

“Seriously, you should know that the scores of Orca protection non-profits and ambulance-chaser scientists in the end will accomplish very little but self-employment, obtuse published papers and slick bumper stickers while claiming to save these harried Blackfish. Of course, we will know vastly more about them than we do about any of the other hundreds of organisms now being driven to extinction, but for what? Why don’t you all just leave those magnificent buggers alone so they can adapt, migrate away or perish with some dignity surely earned by surviving just fine for 800,000 years?”

Before I could respond, I heard Archie grunt “hold on now”, and his chair scrape the floor while he fumbled with a can of Prince Albert and rolling papers. I pictured him pulling on his ratty parka and heading out the arctic entry to stand and smoke, while proudly gazing on his piles of blue-tarped junk and gloating after successfully yanking my chain.

Feeling really good about himself, he blurted a parting shot, “hey, always fun talking with you Champ, any chance that you and your chi-chi friends down there could focus on just salmon or even rally around saving something really important like the Rusty Patched Bumble bee, rather than that one small group of Blackfish so very unlucky to live in those trashed waters?”

Posted on March 7, 2019 at 5:45 am by

Categories: Environment, Letters, Nature, People, Wildlife


  1. That was entertaining! Funny and sobering all at the same time. Thanks for writing it, Steve, and thanks for posting it,Tim.

    Comment by Shaun Hubbard on March 7, 2019 at 11:18 am
  2. Excellent Tim!

    Comment by David C Weed on March 23, 2019 at 1:40 pm

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