Around the world, there's a sad resignation every time we turn on our cell phones in the morning to check the news headlines.
But the news that US President Donald Trump and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy struck what appears to be a backroom deal to push the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to drop its opposition to the Pebble Mine project in Bristol Bay, among all the exhausting headlines in recent days, is particularly galling to me.
It's not new to some of our readers, but might be to many, that the world's largest wild salmon run spawns in the very rivers that could be decimated should the massive planned gold, copper and molybdenum mine become operational.
In addition to the estimated billions the fishery generates for the world's economy, the ecosystem in Bristol Bay and the wider Bering Sea would face significant threats with a collapse in the stocks, on top of the dangers the waters already face from the warming climate.
Don't extraction industries such as fisheries and oil co-exist around the world, including in infamously sustainability minded countries such as Norway? Sure. But few of those pose such an acute risk to a single fishery's future. And mines, let's be honest, are different. Mines fail all the time. Like, all the time.
Having been born and raised in Bristol Bay, I'm absolutely biased. I owe a debt of gratitude to the region and its wild salmon, which helped fund my education and pay the bills. So in a very real sense, wild salmon is how I got here.
My relationship with gold is far less visceral, and far less informed, though I did my best in researching this column. According to the World Gold Council, which represents the gold sector's interests, and is a treasure trove of interesting facts and dubious assertions, gold plays a critical role in manufacturing, transportation, medication, communication, and the list goes on. I have no reason to believe that most of the council's information on gold's importance in the modern economy isn't true, and it's clear the world will need gold mines for the foreseeable future.
But from a consumer point of view, as a piece of jewelry, gold is just shiny. It's a nice accessory to your wardrobe, or a reminder of family. But it's still arbitrary; you could easily be wearing a chicken bone.
As journalists, our role is to do our best to balance impartiality with accepted societal notions of right and wrong. But objectivity has its limits, and it should. It's why we don't interview a woman whose house was just burnt down, then ask for a reaction from the arsonist that lit the fire.
I say all this to justify to myself a small compromise of that objectivity: I'm taking off my gold wedding band. No, the risk isn't great for me. My wife of 16 years couldn't be less worried: I'm 43, up at 4 am and in bed by 10 pm, and among my hobbies is looking at packages of seafood in grocery stores. Not exactly Mr. Excitement.
In a pre-emptive strike against critics, yes, I am writing this on a machine loaded with gold components, and everything from my phone to my teeth has elements of the mineral.
But the absence of my ring, though perhaps a broadly meaningless gesture, may serve as a reminder that everyone associated with the seafood industry around the world -- fishing, farming, processing, equipment and yes, journalism -- are stewards of a resource that is not guaranteed to exist without foresight, action and humility.
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