A Whole World of Issues

Over the last few years the fly fishing industry has taken giant steps forward in the arenas of photography and fly fishing.  The standard “grip and grin” photos and simple videos of people hooking fish after fish, after fish, after fish….after fish, are being replaced by photos and videos that create narrative and dialogue.  The industry has realized that so many are attracted to the beauty of the sport and the serenity of the places it takes you, and not just the reward of holding some massive fish for a photograph, and everything from advertising to magazines and blogs to guide service websites are adjusting accordingly.

But there’s another aspect of photo and video being tapped into:  its ability to call attention to the dangers that some of the world’s great watersheds are facing, which come in a multitude of sizes, shapes, and forms.  There’s the proposed Pebble Mine at the headwaters of the major tributaries of Bristol Bay in Alaska, or the mountain-top removal mining strategies of West Virginia; there’s the fight over water rights for agricultural needs throughout the western U.S., or the potential dredging of new cruise ship canals in the heart of the Florida Keys; there’s habitat destruction and the encroachment of civilization that leads to a multitude of environmental hazards throughout the world; there’s also commercial fishing issues in every ocean that affect the quality and quantity of fish that end up on our dinner plates.  One doesn’t need to travel very far from your doorstep to run into a potential hazard revolving around water and the fish that call that water home.  It is these struggles, as well as many others, that groups of fly fishing based photographers and videographers have been addressing at an ever-increasing level of effectiveness over the last 8-10 years.

The issue with all of this is that so often these videos and photos, and therefore the knowledge of and connection to these issues don’t make it very far outside of the fishing industry.  Issues like the Pebble Mine that are at the very forefront of the industry’s conscience is something few have heard of outside of it, and the blame for this isn’t limited to one side of the equation or the other.  Those of us within the industry often fall into the trap of assuming that the majority of those around us value the resource as much as we do, while we all as Americans often fall victim to a belief that all natural resources are indefinitely renewable either through the course of nature or through our scientific prowess.  At the heart of most of the struggle between the different stances on these issues is that they cause us to ask the following question:  does immediate financial gain from non-renewable resource extraction that often comes through potentially devastating and irreversible methods (mountain-top removal mining, dredging the ocean floor, etc.) always outweigh resources that are renewable if protected that bring economic resources at a slower pace (sport fishing, white-water rafting, access to clean water)?  For some, the answer to that is a resounding “yes”; for others, the answer is a passionate “no!”

This post is in no way an attempt to tell you what to believe, but is instead an invitation to enter into the conversation around these issues that affect us all in some way, and are literally all around us.  It’s my hope that you would check out videos like the ones done by Felt Soul Media (www.feltsoulmedia.com) around issues like Pebble Mine and dam removal that address both sides of the issue, by researching issues like farmed salmon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaculture_of_salmon), or by simply doing Google searches around water-based issues in your area.  If you’re interested in fly fishing-specific issues, there are tons of websites and blogs that give updates on nation and worldwide issues, as well as ones on your local level.  We all have an obligation to become informed consumers and informed citizens because the decisions we make don’t begin and end with us.  As the saying often attributed to Chief Seattle goes, “We do not inherit the earth from our parents; we borrow it from our children.”

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