So, a Philosopher Walked into a Meeting of the American Fisheries Society
And here is what I said: As a philosopher, I want to thank you for the honor of being invited to address fisheries scientists, and I want to acknowledge the courage and risk-taking behavior of the people who issued the invitation, especially because not many people think of philosophers as the life of the party.
But I am a philosopher, and a nature writer. I teach critical thinking and environmental ethics, and write some extremely damp essays about northwest rivers and southeast Alaska islands.
But about three years ago, thanks in part to the work of many of the visionaries in this room, I started to realize that it isn't enough. Not nearly. Not even close.
It's not enough to celebrate frogsong, as frog species disappear one by one, and the frogs in my pond grow four hind legs.
I can't write about the healing power of marshes, even as they are buried under Kmart parking lots, stinking of tar.
It's not enough to write as beautifully as I can about salmon spawning and dying, when entire runs are gone from the rivers.
It isn't enough to love my little grandchildren, and let their world drift away.
I love this good earth, and I'm very fond of its life forms. That love calls me to a different kind of work.
I think about you and your working lives on the advancing edge of climate disruption, and I wonder how you are doing. Aldo Leopold said, "The cost of an ecological education is that we live in a world of wounds." If that's true, then the total cost of the education of the people in this room is high enough to break our hearts.
You are the ones who are keep track of the changes in the chemistry of oceans,
you are the ones who list the lost species,
you graph invasive species,
you draw the ecological baseline - that great line in the sand,
you predict the fall of rain and the returns of salmon,
you have made a science of restoration, a science of coming along behind the great improvised explosive device we call western industrial capitalism and trying as well as you can to make the world whole again.
What can I say to you? I can say thank you, and mean it. The heroes of our time will not be the politicians (obviously) or capitalist giants. It will be the people who are trying to understand how the world works, in order to give it at least a fighting chance. Thank you.
And I can talk a little - not about how we can respond effectively to climate destabilization (that's your job) - but why we must. And how we will find the strength, the moral courage, and the sustaining hope that will allow our work to go forward.