Salish Sea Restoration Camp

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Both communities and students are disconnected from the incredible challenge of ecosystem management occurring around them. A broad community of NGOs, and tribal, local, state and federal governments are all struggling with how to manage our culturally trajectory toward ecosystem collapse. While temperate rainforest ecosystems are incredibly resilient, population growth and climate change threaten to permanently damage the fundamental earth systems that sustain the productivity and biodiversity of the Salish Sea ecosystem. At the center of this collapse are Pacific salmon. These highly migratory populations are the keystone of ecosystem productivity, and have sustained civilizations in the Salish Sea since time before memory. The loss of Salmon is, under out current trajectory assured. It will be like the loss of the buffalo, in that it will signal a practically irreversible transition in ecosystem state that will leave us, and our children forever poorer.

This trajectory is reversible. We have the means and the knowledge. We lack a shared cultural pattern of how to become stewards of this ecosystem. We lack the social technology to create shared knowledge and pass it to our children, and to the 100,000 people who move the the Salish Sea every year. Without that social technology, all the work, and learning, and efforts of my entire industry will come to nothing. In 20 years, we have extraordinary achievements, such as the recovery of thousands of acres of river delta wetlands in Nisqually, Skagit, Skokomish and Snohomish rivers, and the incremental reconnection of hundreds of miles of stream, cut by road building. But the fundemental pattern remains unchanged. More and more people keep coming, and cut forests, degrade and pave soils. This is a finishing of the vast work over the last five generations by which we cut all the old forests, and destroyed something near 80% of all wetlands. The land is drier. Large areas have lost biodiversity, the waters are increasingly poisonous, and only a few stronghold populations of salmon remain.

The vast majority of our people don't see our situation. We have perhaps one more generation to change direction. Meanwhile governments continue to act confident out of habit, as if we have a meaningful strategy.

The real transformation is yet to come. And some of us look around at a world of wounds and doubt that it will.

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