By Charlotte Umanoff, #PutAPriceOnIt Fellow
This is a story about fish, and about not knowing what you have until it’s gone, or getting there.
Growing up, my dad always told me that if I ate my omega-3s, I’d live to be one hundred. I think he mostly told me this to convince himself that he’d live to be that old, since he eats more fish than anyone I’ve ever met. I’ve grown up loving fish, especially salmon, and although I’m only 20, I’d like to think I’m eating enough of it to live until 2096.
Much of the salmon in the Pacific Northwest comes from the Columbia River that runs between Oregon and Washington. This is the river that Woody Guthrie wrote songs about, the river that has sustained human and animal life since far before its resources were ever capitalized upon by westward expansion, the river that flows through parks and canyons and mountain ranges and spills out into the impossible expanses of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a river whose wildlife is threatened every day by climate change.
For several decades now, water temperatures in the Columbia have warmed, becoming increasingly inhospitable to salmon, a cold water species. As salmon populations dwindle, not only is it harder for Oregonians like me to eat sustainably caught salmon, but local fishing economies suffer and predators like the grizzly bear struggle to find food, knocking the whole ecosystem of the Columbia River basin dangerously out of balance.
We as a nation need to act against rising water temperatures everywhere by putting a price on carbon. It’s time to stop letting big polluters profit while at-risk ecosystems and local fishermen disproportionately feel the negative effects. Not only will a carbon price help guard the Columbia against warmer water, it will also discourage the shipment of millions of gallons of crude oil along railways that ironically run only meters away from the riverbed.
This story isn’t just about the Columbia River. It’s about every river, every mountain, every ecosystem and economy that is suffering due to climate change. Rather than forfeit our world’s precious resources to polluters, let’s #PutAPriceOnIt to ensure that our world stays healthy. I hope that in 2096, I am proud of the results of my generation’s advocacy for this planet.
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