Finding Balance

Posted on May 10, 2013


There are so many ways of finding and defining balance. When it comes to the fight for saving Bristol Bay salmon from the threat of large scale mining, namely the proposed Pebble Mine, science and emotion are to be considered. In the situation that I speak of my emotions do run high and it can be a source of embarassment at times when I am not able to keep them in check, but at the same time I know that science is on my side. I think of a lesson that my friend Lindsey gave to open a meeting session and she referred to the items that I speak of as tangibles and intangibles. She presented us with the process of making her mother’s bread and asked us to identify the two terms. Tangibles had to do with the technique applied to making the bread and if it’s not made in a certain way it will not raise properly or taste the way that it should. The intangibles had to do with how she responded to the bread as it was baking and the smell that filled the house and how it tasted. The intangibles are the things that are hard to define and convey and usually the things that elicit an emotional response. Our takeaway was that it is important to have both and that neither should overshadow the other and I believe this to be true.

Above is an image of a little girl from the Bristol Bay community of Dillingham that Ryan Peterson included in his short film “sea-swallow’d.” The work juxtaposes a portrait of a town with underwater images of salmon returning home to complete their lifecycle and begin another for their spawn. Peterson successfully portrays how inextricably connected the people and the fish are to one another. In me it drew an uncontrollable emotional response because I share that connection with the people who were presented in the film, but through a different community and river system in Bristol Bay. Our intangible feelings are balanced by the tangible connection we have with the salmon.

These intangibles are further balanced by the science that has been collected, with a focus on how the Bristol Bay Watershed would fare in relation to large-scale mining, by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has done an exhaustive study on the watershed and, by using a hypothetical mine scenario that would be many times smaller than the proposed Pebble Mine, has concluded that even if there were no disasters or failures associated with a project, there would be irreparable harm to the fishery.

I would ask that you take the time to watch Ryan Peterson’s short film and take the time to look at the work that the EPA has done in it’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. You will likely feel connected to the place in ways that you did not expect even if you have never set foot in Bristol Bay. If you feel compelled to take action, there is a link on the page where you can leave a comment of support for the work that the EPA has done in assessing the Bristol Bay watershed. Sometimes it is the indefinable intangibles that touch our lives the most.