Solid graphic by PBS climate crew showing climate impacts on salmon at each stage of life. Each block shows a picture of a salmon at the fry, smolt, and adult stages with accompanying challenges they’ll face. Fry, for example, are more vulnerable to storms that churn up silt and toxins washed into rivers from parking lots. Land and river managers can use this information to better adapt ecosystems to protect the fish and conserve resources.
The graphic is embedded in, Northwest Salmon People Face Future Without Fish, which is tacitly about the erosion of Pacific Northwest Indian tribes who depend on salmon for sustenance. It shows, for example, that the Swinomish were the first Indian Nation to have adopted a climate adaptation plan (2010). And that the plans will be key to their future:
Fifteen percent of the reservation is at or just slightly above sea level, including environmentally-sensitive shoreline areas, where they’ve harvested shellfish for centuries. University of Washington climate scientists estimate that this area could see up to a meter of sea level rise over the next century.
Like many tribal communities, the Swinomish can’t just pick up and move out of harm’s way. Relocating is antithetical to who they are, said Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.
"We are a place-based society," he said. "This is our homeland. The Swinomish have lived here for 10,000 years. We don’t go anywhere — ever."
This last quote - “We don’t go anywhere — ever” - demonstrates one of the major problems with adapting to climate change - that people don’t understand what adaptation really is. It would never occur to them to move out of harms way or look for alternative ways to live.
This stubbornness to refuse to adapt culture, to move homes, to change out old economies, will lead to some devastating consequences (such as diminished fish stocks, which in turn will crush Native economies). Much nostalgic, glittering ink has spilled about Indians looking forward and planning ahead “7 generations.” What is not said, is how consistently this dreamy philosophy has failed.