Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Environmentalism and Hunters
In the Times article, the reporter spoke with a fisherman. When she told him that the lake in which he was fishing was a probable mercury "hot spot," he replied, "You're worrying me."
And there, my friends, is a political goldmine for good environmental policy. For many years, the NRA has had the upper hand with the hunting-and-fishing crowd. It has been so successful in stressing threats to the right to carry a gun that the NRA almost single-handedly, with help from the Christian right, transformed Congress into a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Corporate State.
Hunters and fishermen are not all the same, to be sure, and they're also not as ideologically one-dimensional as they are often portrayed. If they understand the larger consequences of the NRA-wrought "revolution," they'll become alarmed about the threats that face them. Shrinking stocks of fish, more pollutants in the food chain, erosion of natural area by development and logging – all of these are disturbing developments for those of us who spend time outdoors.
Thus far, the environmental movement and progressives in general have not done nearly enough to engage the millions of Americans who hunt and fish. When they come to understand the direct consequences of the administration's steady unshackling of polluters, they will realize that there's more at stake in local, state and federal elections than the kind of gun they may carry. As for Christian fundamentalists, they have recently developed a vocal environmentalist wing, based on the religious conviction that humans should act as "good stewards," not despoilers, of God's green earth.
These people are a ready-made audience for a clear save-the-environment message. The facts are there, for sure. The state of Connecticut has noted, for example, that most types of fish have some mercury in them, and advised that the following people should not eat more than one meal a month of fish that are caught in Connecticut rivers and lakes:
- Women who are pregnant
- Women who plan to become pregnant
- Women who are nursing their baby
- Children under six
Subsistence and sports fishermen who eat their catch can be at a particularly high risk of mercury poisoning if they fish regularly in contaminated waters, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Nationally, though many waterways haven't even been tested yet, mercury pollution is known to have contaminated 12 million acres of lakes, estuaries, and wetlands (30 percent of the total), and 473,000 miles of streams, rivers, and coasts. Forty-four states have issued fish consumption advisories – that's enough to put a damper on a boisterous fish-fry around any campfire.