Thanksgiving 2101: A Salmon Story
Benjamin B. Stout
“He was an irascible old guy.” That was how Penelope began her story about her great grandfather, whom she called, simply, Gramps. “Practically his favorite thing was to buck the system, to ask the questions no one else had thought of or, better still, that no one else was game to ask.” She was telling the story at the behest of her two children, David and Nuni, at the end of their Thanksgiving dinner, 2101, which featured planked salmon rather than turkey. Penelope was a silviculturist with a specialty in managing riparian vegetation. Her husband, Richard, was a salmon geneticist. David was a college student who worked summers on ships that fertilized areas of the Pacific Ocean. Nuni was a high school student and an environmental activist. Thus, it was not unusual for them to pore over charts and tables when dinner conversations turned to environmental issues.
David and Nuni had heard about Gramps since their childhood. Nevertheless, they loved it when their mother told stories about him, which had become a Thanksgiving tradition.
“When I was old enough to know him well, Gramps was a retired academician with wide interests. He loved quantified data and he looked for patterns in numbers. The story was that he considered a remark by the state forester of Montana, during his tenure at the University of Montana, to have been one of his finest accolades. He often told the story about Gareth Moon advising a young man in a meeting, ‘Be careful what you say. The dean (Gramps) may ask you for data to support your statement.’”
“Another of Gramps’ guiding principles,” Penelope continued, “was an inspiration he took from Norman Borlaug, Nobel Laureate. In Gramps’ papers, I often find quotes from Dr. Borlaug. Near the end of the 20th century, Gramps often noted that Borlaug had said that ‘if we had to depend on the grain varieties that were available in the 1950s to feed the people of the world today, at the beginning of the 21st century, there would be mass starvation.’ Gramps felt this pointed out how much people have learned about plant and animal husbandry since the time of the hunter–gatherer societies of antiquity, and particularly in the last half century. He felt there was no reason why the lessons of modern plant and animal husbandry should not be applied vigorously to the management of the salmonids of the Pacific Northwest.