www.monbiot.com/2020/01/06/life-enhancing/ Life Enhancing
6th January 2020
Allowing the seas to recover from the outrageous assaults of commercial fishing can help heal our own wounded lives.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 2nd January 2020
It’s going to be a rough year, perhaps the roughest I’ve ever witnessed. The fatal combination of escalating climate breakdown and the capture of crucial governments by killer clowns
Witness the disasters in Australia. In mid-December, on the day the nation’s killer heatwave struck, Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper The Australian filled its front page
Some of the Earth’s largest land masses – Australia, Russia, the United States, Brazil, China, India and Saudi Arabia – are governed by people who seem to care little for either humankind or the rest of the living world. To maintain their grip on power, which means appeasing key oligarchs and industries, they sometimes appear prepared to sacrifice anything – including, perhaps, the survival of humanity.
I know that the protesters who made 2019 the year of climate action
I admit that I’m feeling quite close to burnout. I believe resilience is the most useful human quality, and I’ve sought to cultivate it, but in 2019 I felt my resolve begin to weaken at times, as it has never done before. Part of the reason is doubtless my continuing health issues: the repeated complications and procedures that have followed my cancer treatment
For many people, there is no such separation. We now know that people living in heavily polluted places have higher levels of depression and suicide
I have tried to keep my eco-anxiety at bay; to box it into my working life. But every month this becomes more difficult. The rising sense of panic I feel is entirely rational. We should all be feeling it. But we can’t live with it through hour of every day.
So my New Year’s resolution is to spend more time on my sea kayak. It possesses almost miraculous properties: it is a 4-metre, plastic rejuvenation machine. After a day on the water, ideally paddling as far as I can, sometimes until the coast is out of sight, I feel ready for anything.
But even across this experience a shadow now falls: my gathering awareness of what I should be seeing at sea, and its resounding absence. The shocking and distressing fact is that the waters around the UK were once among the most abundant on Earth, and are now among the least. Armies of bluefin tuna once stormed our coasts
Much of the sea floor was covered by a continuous crust of life: reefs of oysters and mussels, soft corals and sea pens, sea fans and sponges, peacock worms and anenomes, stabilising the sediments and filtering the water column, with the result that our seas might have been crystal clear
Now, on some days, it’s a surprise to see anything. I might, if I’m lucky, spot a flock of shearwaters, skimming the waves with their velvety wings, a couple of gannets, a solitary razorbill, the occasional small baitball. When I kayak in Cardigan Bay, what I hope to find above all else are dolphins. Sometimes I do, and these days are the waymarks of my life
The same applies to nearly all the “marine protected areas” around the UK’s coats. They amount to little more than lines on a map. While 36% of England’s waters are theoretically set aside for wildlife, commercial fishing – by far the greatest impact on the life of the seas – is excluded from less than 0.1% of their area. In fact the trawling intensity in “protected” zones is higher than in unprotected places
It’s all so stupid, so pointless. Commercial fishing is by far the greatest cause
If we stop dragging trawls and dredges through it, the life of the seas would recover with astonishing speed. Because most marine animals are highly mobile during at least one stage of their development, the rewilding of the seas needs little help from humans. But we could make a few useful interventions, such as the possibly crazy but wonderful idea once proposed
Recharging nature recharges the human spirit. In 2020, we could all do with some of that.