Tim Palmer’s new book is part historical review, part political manifesto, part breathless travelogue.
That’s all packed into a slender paperback volume that’s pretty enough to be a Sierra Club calendar.
“The Columbia: Sustaining a Modern Resource” is published by The Mountaineers ($24.95). In it, Palmer calls for dramatic action to revive not only the endangered salmon that get so much attention, but the entire two-country, five-state watershed.
He laments the over abundance of dams, logging-related erosion and population pressures. His prescription for saving what’s left of the Northwest landscape focuses on politics.
He lambastes many legislators and members of Congress for their lack of environmental concern. He quotes those he likes, such as Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Idaho’s would-be senator Walt Minnick, another Democrat. His suggestion that many of the others are bought and paid for by development interests will turn off many folks who voted for them.
But then, conservative extremists are not likely to pick up this book. And the activists they’d label as “left wingers” have heard it all before.
The audience Palmer must be hoping to reach is the majority who are worried about the environment, but not involved in its protection. He risks turning them off with his polarized approach.
If partisan politics was the best way to protect the Columbia Basin, it would be in far better shape.
Palmer is a canoeist who manages to express affection for even the most debilitated stream. He’s also an avid researcher. He provides an excellent, readable overview of the landscape’s condition and its recent history.
If readers are a bit overwhelmed by all that information, they can always stop and reflect on Palmer’s pensive, and sometimes dramatic, photographs.
Palmer is strident, but not pessimistic.
“To stay the course that we’ve pursued for 150 years in the Columbia River Basin leads to grim consequences for people living or visiting in this special place. But hopelessness is not the theme of this story. In the fight for chinook salmon, for example, the hopeless story is the one that pretends salmon are worthless or never existed. To not know what the losses or the efforts required to reverse them is where the real despair awaits, because that view accepts an emptier world …
“A view based on knowledge and reverence for life not ignorance is where hope must lie.”