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Something smelts 

Morro Bay

Your story about abalone gone away (“The snails did go quickly,” July 10, 2008). uses the word “population” maybe a dozen times, but always about the abalone population. A story the same day in the San Francisco Chronicle, about smelt gone away from the delta, only uses the word “population” in reference to smelt. Do you suppose otters swam into the delta and ate all of the delta smelt?

No. The San Francisco Chronicle’s quotable sources blame water diversion, deterioration of the delta, pollution, and storm run-off. New Times’ quotable sources blame poaching, otters, mysterious bacteria, and maybe scientists who don’t like fishermen making more money than them. There is never a hint of the obvious in the Chronicle story—there never is—that water diversion, delta deterioration, pollution, and storm run-off all increase along with human population “in perfect negative correlation” (to use New Times’ accidentally relevant phrase) with the disappearance of delta smelt and lots of other species.

The New Times writer absurdly finds the resurgence of the otter population to be in perfect negative correlation with the disappearance of abalone, while blithely boasting of how human fishermen used to each grab “20 dozen” abalones a day from the sea, “kick them from the rocks,” and “set up an assembly lines “ to shuck, slice, pound, and fry them. Of course, there’s no hint in the New Times that, before the resurgence of the otters and before their decline, there were plenty of pre-Gold Rush otters that didn’t deplete the abalone population; and there’s no mention of the “perfect negative correlation” between abalone disappearance and the obvious constant growth of the population of human abalone eaters.

Way, way deep in the story, there is a coincidental mention of a “remote region” (meaning remote from people) where there are plenty of abalones, and in a few disconnecting paragraphs further on is a buried quote from an actual biologist (not otherwise used as a source) about abalone populations dwindling to “almost nothing” in places where there are no otters—“only humans.”

Obviously, New Times, like the San Francisco Chronicle and almost all mass media in our business-oriented, growth-loving society, is dedicated to holding the pre-1990, post-1992 line of stubborn, near total denial about one of the world’s two most serious (but unmentionable) crises, and the obvious cause of almost all resource disappearance and pollution and ugly sprawl and etc., including global warming —i.e., that there are too many people.

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