Solutions We Love5 Reasons: Salmon Are the Solutionscroll down arrow

YES! IIllustration by Delphine Lee

5 Reasons

Salmon Are an Environmental Justice Solution

Salmon Help Keep Our Environment and Our Communities Healthy. If Salmon Are in Hot Water, We All Are.

YES! IIllustration by Delphine Lee

Last year, for the first time ever, scientists surveying Pacific Northwest salmon came up with empty nets. They weren’t all empty, but some were — and that’s “really different than anything we have ever seen,” David Huff of the NOAA survey team told The Seattle Times. It’s a bit too early to identify a particular cause of these unusual salmon surveys, but it’s not too early to be concerned.

Wild salmon populations are impacted by dams, development, and salmon farms. Now, ocean and river temperatures are rising. That’s not good news for wild salmon.

At every life stage, salmon need clean, cold water. When water heats up, even by a few degrees, diseases can set in. Once it passes 73–77 degrees, salmon die.

That’s what happened in 2015, when unseasonably hot river water killed nearly half of the sockeye salmon that returned to the Columbia River to spawn in Oregon and Washington. And this year, fisheries managers estimate low returns due to a warming ocean and drought conditions for the third year in a row for California’s Sacramento River fall chinook — so low they’re recommending a significantly shortened commercial season.

Their sensitivity to changing environmental conditions make salmon susceptible to climate change, but it’s also a reason scientists use salmon as an indicator species to gauge the health of the ecosystem. We need salmon — and not just because they’re tasty.


Salmon feed forests.

YES! IIllustration by Delphine Lee

On their journey out to sea and back, salmon feed humans, bears, orcas — and trees, too. It’s their unique life cycle that make them an important food source. Washington state biologists have estimated that salmon come into contact with 137 different species — and that’s not including plants. They’re such an important food source that scientists identify them as a “keystone species” — a species without which the ecosystem would change dramatically. Salmon spend most of their lives at sea. So when they return inland to spawn and die, they bring ocean nutrients — stored in their bodies — with them upstream, sometimes hundreds of miles, depositing nitrogen and phosphorus that forests need.


Salmon can tear down dams.

Almost four years ago, the largest dam removal project in U.S. history was completed, and scientists are already recording regeneration up and down the Elwha River in Washington state as it rushes back to life. The proposed removal of four dams on the Klamath River in 2020 would be even bigger in scale. And one driver behind dam removal is salmon. The federal relicensing process requires dams to make sometimes costly upgrades for fish passage under modern environmental laws. PacifiCorp, which owns and operates the four dams on the Klamath, has said in public statements that tearing the dams down is less costly than relicensing and maintaining them. When environmental laws protect salmon, removing dams makes economic sense.


Salmon sustain cultures.

YES! IIllustration by Delphine Lee

Historically, members of the Karuk Tribe in Northern California ate more than one pound of salmon every day. Today, as dams, climate change, and development impact Klamath River salmon, that number averages less than five pounds of salmon eaten per person — in a year. In 2017, the tribe announced it would limit its harvest to just 200 chinook salmon. And it’s not just diet that’s impacted. All along the Pacific coast, Native people have lived alongside salmon for thousands of years. Salmon is at the center of ceremonies, art, and identity for tribes in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and California. When salmon are threatened, so is culture.


Salmon keep humans healthy.

Salmon is one of the most nutrient-dense foods for humans. It’s a healthy source of protein and has lots of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B-12, magnesium, potassium, and selenium. And, of course, fatty fish like salmon have lots of omega-3s. We eat a lot of it. Worldwide, salmon overtook shrimp as the most traded seafood in 2016. And we pay a lot. Right now, a wild king salmon fillet is $37.99 from my local fish market in Seattle. That’s less for wild salmon than we used to pay because of competition from cheaper farmed salmon. But it may not be able to continue meeting the demand it helped create: Last year, sea lice — which kill Atlantic farmed salmon — caused a worldwide shortage.


Salmon shape the landscape.

When they spawn, salmon may move mountains, according to a recent study. Over millennia, salmon sex has helped to carve the mountain ranges of the Pacific Northwest. It works like this: When fish spawn, they stir up the river bed, digging holes for their eggs and swishing their tails in the process. That sends gravel downstream and also loosens the riverbed, making it less compact and more likely to move when the river floods. Over thousands of years, the tons of gravel that salmon move add up. The study, whose lead author is from Washington State University, showed that the landscape surrounding the streams where salmon spawn would be nearly a third taller if the salmon weren’t there.

People We Love

Guerrilla Changemakers

Ibo Omari, founder of the #PaintBack Project

Ibo Omari, founder of the #PaintBack Project, transforms swastikas, which are illegal in Germany. The first one, in 2015, was transformed into a mosquito flying away from a net. Photo by Thielker / Ullstein Bild / Getty Images

Public spaces are for everyone, but how we perceive them and interact with them is contextual. These three activists are making their statements on the public canvas all around the world. And it’s catching on.

Sherri Mitchell and Rivera Sun
Ibo Omari #PaintBack Project

In 2015, a concerned father came into Berlin street artist Ibo Omari’s shop, asking for a couple cans of spray paint to cover up a swastika that was painted on a children’s playground. Two weeks later, another swastika appeared nearby.

The son of Lebanese immigrants, Omari felt personally affected by the images, considering the rise of Germany’s far-right political party in recent years. To combat the spread of racism and hate in his community, Omari started the #PaintBack Project.

“We represent hip-hop culture, and graffiti is a part of hip-hop culture,” Omari says. “We wanted to make the separation between a tag and a hateful message being spread with a spray can.”

With the help of other street artists and members of his nonprofit, Die Kulturellen Erben, or “The Cultural Heirs,” Omari has been transforming the swastikas, which are illegal in Germany, into art. The first swastika Omari came across in 2015 was transformed into a mosquito flying away from a net.

“Mosquitos, they have a right to exist,” Omari says.

Roqayah Chamseddine and Kumars Salehi
Laura Kingsley Clitorosity
YES! IIllustration by Delphine Lee

The Clitorosity art project aims to encourage awareness and better understanding of female sexual anatomy — with sidewalk chalk. Photo from @Clitorosity / Instagram

After giving hundreds of talks about sexual communication to people at the University of Pennsylvania, Laura Kingsley was surprised by how shocked the majority of her peers were upon seeing an anatomical diagram of a clitoris for the first time.

Kingsley wanted to create a collaborative and creative way to raise awareness about the clitoris. In 2016, she launched the global art project, Clitorosity, a community-driven effort to celebrate the clitoris and connect people to their bodies.

“There are billions of people with clitorises, yet this part of the body remains largely misunderstood,” Kingsley says. “The clitoris is often regarded as a mystery and as a small structure external to the body. We want to change that.”

More than 120 people from 18 U.S. states and five countries have joined to draw chalk murals of the female sex organ in their cities. The drawings are usually accompanied by a witty quote that relates to its location.

At first glance, passersby often mistake them for octopuses.

“Even if you don’t have a clitoris or aren’t interested in sexually engaging with someone who does, we hope to inspire you to learn more about your own body and to celebrate its capacity for pleasure,” Kingsley says.

Len Necefer
Len Necefer Indigenous Geotags

left double quoteThese are lands that have been stewarded by indigenous people for thousands of years, and now it’s a responsibility of everyone to take that into consideration.”

YES! IIllustration by Delphine Lee

Photo By Len Necefer

Len Necefer fell in love with mountain climbing after moving to Colorado, but he noticed that information about the national parks he visited did not include indigenous history, despite Native people being the first occupants of those areas.

Soon, he discovered a way to reclaim indigenous lands.

In 2017, Necefer, a member of the Navajo Nation, began posting photos of Native people participating in outdoor recreation to his Instagram account, @NativesOutdoors. One day, he posted a photo of a woman standing on the summit of Longs Peak, with the geotag “Neníisótoyóú’u,” the mountain’s Arapaho name.

Since then, through a combination of scholarly research and gathering traditional indigenous knowledge, Necefer has created indigenous place-name geotags for more than 40 mountains, most in Colorado.

“For a lot of folks, even myself, the education we receive about indigenous history in this country is pretty inadequate,” Necefer says. “It does not talk about the immense suffering and displacement that occurred, especially on public lands. People are curious and want to know, and I think this is one way that can happen.

“These are lands that have been stewarded by indigenous people for thousands of years, and now it’s a responsibility of everyone to take that into consideration.”

YES! IIllustration by Delphine Lee

YES! IIllustration by Delphine Lee

YES! IIllustration by Delphine Lee

The @NativesOutdoors Instagram page includes many contributors.

The Page That Counts

The Numbers That Define Our World

Number of annual vacation days employers must offer employees, as mandated by U.S. government0 1

Average number of vacation days companies offered employees with one year of service in 201711 2

Percent of workers who finished 2016 with unused vacation time54 3

Days (as of April 21, 2018) President Trump spent at one of his golf resorts in the 15 months since inauguration104 4

Days Barack Obama spent golfing in the eight years of his presidency 333 5

Average daily number of U.S. prisoners in 20151.3 million 6

Percent increase in prisoners aged 55 or older from 1999 to 2015264

Total states spent on health care for prisoners in 2015, adjusted for inflation$8 billion

Median amount spent on health care per prisoner in 2015$5,720

Number of states that reduced their imprisonment rates since 200836

Number of those states that also reduced crime rates35

Percent of the world’s human population that lives in the Americas13 7

Percent of the planet’s biodiversity services provided by the Americas40

Estimated annual value of those services$24.3 trillion

Percent of those services that are in decline65

Percent increase in the number of U.S. breweries between 2006 and 2016614 8

Percent increase in total employment at breweries during that time126

Percent increase in the price of beer52

Percent change in number of shipments from Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Heineken, Pabst, and Diageo (which owns Guinness) between 2007 and 2016–14 percent 9

Number of barley seeds that Budweiser paid SpaceX to transport by rocket to the International Space Station in December20 10

Date on which Budweiser announced its ambition to be the first beer on Mars3/11/2017 11

Amount President Trump allocated to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in a spending bill proposed in February$696 million 12

Amount allocated to the office in the budget the president signed into law on March 23$2.32 billion 13

Amount Trump’s proposal allocated to the Office of Nuclear Energy$757 million

Amount designated to the office in the final signed law$1.2 billion

Amount Trump’s proposal allocated to Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which funds innovative energy technology$0

Amount provided to the agency in the approved bill$353.3 million

Number of pages in the enacted spending bill2,232

Number of times the bill mentions global climate change0

1. U.S. Department of Labor 2. Bureau of Labor Statistics 3. U.S. Travel Association, Project Time Off 4. Trump Golf Count 5. Politifact 6. Pew Charitable Trusts, Prison Health Care: Costs and Quality 7. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services 8. Bureau of Labor Statistics 9. Beer Marketer’s Insights 10. The Coloradoan 11. Anheuser-Busch 12. Department of Energy 13. Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018

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