Challenge filmmaking is perverse. Take something that has to be done slowly and painstakingly, and add the element of speed and deadlines and kitchen-sink required elements to it, and you’re virtually assured of a substandard final product. Add creative people to the mix, who never met a job they were 100 percent satisfied with, because if only they’d made this tiny change and tweaked this and rewrote that and how much time do we have left? Nine minutes? This’ll only take about eight, eight’n a half. Piece of cake… Well, you see how things can go.
That said, we have a great team this time. Fingers crossed. Gun’s at 7 p.m. Some tweeting/photoblogging will likely ensue, barring total disaster. Check back.
I warned you of a potential rant on the Asian carp issue. Another skirmish in this strange battle is taking place now in Illinois, where state and federal officials dumped more than 2,000 gallons of rotenone, a fish poison, into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (there’s a waterway with a romantic name, eh?) in a last-ditch effort to keep the bastards out of the Great Lakes. The kill has already netted 200,000 pounds of piscine collateral damage and a single Asian carp, although more way well turn up as the decomposition process continues.
I’ve been reading about this invasive species for a while now, never with anything other than dread. Like the three-eyed fish of the Springfield Reservoir — “Blinky,” and thanks, Wikipedia — they portend nothing good, even while an army of Mr. Burnses facilitated their journey up the Mississippi River system.
Here’s where the rant comes in. Eric Sharp, outdoors writer for the Detroit Free Press, raised the roof pretty well last month, explaining how the species was originally introduced to eat algae in Arkansas sewage lagoons, with this priceless, stomach-souring detail from a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel report, that the original plan stipulated “carp raised in the sewage lagoons could be sold as food to people to defray some of the costs of treating the sewage.” Mmm, pass the drawn butter. The carp were also used by Southern fish farmers to clean their own facilities.
Of course there were escapes. Of course something could have been done when the problem was still containable. Of course nothing was done. Of course an unholy government-business alliance was responsible. Sharp writes:
I found a story I wrote nearly 10 years ago about Jerry Rasmussen, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist who by 1990 was trying desperately to warn people about the potential threat from the carp.
But he was called on the carpet by his bosses and told to shut up after the fish farmers complained to their friends in Congress, the “Arkansas mafia” of politicians allied with the Clinton administration. When Rasmussen refused to be muzzled, the USFWS tried to eliminate his job.
What’s the problem with Asian carp, besides the fact they’re imports? They grow to the size of monsters. They jump from the water at the sound of boat motors (this video is pretty amazing) and have actually broken boaters’ noses and caused other injuries. But their biggest threat is how they displace native species. It’s safe to say that once these behemoths reach the Great Lakes, it’s only a matter of time before they do serious damage to the trout, steelhead and salmon species that support much of our tourism. I’m trying to imagine these fuckers in the Au Sable or Manistee River, some of the greatest trout waters in the world, accessible to any visitor who can buy a fishing license. Actually, I’m trying not to. Because that would be the end of it, for sure.
In the 19th century, the Au Sable was populated by grayling, graceful native species with a fanciful, sail-like dorsal fin. Easy to catch and delicious to eat, they were wiped out by overfishing — they say the tourists piled them, literally piled them, on the riverbank, just because they could — and, of course, logging, Michigan’s original environmental sin. The clear-cutting of virtually the entire state in the 1800s provided the seed money for the industrial revolution that followed, but the use of the fast-running rivers of the north as logging chutes to the lakes were disastrous to grayling, scouring the bottom and destroying their hatcheries. Grayling only live in Alaska now, for the most part.
Nature keeps teaching us these lessons, and we keep refusing to learn them. The Burmese python is establishing a beachhead in Florida. Now carp in the north. Maybe someday they’ll all mutate, grow legs and lungs, and add us to their breakfast menu. It would serve us right.
Rant over. Now I have to put on my screenwriting head. I’m thinking sci-fi — giant, walking fish that glow in the dark and eat poodles. Whatever, I’ll be in and out over the weekend, and you are encouraged to check back. Action!