Twenty years ago, I was a fly fishing guide on the Henry’s Fork, which, as most of you know, is one of the world’s most famous trout streams. Anglers from all over the globe visited Last Chance, Idaho in the hope of catching a few of those spectacular Henry’s Fork rainbows, and a fair number of those anglers hired guides to increase their odds of success..
Back in 1992, a fellow by the name of Motorcycle Mike was a fixture in Last Chance. If you believed his stories, Mike had at various times been a heart surgeon, a tarpon guide in the Florida Keys, and a colonel in the military. Regardless, Mike spent the spring and summer of ‘92 sweeping the floor in the A-Bar and doing odd jobs for local businesses and homeowners. During our occasional conversations it became painfully clear that Mike knew almost nothing about trout fishing on the Henry’s Fork.
Now none of this would have mattered if Mike didn’t make a habit of riding his little motorcycle to the river, finding a prominent position on the bank, and dispensing his angling wisdom to every drift boat that floated past.
When it happened to me - and it did - my clients invariably wanted to know who Mike was, and why he was telling us to fish with totally different flies and different techniques. Which, unfortunately, left me little choice but to tell them the truth; that Mike was pretty much clueless. He had no idea what he was talking about. As I explained to my clients, if we went ahead and followed his advice we probably wouldn’t catch a single fish.
Did I enjoy telling my anglers about Motorcycle Mike? No, I didn’t. It was actually embarrassing to talk about him. Who knows what deep seated psychological urge led him to shout instructions about a subject he didn’t understand? But when people asked - and they did - I felt like I had to be honest.
So why am I bringing up Motorcycle Mike right now? Because I’m running across more and more people who act just like him. They grab a prominent position on the internet, or in the local paper, and proceed to tell us why our most accomplished scientists are completely wrong, and why climate change - the number one threat to anglers the world over - is a hoax, or a conspiracy, or a communist plot.
I’m not sure where this alternate reality comes from, or why so many people are willing to dismiss the huge - and I truly do mean “huge” - preponderance of scientific evidence on climate change; or for that matter, why they’re willing to rely on so much dubious information from so many dubious sources.
All I can say for sure is that the Motorcycle Mike analogy is almost perfect. We’re paying our top climate scientists to help us navigate a dangerous, boulder-strewn river, yet we can’t stop listening to the crazy guy yelling instructions from the bank.