Let’s start off with two vital questions. What happened on August 16th, 2022? And will that date go down as the single most important day in the history of fly fishing?
Think back. Did someone land the world record brown trout last August? Invent the perfect fly rod? Design the ideal knot? Create the first unbreakable leader? Publish the ultimate book of fly fishing secrets?
No, it wasn’t any of those things.
Instead, on August 16th of 2022, Joe Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act which, coincidently, had little to do with reducing inflation and a whole lot to do with shifting America away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner forms of energy.
So why should we, as fly fishers, care about the Inflation Reduction Act? Well, it’s actually pretty simple. When we burn fossil fuels to create electricity, or to power our internal combustion engines, we release vast quantities of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. And it turns out that those greenhouse gasses are having a massive negative impact on the natural world.
In other words, when we burn coal, oil or natural gas, we trash our fisheries. All of them. Everywhere. Saltwater and fresh. Which pretty much sucks. If it helps to think of fossil fuels as part of an equation, give this one a shot:
Burning fossil fuels = a hotter planet = chaotic weather = degraded landscapes = trashed fisheries.
That might sound like overblown rhetoric or a classic case of hyperbole. It’s not. There’s a reason why so many of the world’s top scientists are sounding the alarm about anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change. Please forgive the graphic analogy, but we’re pissing in the planetary punch bowl. At some point, things are likely to get so damn toxic that most of our fishing will disappear completely. Nobody — and certainly no serious fly fisher — should want that to happen.
Which brings us back to the poorly-named Inflation Reduction Act, and to question number two.
Will last August 16th go down as the most important day ever for fly fishing?
And the answer, of course, is “it all depends …”
Climate change is an international problem; one that requires substantive international agreement on how to move forward. At best, the Inflation Reduction Act is one very small part of the solution. It points us in the right direction, and creates the foundation necessary for further action, but it doesn’t get us where we need to go. Not even close.
So now we find ourselves standing at the proverbial fork in the road. As the reality of human-caused climate change becomes more widely accepted, and as chaotic weather events grow more frequent and more impactful, we have two basic choices.
We either do more to limit our greenhouse gas emissions, or we don’t.
If we do more both here and abroad, there’s a chance we can pull a rabbit from our hat and salvage a fair portion of our fly fishing for future generations. From where I sit, that’s a goal worth embracing.
If we don’t do more — if we allow anti-science know-nothings, and the fossil fuel industry, and the Dunning-Kruger brigade to destroy any chance at more substantive action, or if we decide that further legislation is a bridge too far and we’ve already done enough — then we will be consigning our fisheries to the grimmest possible fate and our children and grandchildren to a world that we would never, ever want to experience, or inhabit, ourselves.
That’s not really much of a choice, is it?
Our only reasonable option is to demand that our government, our financial titans and our captains of industry do more to limit the use of fossil fuels.
It’s a simple message; a clear message — and we need to shout it to the heavens.
So please call your senators and representatives and ask them to do more on climate. Actually, don’t ask. Demand that they do more. Then vote for climate realists at the ballot box, and use the power of the purse to make a difference on a personal level. Petition your electricity provider to move away from fossil fuels and opt for cleaner alternatives like solar, wind and geothermal. Mothball your gas furnace and switch your home to a heat pump. Retire your fossil fuel rig and shift to an electric vehicle.
At the end of the day, we have a simple choice. Either we accept climate science and begin to treat the natural world with a little more respect, or we continue to rely on fossil fuels as we embrace the radical destruction of our fisheries. That shouldn’t be a tough call. It’s time to do more.