Hello again from the last frontier!
On our recent camping adventure to Estero Coyote, with fellow adventurers Sue, Jim and Max (Max is the furriest of the two males Sue lives with), we had the displeasure of running into a representative of the International Society of Crazy People. One of the more interesting aspects of Baja, which I’ve noticed during our years here, is that it attracts the “fringe” of society. In large part, the fringe consists of people like the Prez and I, those who are somewhat disenfranchised with the structure and rigidity of North American society, those who feel the rewards of a life without the illusion of security is well worth the risks. There is another faction of the fringe, however, who are drawn to Baja because it is the perfect place for the socially inept, legally challenged and the utterly wacko.
Now Estero Coyote is well off the beaten path, although with the paving of the road in I’m sure it will become beaten very shortly. Seeing this fellow, who I’ve dubbed “Wahoo Ricky”, camping all alone, the four of us, quite naturally, strove to be as congenial and welcoming as possible. He seemed nice but definitely a little “off” – my Spidey senses were tingling. Soon he was hanging around our campsite like a bad smell. Regaling us with frequently contradictory or downright unbelievable tales of all the amazing things he, Wahoo Ricky, had done. The best one, and the reason for his nickname, was the one about his prowess as a free-diver/hunter. After teaching us about Wahoo (that’s a very large, fast, pelagic, ocean dwelling fish by the way) and the fact that they are reef fish (huh?), he then proceeded to recount his many diving experiences where he speared not only Wahoo but also Marlin as well. When we asked him how he managed to hang onto such massive fish while holding his breath under water he replied, “You have to hit them in just the right spot and then they just quiver” and demonstrated the quivering motion with his hand. Well of course, why didn’t we think of that?
OK, Reality Pause here. Yes, it is possible to free dive for large game fish, I’ve seen it done. It is also very difficult, very dangerous, and done by only highly experienced free divers with a support boat, etc. Even then, your chances of actually spearing a Wahoo or a Marlin are slim. I’ve seen some of these divers, they have chests the size of oak barrels and are amazingly fit – Wahoo Ricky with his pot belly and doughy legs just doesn’t seem to fit the bill.
So the guy told a few tall tales, oh well, right? Well, bedtime comes around and we all shuffle off to our respective sleeping areas when suddenly the thunder of drums and guitars rips through the still night air…”EXIT LIGHT, ENTER NIIIIGHT!!!!”. Wahoo Ricky has his truck stereo on full tilt, not just that but he is sitting in the cab of his truck with the doors closed (I wasn’t there to see but I’m positive his ears must have been bleeding it was that loud). The Prez takes a stroll over to politely ask him if he will tone down the music a smidge as we are all trying to sleep. The answer was a firm “NO, I’m listening to my music.” And we were all rocked by the melodic stylings of Nirvana for the next hour or so. Which brings me to the next subject, one which may not seem related but, boy oh boy, prepare to be amazed at how I tie this all together in the end folks!
Conservation. Environmental Protection. The Green Movement. Eco-Friendly.
Read those words again and note what your gut reaction is to them. Did you perhaps utter a small but sarcastic sigh? Did you feel unexpectedly angry? Did you think, “Oh god, here she goes again”? Yes, here I go again, but with a twist this time…
Estero Coyote is one of our favorite Baja camp spots. The estuary is gorgeous, teeming with bird life, and fun to explore by tin boat or kayak. The previously nasty road to get there ensured very light human traffic so you can (could) almost always have the place to yourself. Estuaries are incredibly important ecosystems providing habitat, not just for birds, but for juvenile fish – a nursery much like the Bahia de Concepcion. Estero Coyote is being wiped out and I’m fairly certain nothing is going to be done about it. While the estuary is a decent size, there are only two channels that hold fish in any great numbers and for two months out of the year, three commercial pangas (fishing boats) are allowed to gill net (6 nets per boat) as much as they want. With two channels, gill nets and sixty days– do the math – the estuary is emptied out with frightening efficiency. We have witnessed the rapid decline of the fish stocks over the years; it’s a crime, truly. This sort of thing happens all over Mexico and all over the world.
As we drifted along in our tin boat (borrowed boat – thanks Ken), soaking up the sun and watching a coyote wade through the water on the edge of the estuary, I contemplated why it is that more people don’t care more about protecting places like this. OK, I mean I know that I haven’t done nearly as much as I could, or perhaps should, but I do donate to environmental groups including Sea Watch which is working to save the Sea of Cortez, and the Prez and I always practice sustainable fishing, never keeping more than our limit and often much under it. We also try to spread the word wherever and whenever we can – but “the word” is often met with defensiveness, anger, disbelief, and a lot of head shaking.
Why are people so anti-environment?
To me, sustainability is not just some fancy buzz-word of the new millennium tossed around by the Green Party to win votes; it is simply plain old common sense. My philosophy regarding conservation can be summed up as follows: I like fish, I like birds and animals, plants and trees, and I want them to always be here, as long as I live and long, long after that. So keeping the planet healthy just seems like a common sense thing to do.
Inevitably though, when I bring up any aspect of conservation, most people jump immediately to the negative – “Oh ya, well you can’t even build on your own land now if they find a spotted owl thanks to those stupid tree-huggers!” Why is it that so many of the good (great) effects of the environmental movement are never, ever mentioned? I know lots and lots of folks who pay big bucks to go out and watch whales; they love whales, seeing a whale is the highlight of some people’s lives. Guess what? If it weren’t for all those stupid tree huggers and eco-freaks there wouldn’t be any whales to look at! The Atlantic Grey whale is extinct and the Pacific Grey whale would be too if members of Green Peace and other grass roots groups hadn’t risked life and limb (not to mention the ire and ridicule of the rest of society) to stop the whaling boats. And that’s just one example and a big one. But you may hear that a local housing project has been denied because the proposed site would destroy the mating habitat of the rare Muffle-Nosed Giraffe Shrew and think, “What the hell is a Muffle-Nosed Giraffe Shrew and why should I care? Build the damn houses!” without realizing that the Muffle-Nosed Giraffe Shrew is actually a critical part of a fragile ecosystem which will collapse if said shrew becomes extinct. This ecosystem may be a river you enjoy fishing in or a forest you hunt in. I’m not saying that in some cases the pendulum hasn’t swung waaaaay too far to the green side, what I am saying is that people are quick to become angry and slow to check their facts (all the facts, not just the ones the housing development people put out on glossy, non-recyclable brochures).
So I racked my brain, while I was busily out-fishing the Prez, to figure out why lovers of the environment have gotten such a bad rap. This is what I’ve come up with: People do not like being told that they are bad or being told what to do.
Life is complicated and I believe most of us are doing our best to try to live decently, yet there always seems to be someone telling us we are bad because we watch too much TV, or eat too much crap, or don’t exercise enough, or smoke, or don’t recycle, or don’t send money to starving children, or mix our whites and our colours…gasp! Environmentalists tend to be very passionate people (probably because most recognize they’re fighting a losing battle); I know that once I get on a roll I can be…a tad…well…pushy perhaps…irritating maybe.
The glass-half-full part of me believes that if enough people really care, if enough people understand the importance of being good to Ma Nature, then this crazy planet has a chance. Maybe, just maybe I’ll return to Estero Coyote in five or ten years to find the hordes of Snook, Snapper, Corvina, etc. that once were there. However, the glass-half-empty part of me knows that there are just too many Wahoo Ricky’s in the world. That even though you can tell them that turning down the music which is shattering everyone’s eardrums is the good thing to do, the right thing to do, the common sense thing to do, and, actually better for him in the long run, the answer will always be “NO!” Knowing this makes me sad, for me yes, but mostly for your kids, grandkids, and great grandkids who’ll never catch a snook, on a sunny day in Estero Coyote while a coyote wades through the water near the shore.
Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!