Trading fish for gold

There are two things we can count on out of Alice’s fish wrapper these days.  First is our weekly climatista screed warning the Arctic is melting.  Second is the weekly anti-Pebble mine op-ed.

The piece June 22, entitled “People of Bristol Bay will never trade fish for gold” by one Alannah Hurley, Executive Director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, got me thinking about persuasion, branding, focus group tested catch phrases and the political fight over new jobs here in Alaska.  You can find her article here:  https://www.adn.com/opinions/2017/06/22/people-of-bristol-bay-will-never-trade-fish-for-gold/

The 2016 Presidential election was fought on the battlefield of persuasion, with the Master Persuader Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton’s hired persuaders.  Normally Republican candidate never fight on this battlefield, which is why democrat branding and epithets always win.  Trump not only fought back, but he annihilated everything the Hillary team threw at him, returning fire with gusto.

Here in Alaska, the political fight over Pebble has been fought on a similar battlefield, with the best persuasion tossed against the project is that it is somehow a trade between fish and gold, as that is a bad thing.

But is it really?

What is a transaction, any transaction?  It is a trade between one thing of value with something else of value.  In the case of a commercial fisherman, it is the trade of salmon caught for payment, in other words, fish for gold.  In the case of a fishing guide, it is the trade of his expertise and knowledge of the fish in the stream for payment, access to fish for gold.  In the case of a local lodge owner, it is the trade of a place to stay close to fishing opportunities for payment, once again access to fish for gold.

So, like all lefties, the anti-Pebble crowd is engaging in projection, accusing Northern Dynasty of wanting to do the very same thing they do every single day – trading fish for gold.  And they’ve been using this argument since 2012.

So far, it has been effective persuasion, especially being done without any response from the Pebble Partnership.  Now that we know they are doing the very same thing that they accuse Pebble of wanting to do, perhaps it is time for another phrase.  I pointed this out in the comments section under the opinion piece and was promptly called a troll.

Fact of the matter is that we here in Alaska always trade fish for gold, it is what we do.  It is who we are.  It is how we keep our families fed and our freezers full.  The anti-Pebble crowd apparently believes that they are the only ones capable of making that trade without harming the resource.  I would tend to disagree.  So would most other Alaskans.  The trick is keeping that trade going over time, maximizing the access to the largest sustainable amount of fish by the largest number of Alaskans over decades to centuries.

Just because you happen to live in “The place that’s always been” (another great piece of persuasion), does not give you the divine right to define who trades what for what, especially if you are contracting with a mining company (Milrock) to do the very same thing.

Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He is a small business owner and Information Technology professional.

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