The time has come,' the walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing wax--
Of cabbages and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings.'
A few weeks back, a CBC interview with the acknowledged premier-in-waiting, alias Fisheries Minister, Gerry Byrne, reminded me of the children's classic Through the Looking-Glass written by Lewis Carroll in 1872. 'Contrariwise' reality at its best.
I often reread these old children's books because they help me make sense of the Trumpian world around me where politicians and corporate mouthpieces abandon truth; and where fake news, alternative facts, phony science, and historical lies have become the norm on social media.
No doubt you've read the story, too: Alice climbs through a mirror into the reflected scene she can see in front of her.
Along the way, she encounters characters like the fat twins, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Red Queen, the White Queen, Humpty Dumpty, the Red King, and many others.
In the adventure, Alice experiences a bizzaro-world of reverse logic. Nothing is what it seems, running is standing still, hunger is thirst, and words mean whatever you want them to say.
Since the last week in August, I, too, along with the great unwashed in this province, have become trapped in a similar bizzaro-world of cover-up, weasel words, and false narratives as a slow, painful trickle of details emerged on the disastrous die-off in the open-sea cages of Northern Harvest--the aquaculture mega-giant operating in Fortune Bay.
First, came soothing words from the company that there was 'no reason for public concern' nor was there 'a threat to human health.' Northern Harvest highlighted its commitment to protecting and preserving the environment. These talking points were to be taken up by the government and industry representatives in the following days.
A lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth, observed one Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propaganda chief in the 1930s.
Any challenge to these soothing words met aggressive blow-back from Northern Harvest. Then came strident propaganda and verbal assault from the industry association followed by either silence or defensive drivel from the Liberal Governments at the provincial and national levels. All are now complicit in environmental crime.
The disastrous die-off became 'a massive mortality event'. Jason Card, the mouthpiece for Northern Harvest, spoke of the challenges in removing 'mortalities' from the cages.
"When I use a word," said Humpty Dumpty in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less."
In mid-September, we still had no idea of the scale of the 'mortality event' nor the impact of that event on the eco-system of Fortune Bay.
Then the truth gradually emerged. CBC has now reported a toll of 2.6 million fish--26 million pounds of dead salmon, rotting in the cages or being ground into a toxic fatty slurry and pumped into the pristine waters of Fortune Bay.
"Just pigment," said Card. Pink dye.
"Contrariwise," said Tweedledee, "if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."
Dr. Ian Jones, a biologist at MUN, called it the greatest pollution event in Newfoundland history. He maintained that the fatty slurry (just pink dye, after all) would kill seabirds and have a smothering effect on all ocean life in Fortune Bay, one of the richest lobster grounds in Newfoundland.
Reading from the same cue cards as Jason Card, The Minister of Fisheries, Gerry Byrne, maintained there was zero threat to human health. The 'mortality' did not involve a 'pathogen'--Byrne knows all these big words because he did a biology course at university.
"It's the same as when an unexpected frost kills a number of cabbage or turnip plants, bad for the farmer but not a health risk," said Byrne.
And what of the fishermen who depend on the polluted waters for a living?
Nary a word from the minister.
Nothing from Premier Duh-wite.
Do we even have an environment minister?
Mark Lane, Executive Director of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association (NAIA) weighed in with the same talking points as the others. NAIA, by the way, is the propaganda arm of aquaculture in the province (also funded by the taxpayers of NL to the tune of $550,000).
"If the same situation where a beef farmer or a wheat farmer who had a massive crop devastation due to drought, people would be feeling empathy and sympathy for these people," whined Lane.
Speaking from Rome where the mega aquaculture corporations like Northern Harvest and their propagandists were meeting over cappuccino and anchovy hors d'oeuvres, we learned that seventy percent of the world's surface is water.
"We need to use it," said Lane, "to address food concerns. It is a source of sustainable protein, something the world is going to be millions of tonnes short of by 2050."
At close to $30 per kilo in the supermarket, farmed salmon is unlikely to be on the dinner table of 99.9% of the world's people.
"People who don't think, shouldn't talk," said the Red Queen.
This too will disappear from the news cycle. Our government will latch on to other schemes that will produce minimum-wage jobs for a few unfortunates. Rural Newfoundland and Labrador will be the victim.
Grieg Sea-Farms, welcome to Placentia Bay.
But, here's an idea: why not import all that plastic produced in Europe and burn it in a gasification plant in Lewisporte. We'll be able to generate an additional 500 megawatts of electricity. God knows we're going to really need it.
How to stop the madness? Sometimes I feel like another character in Through the Looking-Glass.
"You may as well try to catch a Bandersnatch," said The Red King.