Being Salmon, Being Human
Reviewed by Maddy Hardland

 

Being Salmon, Being Human

Encountering the Wild in Us, and Us in the Wild

Martin Lee Mueller

Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017

384 pages, 6 x 9 inches

$25.00

 

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Being Salmon starts with a wonderful, evocative foreword by Stephan Harding, describing what it means to consciously realize in every cell of our body that we are living on a sentient, interconnected planet as opposed to in a dead Cartesian machine. This sets the scene for Martin Mueller, who takes us on a journey from the vigour and beauty of the salmonid species worldwide to its industrial, genetically modified farming system, as terrible as any terrestrial caged feedlot. He relentlessly unpicks what we have done to this extraordinary creature who builds 90% of its body from marine ecosystems and then leaves it, after spawning, in fresh water, to feed hungry bears at the end of the winter. Bears take the carcasses into the forest and eat the rich feast of salmon. Even the old growth forest benefits from the cascade of nutrients that are washing into the mycorrhizal system of its roots.

Mueller juxtaposes two key narratives: the global salmon industry and the indigenous cultures of the Pacific NorthWest. He draws upon ecologists, biologists, and fisheries experts, and places his findings next to major philosophers like Descartes, Heidegger, and David Abram. The reader is made to confront the terrible cruelty of an industry that has spliced and imprisoned a sentient species. This is framed as a consequence of mechanistic thinking that has placed humans centre stage, negated sentience and turned our world into a collection of resources. The outcome of this merging of two worldviews is pulling apart of the old mechanistic worldview and scientific

insights of the world we are destroying. This is intricate, powerful reading.

 

Maddy Harland is founder and editor of Permaculture magazine, International.