Mark Blackmore

As many of you will have observed from paying even the scantest attention to the news over the years, there are certain themes that develop when governments enact unpopular measures. There are trends that emerge, arguments that are repeatedly made, until the dust settles and the affected populace ends up trying to make the best of things, as they always do. We’ve seen this story a thousand times.

It always starts when an idea, some sort of business scheme, is proposed. It’ll be obvious from the off that people won’t be too keen – perhaps, as in the drive towards large-scale commercial salmon fishing in the Falkland Islands, the idea will involve upheaval at a community level and environmental damage in return for short-term economic gain.

Next, and doubtless driven by good intentions, an authority figure must take steps to look into the matter. There is no harm, of course, in investigating. After all, they are just forming an exploratory committee. They are just analysing feasibility. They are just scouting potential locations.
Indeed, this is all due diligence. It would be irresponsible not to do these things, and with every step it’s true and fair to point out that the Rubicon has not yet been crossed. No decision has yet been made.

At this stage critics can never quite see a point where they might reasonably draw the line and say, ‘No further’. There’s nothing concrete around which to coalesce.

And yet, somehow, a boulder has started rolling down the slope and picking up speed. I want you to imagine this boulder smelling of fish and coated in sea lice.

Despite that, opposition is little more than a murmur. After all, it hardly seems unreasonable for anyone to argue that we should learn all we can about how to implement salmon farming. Nobody is saying we would ever do such a thing anyway. But don’t we have a responsibility to explore all possibilities?

Everyone should stop panicking about nothing, the argument goes. We’ll calmly consider things, and anyone who wonders why we can’t just say ‘No thanks’ is being hysterical. Contracts must be signed with a company to look into the matter, applications invited from those looking to profit, but nothing has been decided yet.

Meanwhile the boulder is getting faster. Its momentum is now such that a herculean effort is required to stop it.

This is where we currently stand with regard to salmon farming, and if history is any guide, it’s where we will continue to stand for quite a while, until the whole idea becomes normalised, boring even. Just something that chugs along in the background.

In the public mind, what was once an outrage will become something that is just going to happen, like bad weather. After all, considerable funds will have been committed, contracts with commercial partners will have been signed. Yes, there are drawbacks, potentially severe drawbacks, but perhaps they might be managed and minimised, and in the short term there are economic benefits. For some, anyway.

Of course, it could be that none of this happens here. I have absolutely no doubt of the good intentions of everyone involved. Everyone is just quietly doing their jobs, doing the things that they are employed to do. No one person can stop that boulder rolling.

It’s going to take a lot of us, starting right now. Otherwise we’re going to end up trying to make the best of things, as we always do.