I just applied for my dream job, and am trying not to freak out. They asked for a writing sample along with the cover letter and resume, so it took me a solid month to get everything edited to the point where I was anywhere remotely comfortable submitting it.
Here's the writing sample. If there's a typo... please don't tell me.
Many thanks to Chris at his blog, Master of Unemployment: The Journey to No Job, for the idea.
Here's his hilarious website. Just a heads up that you might find language that's a little.... salty.
The World of Salmon
The way we construct our world is a fascinating thing. The living get special treatment, stratified by species. People belong in one category, with its own varying kind of value. Animals are occasionally given special deference (particularly if cute or edible). The nondescript Nature that exists in documentaries or national parks is what we escape to when the objects in our lives become too noticeable for comfort. It is difficult for us to admit our dependence on those things - technology, nature and other species - so how will we come to terms with the fact that we’ve been shaped by them all along?
It would be ignorant for me to say this was the only way of seeing the world that existed. I come from a land shaped by salmon and the technologies that enable us to catch them. Tlingit came to this island for thousands of years to tend their fish traps before returning to their sunnier, more permanent locations nearby. Fish brought Norwegian fishermen to the island, and the icebergs coming from the nearby glacier convinced them to stay. As technology connects us to the world more and more each year, each generation is faced with the same choice. Do we stay? When technologies allow us to come and go at whim, and we know how much of the world there is to see?
It is a choice not given to our companion species, to borrow a term from Donna Haraway. Salmon are a species of place. They know where home is. They are creatures of habit facing an uncertain world, and trying to anticipate their movements cause no end of hand wringing in my corner of the world. The wildness of Southeast Alaska’s rainforests has nothing on the diversity in our waters, and all of it is being rocked by forces generations in the making. Our management systems are trying to keep their speculations up to date, and the people who make their living by that data are reacting and crossing their fingers. Their bottom line is at stake, after all, as well as love for their home and the adrenaline rush from pulling into harbor with a hold full of money.
But there are different kinds of joy in these moments. And vastly different amounts of money. The seiners, with capital-intensive fishing techniques that rely on volume of fish without harping too much on quality, go through boom and bust years as they rely on investments and luck of years past. Trollers are usually a one-man operation, involving smaller levels of capital investment and fewer fish. Their aim is quality, as they handle fish individually through the catching, cleaning, and sometimes even taking care to pack each individually in ice. When I bought fish from trollers for three months, the more passionate would occasionally pick up individual fish to show me.
“Look at this. This one’s a beauty, right here.”
“Now I’m gonna be keeping this one. Put up too good of a fight to let it go.”
“Gotta work on my homepack for winter. Been a good season, anyway.”
The young were excited about the record-breaking catches people were reporting. The wise knew change was still coming, good season or no. Things are different.
We are still a place living season to season, with forecasts limited to what our scientific models can reliably show. The so-called Western world’s presence here has been a relatively recent one: the Tlingit and Haida tribes have been here for around 10,000 years. For them, things have always been changing. This is just the time that the change is negatively impacting everyone, even the ones with millions on the line.
How well the salmon are doing is only one small piece of a larger puzzle. We have been a culture that assumed we had all the pieces. Each discovery or breakthrough, every solution to problems, was one more exclamation in a declaration. Too late we are realizing that all our brilliance has given the planet a fever it may not recover from. And that it may take a little more than an aspirin to bring us out of our delusions.
Commercial fishermen are the hybrids of our capitalist resource-intensive system. They rely on the whims of the market and their knowledge of the natural world to keep their world spinning, where the only constant is change. We may have more in common with them than we like to admit, at the end of the day, as we find ourselves adrift with no shore in sight.