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Mountain in the Clouds: A Search for the Wild Salmon Paperback – October 1, 1995
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"Still in print almost 30 years later, the book is regarded as an environmental classic―sort of a 'Silent Springs' for the people of the big blue tarp."―Seattle Times
"Bruce Brown’s thoughtful study of the decline of the wild Pacific salmon shows that men conquered fish not with ‘ingenuity’ but with brute force, ignorance and greed. Within a few generations of human settlement, farming, timbering, and commercial fishing had reduced the wild chum runs on most rivers to trickles, and the giant Chinook were no longer to be found. As he documented in the course of three years of research on the rivers of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, the salmon are today dying out even in remote areas, their intricate ecology the victim of ocean trawlers, pollution from large logging concerns and the damming and diverting of rivers by power companies. . . . Neither sentimental nor simple, Mountain in the Clouds is a model of ecological history."―New York Times Book Review
"A beautifully done book on the destruction of the Olympic Peninsula’s wild salmon runs through environmental degradation."―Kirkus Reviews
"Profound and moving."―The Washington Post
"A powerful investigative report."―Los Angeles Times
"A magnificent book."― Farley Mowat, author of Never Cry Wolf
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Top Customer Reviews
By Bruce Brown
This book touched me. I don't read much non-fiction, and what I do read is usually skills-based How-To stuff about carpentry or plumbing or growing mushrooms. This book though, being non-fiction affected me to a surprising degree, and I know exactly why: location, location, location.
A book like this can touch me precisely because it and I share a common experience. I've seen salmon jumping in the Dungeness; I've been to the campground on the Fork of that river. I've tasted wild Chinook and Chum and I can tell the difference. I've seen the stripes on a mating chum in its Redd, and smelled their dead bodies lining a stream channel in autumn. So, this is a book about my experience of Salmon as much as it was the author's - and because of that it was entirely poignant, touching upon the experiences of my life and things that were significant to me. That's what got me.
But if it weren't for that - I suspect that the compelling yet fact-filled tone of the author would have done it just as well. A pioneering novel in the genre of "ecological history," he strikes the delicate balance, so precarious that most of the time you're poised on the front of your seat expecting to find out that all the salmon are dead and you just haven't heard about it yet. Yet, woven in with these truthful accounts of the state of affairs of the plight of modern fish are settings if great beauty, people who are good folks, and experiences of such great meaning that reading through them you could swear afterward that that had happened to you too; rather than just having read it in a book. The author's gift here is very apparent, and his creation is artful, inspiring, education yet provocative and beautiful: if only because he is able to give an accurate portrait of something that I find to be one of the most gorgeous (and delicious) parts of nature in my neck of the woods.
If you haven't seen a salmon in Washington: this book will bring you here. If you have seen them, or have seen them your whole life: this book will bring you much, much more. There isn't anyone I know of who couldn't or shouldn't read this book - if only because it brings them a little closer to the Olympic peninsula and in doing so that much closer to me, and my heart, which was always here and probably always will be.
The book did make me want to go out and slap everyone involved in Washington Fisheries before 1985, slap the fisherman and the gill-netters, slap the moneyed lobbies and the trollers and the loggers and the dam-builders and the pulp mills. I'd slap the people too - just for not doing anything about it if they did know about it; and slap them twice if they didn't. I wouldn't slap the Indians - they got screwed over just as much as the salmon; and I wouldn't slap the salmon themselves - if the river dries up or they're eaten, how could you blame them for that?
The salmon don't depend on us; this book opened up the raw world of hatchery fish in a way I hadn't even been aware a controversy existed before. Being a scientist, I tested some of my own theories and found that they held up under scrutiny, so I can say: Yes, salmon hatcheries are bad for salmon. If you want to restore salmon, tear down every hatchery in existence right now. And its not even like they had nobody out there doing different things: the Canadians scrapped their hatcheries decades ago and have stronger runs because of it. Why do we have to keep doing the same wrong thing over and over again?
Part of me wants to think that its because our culture can't stand a freeloader: and if you're fishing the stream, and doing so keeps you from having to join the money-economy, that isn't tolerable. And anything that generates money is more important than everything that doesn't. Even though you can measure an industry based on the number of salmon it kills: to most people, that doesn't matter as much as the number of jobs it creates.
We're selling our souls to buy lipstick and blush - starving our hearts for the sake of fingernail polish. And in a week, all that pretty will be gone and we'll have to deal with the stark reality that our culture has just whored itself out for nothing, and nothing is exactly what we'll have left. Maybe this is how we're going to go, maybe this is our society's way of committing suicide. But why do we have to take the whole world with us?
"We're going to ride this bike until the wheels fall off."
... and they will; and the salmon will be a legend like the wolf or the grizzly bear or the mammoth, and eventually we'll forget them entirely, and never know that once there was a different way of being which wasn't toxic to the world or to ourselves.
... And yes, that emptiness in your heart day in and day out IS because something really is missing; and you won't find it in stuff, or other distractions, or even religion (which is to real meaning as fool's gold is to true wealth). But then again, who care's right? `till the wheels fall off indeed.