Roderick Haig-Brown – echoes of the past

Author, soldier, law enforcement officer, international conservationist, magistrate and judge, University of Victoria Chancellor but, above all Roderick Haig-Brown was a consummate angler in the mold of Izaak Walton. Below is a short excerpt from his last book, “Bright Waters, Bright Fish”, completed in September 1976 – one month before his death.

“So Canadian anglers have in their heritage three unfortunate concepts: there is an unlimited supply of fish, regulations are unnecessary, and fishing should be free. These concepts must be eliminated. The resource cannot support a meat fishery, it cannot be enjoyed for long without close regulation and management, and if it is to be managed properly, there must be a source of revenue — it cannot and should not be offered without direct cost to the participants in the form of licenses.”

“All this regulation is gain rather than loss. The resource is put in proper perspective, as something of immense value, to be cherished, used respectfully and passed on unimpaired to future generations. True, management also brings about some loss of wild freedoms and in some sense a loss of quality; but these are penalties of increasing population. Angling, if it is to persist, can only do so as a sport of high principles, strong ethics and intelligent recognition of the true nature of the resource. Such principles, like the ordinary concrete regulations that bind him under the law, are not a burden upon the angler but positive enhancements of his chosen pursuit. To be fit to make proper use of the fishery, he has to bring something more with him that a rod, a line a hook and a desire to kill fish.”

Now, 37 years later, we are faced with the entire resources of Earth’s biosphere threatened by those who, like Haig-Brown’s meat fisherman cannot think beyond the desire to kill fish or, in this case, to convert natural capital into accumulated personal wealth. The difference of course is that, while few people worldwide have had their lives threatened by a group of fly fisherman who can’t practice restraint, the entire human species is now threatened by the capitalist wealth accumulators who suffer from the same unprincipled greed.

Over the years, I have bored many friends, family members, colleagues and casual acquaintances (I try not to discriminate) with my stories of lost quality of life and I still consider that, in my case at least, Quality of Life and Standard of Living exist in an inverse relationship — as one goes up, the other goes down. I’m not going to expand further at this point (maybe in a later post) but if we run into each other when you happen to be looking for a way to kill some time, ask me to explain . . . . .

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