Of Gods and Sea Kittens


How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world — the paragon of animals!  ~ William Shakespeare

In the Sacramento Bee today, Republican Rep. George Radanovich of California's 19th District accused environmentalists of fish idolatry: calling regulations that protect endangered smelt in the Sacramento Delta "draconian," because they "turn simple fish into the worshipful gods of the environmental community...We need the government to protect the safety and happiness of people, not fish."   

 "All men are equal before fish," noted Herbert Hoover.  "Fish recognize a bad leader," observed Conan O'Brien. What do the Delta smelt think of Mr. Radanovich? 

Poor smelt. Caught in the crossfire of California's water wars, they never asked for adulation. Smelt are an indicator species and their disappearance bodes ill for the Delta ecosystem. Enviros say the California drought is being used politically to push new hydro projects — it's not that there isn't enough water, it's that the whole system has been so badly planned. Moving forward, conservation and better irrigation practices are in order, not sacrifice of the ecosystem. 

Republicans like 4th District Rep. Tom McClintock are also skeptical of the drought, but for opposite reasons, saying that environmental regulations, not farming or conservation, are the problem. McClintock seems to have inherited his predecessor John Doolittle's talent for subtle analysis: "The question comes down to a very simple choice between people and fish." (Doolittle, who is now under investigation for corruption, is famous in my hometown of Coloma, Calif.,  for his obsession with building the Auburn Dam on the American River. He called opponents to the dam "conniving environmentalists"). 

It must be acknowledged that certain fish fans are fanatics. PETA, for example, has gone off the deep end with its "Sea Kitten" campaign.  Obviously geared toward children, PETA's propaganda stretches, nay, snaps the cords of reason: 

"Contrary to popular belief, the technical term for sea kitten offspring is "baby sea kitties," not "caviar." Many sea kittens build nests where they can raise their baby sea kitties, and others collect small rocks off the sea floor to made widdle hiding pwaces where they can rest."

Oh, retch. 

Perhaps we should turn to Lao Tzu for answers about the Delta smelt:  "Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. Do not overdo it."