The future can be a scary place. For instance: at some point in the future you, dear reader, are dead. That’s kind of a downer. Sorry. But it’s also true that everything awesome that’s ever going to happen occurs in the future. It’s where every sandwich you will ever eat from here on out resides. The next season of your favorite show is out there. Every upcoming breakthrough and triumph and most importantly, it’s where our kids live.
The future is something we ignore at our, and especially their, peril. There are aspects of it we can control and lots more we can’t. But while it makes sense to remain optimistic, being delusional is another thing entirely. So with that in mind, I feel that it is the responsibility of The Clam to point out that, regardless of how we got here and who’s to blame for what, it’s a very real possibility that the fishing industry in Gloucester may dwindle down to pretty much nothing.
There. We said it.
Understandably, that comes as a gut punch to a lot of people. It gets others mad and they start going on about catch limits and how tourist jobs suck and all kinds of things that are not germane to owning up to this very real possibility. And because people get mad, we don’t talk about it.
I’m becoming worried that in order not to hurt understandably upset people, we’re not speaking about this openly. I’m deeply concerned that leadership is not addressing it, as this is their, like, job and stuff. I’m terrified that the only place willing to openly state: “The fishing industry in Gloucester may very well be on a downward slide from which it will never recover” is a satire blog best known for imagined lists of nautical strip-club names and the term “assweasel.”
For years I have listened to convoluted mental gymnastics from smart people when they are even tangentially confronted with this idea. I have heard a few intelligent people say that the fishing industry in Gloucester is “on pause” which I suppose is a step in the right direction in the acceptance of a possible post-fishing future. But it sounds sort of weird when you think about it for a second, right? On pause? Things on pause have a way of not coming off pause, such as my relationship with Sarah Andrews which went on pause at the end of Spring semester in 1989. I saw her at a reunion a few weeks ago, she has two boys and owns a bakery in midcoast Maine. We’re still on pause.
Ask your leaders, “Should we plan for a post-fishing future?” If the answer is “no” then we need to know why. If the answer is “yes” then we need to know exactly what that plan is. We need to think and prepare for what we’re going to do without fishing if we accept that possibility as a real one. We need to be prepared to make changes and spend money. We need to do this calmly and without freaking out.
Oh, who am I kidding. Here, let me get that out of the way:
“You WANT this to happen because YOU aren’t from here/are an elitist snob/whatever”
No I don’t. I’d rather there be a robust fishing industry, but I’m also not a fool. Also: your doctor might be an elitist snob, but she also can tell you if you if that weird mole is a concern. Those two facts have little bearing on each other.
“The reason we’re opposing change is because we’re grieving our loss.”
Grief is fine to a point, but once it begins to make it difficult to do the work needed to make necessary change, it’s corrosive. Lots of industries have changed, even right here. Quarrying was once a huge thing, now it’s not. Change happens, it’s hard and yes, sad. But the trick is managing it. And on grief: Mom may be grieving Dad’s loss, but if she can’t afford to stay in the big house then she can’t. It’s up to us to help her do the right thing. Not talking about it is not helping.
“We’re going to become like Newburyport!”
Not if we plan, not if we make some kind of real efforts to move forward will we come to resemble the most detested berg on the northern coast, a city whose name is spat like an epithet. But if we continue to do nothing, we’re going to wind up like Lynn after GE scaled down.
“You should have seen it back in…”
Stop. Stop right there. Nostalgia has, at this point, become a destructive force. I don’t want to hear about 40 years ago. I want to hear about ten years from now. We need to spend some time detaching ourselves from the past and figure out who we are now and who we plan to be. Sorry.
Ok, fine. Give me another plan then. If we don’t want more tourists, then we need other business, but that’s even harder in a lot of ways. Businesses need the same stuff: hotels, restaurants, mixed use office spaces, parking. Businesses also require trained local employees, so get ready to spend a lot more on the schools. I’m ready for a non-tourist plan, though. Hit me.
“It’s over man! Game OVER!”
Pull your shit together, Hudson.
So, there. I said it. Be mad at me if if you want, but know this: I’m not responsible for catch limits or climate change or ground stocks or any of that stuff. I, honestly, don’t even want to have that discussion at this point because it feels like we’re on the Titanic, taking on water and all anyone wants to talk about is who was steering when and if the iceberg was tabular or non-tabular.
Be pissed at me, but know this: What I want is for the future of Gloucester to be as cool as any point in the past. That is all. We have resources that other communities would kill for, we have natural beauty by the fuckton, we have a formidable DIY spirit that will be essential as Western culture moves from passive consumers to situational creatives. We have the most visceral (to the point of frequently being alarming) group of out-of-the box thinkers you can imagine.
The future is going to get weird. And we’ve got just the right weirdos to meet it.