what if superman fought batman…?

If you visit the Cohen Commission (Public Inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon on the Fraser River) website you will notice the schoolyard-like reasoning has begun… you know the: “superman would beat up batman in a fight” or “my dad is stronger than your dad”.

Or, maybe more aptly it’s the parliament-like antics of our hallowed national institution… “my MP slept with your MP…” or “my MP’s husband used your MP’s office to secure government contracts…” Or, my party donor investigated my MLA’s apparent wrongdoing…

Or, maybe even more aptly, another U.S. bank is under investigation by federal authorities for de-frauding investors (the public) of money through bundling up sub-prime mortgages selling them to investors, then betting against those investments and making billions. (Gee, I’m shocked…)

I’m referring to the list of culprits in the declines of Fraser sockeye salmon. Today visiting the Commission website, I notice it’s been re-formatted and the latest public submissions can be seen summarized along the right-hand side. Here’s the summaries I see today:

“The decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon is due to predation by harbour seals, which are growing rampant in the Gulf of Georgia and the…”

“The shortfall witnessed in the 2009 Fraser sockeye salmon run was a localized issue caused by open pen fish farms…”

“The disappearance of salmon stocks may be due to the illegal sale of salmon by First Nations…”

(many of these opinions sounding rather similar to various news headlines over the last decade…)

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If you read my post from the other day — Salmon culture, culturing salmon, and enculturation — you can see that around the North Pacific Rim there are completely different opinions (scientific included) and national practices surrounding the use of salmon hatcheries.

Some say good, some say bad, some say we don’t know, some say it’s all we got…

In that same post, I mention Alexandra Morton’s walk along the length of Vancouver Island to protest open-net salmon farming in British Columbia. Now a hot debate has erupted about whether there were 1000, or 4000, or 10 000 people in Victoria this past Saturday on the lawn of the BC Legislature. Letters are being written to editors, conspiracy theorists about corporately controlled media are flying fast and furious and so on.

(It doesn’t really matter; the event was a success in getting the word out that change is needed…)

And that, I suppose, is my fundamental point here.

Kids in the schoolyard will launch into the most in-depth research of Marvel Comics over the last 50 years gathering their evidence on Superman and how he defeated Octopus Man, or whatever other evil do-no-gooder; how he did it with a pulled groin in the 1963 Issue 6 Volume 4; how he did it under the influence of kryptonite in the 1986 Issue 3…

Some really bright kid might start graphing his evidence in Excel spreadsheets, coming back to the school yard with pie charts, regression analysis, Bayesian statistical comparisons, and so on… Or better yet, create complicated modeling programs that try to predict 69 times out of 70 with 95% accuracy 9 times out of 10 whether Superman beats up Batman.

Some other kid just states the common sense point: Poor lowly batman just defeated a glorified clown, and drove a fancy car… Superman Wins!

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Out of curiosity I recently ordered two online courses: Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics.  (yes a sick curiosity, some might suggest…)

The early chapters of Microeconomics have been rather revealing though:

… an economy is just a group of people interacting with one another as they go about their lives… the behavior of an economy reflects the behavior of the individuals who make up the economy…

Apparently there are ten principles to economics; here’s a key one:

Principle #1: People face tradeoffs.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch.” To get one thing that we like, we usually have to give up another thing that we like. Making decisions requires trading off one goal against another.

Principle #2: The cost of something is what you give up to get it

Because people face tradeoffs, making decisions requires comparing the costs and benefits of alternative courses of action…

Thus, if an economy is just us interacting with us, making tradeoffs and looking for free lunches — and that the cost of things is what we give up to get those things…

well then, doesn’t everything then come down to individual choices?

This “my science” vs. “your science” is about as productive and effective as the “superman” vs. “batman” schoolyard debate, or my politician is more ethical than your politician, or my bank is more reputable and honest than yours…

No matter which way “we” approach any issues there are going to be multiple opinions from all sides… and in the end tradeoffs need to be made. (and sadly, these tradeoffs are often made by the legal profession in courts of law…)

Which tradeoffs are appropriate? —  is the key question.

Most importantly — what tradeoffs are we all willing to make individually for wild salmon…?

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