(Editor's note: Randy Blaukat has competed on the Bassmaster or FLW Tour or both for much of the past 25-plus years. He's among the most outspoken anglers when it comes to the state of the sport, evidenced by his Jan. 13, 2010 BassFan Opinion piece about the rapidly-changing perception of the sport based on the business models put forth by B.A.S.S. and FLW. In the BassFan Opinion piece that follows, he shares his thoughts on the environmental challenges we're all facing – not just bass fishermen – and what we can do to help slow down their damaging effects.)
As the 2013 Tour seasons wind down, it is a good time to reflect on the past year, and turn our focus on 2014 and the future.
As many of you know, over my 25 years as a bass fishing professional, from time to time I'm fortunate to be given the opportunity to update BassFan readers on environmental challenges not only facing us now, but down the road.
I think it is important that anglers, especially, keep aware and informed on environmental issues. After all, the future of the sport we all love depends upon it on every level.
Anglers, like the public in general, tend to be apathetic to stories about our environment. They would rather read about the newest side-imaging technology or the newest technique that will help them become more successful.
For most, they see environmental issues not affecting them or think "someone else" is taking care of it. This is a dangerous attitude and discounts the fact our grandchildren will have to live in the environment we hand down to them.
For more than 10,000 years, the Native American Indians lived in what we now call the United States. Countless generations lived along the banks of the Tennessee River and the White River that are now famous bass fisheries such as Guntersville and Table Rock.
They lived in harmony with the environment, and left little evidence of their presence or impact on the Earth. The Lipan Apaches felt it was their duty to leave the Earth in better shape for the next generation than they found it in. This attitude sustained them and the environment, and we would do well to follow that way of thinking today, but sadly we don't.
While I could identify dozens of environmental problems we have on the horizon, I want to focus on just one today – climate change.
Without a doubt, the root cause of all our environmental challenges centers on human overpopulation. From the beginning of our planet's formation 4.8 billion years ago until 1850, the Earth had a population of around 1 billion. In just 150 years, we have added over 6 billion more.
The balance and lack of sustainability with such an incredible growth is seen with more evidence in third-world countries, but the big effect – climate change – is now affecting us all and will continue to do so.
Add to this our planet's global economy dependence upon cheap fossil-fuel energy and companies that don't want to give up annual profits that run into the hundreds of billions of dollars annually from it, and it presents an even bigger challenge.
Factually, here is what we know from NASA/NOAA, and scientists from over 160 other countries.
> Global sea-levels have risen nearly 7 inches since 1900.
> Ten of the past 12 years have seen the highest recorded global-average temperatures in recorded history.
> NASA satellite images report that the Greenland ice sheet is losing 30 to 60 cubic miles of ice per year, with Antarctica losing over 150 cubic miles of ice annually, with the extent and thickness of the Arctic ice reducing as well. At this rate, in about 100 years, Arctic ice melt will raise ocean levels to the point that over 2 billion people will be left homeless in low-lying area of the globe. This will create further strain on the environment in those regions.
> NASA and NOAA report most every major glacier globally is shrinking each year.
> Contrary to popular belief, climate change is not all about warming. It is about extremes. The past decade has seen the greatest number of recorded highs and low temperatures in history.
> Here is the big one anglers should take notice of. The acidity of our waters has increased about 30 percent over the past 100 years. This increase (climate change) is the direct result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is being absorbed into our waters. The amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed into the upper layers of our lakes/rivers and oceans is increasing by 2 billion tons per year.
The impacts of this are widespread, but bringing it back to the fishing community, the main impacts we will see from this have to do with our waters becoming more acidic as a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions. We've seen this on a smaller scale with acid rain created from coal-fired power plants, but now, we are talking the same results on a global scale.
Increased acidification in our lakes and rivers will have a huge impact on the reproductive cycle of not only bass and other fish, but the entire aquatic ecosystem as well. Fish eggs are very sensitive to changes in pH levels and fish populations will dwindle if this impact becomes more significant. It also will affect fish larvae and their habitat.
This carbon requirement from both fresh and saltwater fish is crucial to the sustainability of our fisheries. Coral reefs are especially sensitive to this, and we have seen an unprecedented die-off in coral reefs worldwide over the past 10 years. I could go on and on with examples and possible scenarios regarding climate change. It can seem overwhelming and depressing.
The good news is our planet has a tremendous ability to heal itself. Our job as caretakers of Earth is to live in a responsible, balanced way that focuses on handing over our planet to the next generation in better shape than we inherited it.
On an individual level, there are several things you can do.
> Vote for and contact your state representatives and elected officials and see where they stand on climate change. Show me a politician who denies climate change in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence otherwise and I'll show you a politician who is beholden to an entity that profits from keeping fossil fuels our main energy source. Vote for and support candidates who support the creation and expansion of green energy.
> If your elected representatives are skeptics on climate change, press them for reasons why. Find out how they have came to that decision in light of NASA's findings, and the fact the U.S. military has plans to address national security issues related to climate change in the coming years. The only way we as a planet can reduce carbon dioxide emissions is through political action. Whether it be China, Russia, India or the U.S., responsible regulations must begin to be instituted to reverse this trend. Switching to green energy is the only solution, and it presents a massive economic potential for our global economy. The challenge is, it won't happen overnight.
Bridge fuels like natural gas, bio-fuels, wind and solar will need to be incorporated more into our petro-chemical addiction.
So the next time you are scrolling through your favorite bass fishing web site, take a moment and send a note to one of your state's elected official.
Do it for the next generation of anglers.