survival

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Reflections on a Train: Identifying with Endangered Salmon and the Struggles for Cultural Preservation

A close-up shot of a silver, wild salmon leaping against a cloudy waterfall, amidst leafy green wilderness.
Kaia Thonul, Thursday, June 27, 2024, 07:06

As the cool, 16°C air outside turns the train windows to reflective surfaces, I find the usually comforting rhythm of the rails disheartening. The steady thrum of the train and the bleak landscapes passing by seem to echo the dispirited mood that has settled over me this morning. The reasons are manifold, but a somewhat unexpected culprit is a news article I just finished reading.

It's easy to get swept away by the tides of our own lives, our own problems, our own societies. But reading that article, about wild salmon and closed rivers in a town I've never visited, yanked me out of my self-absorbed stupor and made me view the world in a wider context.

Much like those salmon, aren't we all fighting against the currents of external threats, struggling to find our place in an ecosystem we increasingly don't recognize? It may sound a stretch, but bear with me. We are both victims and perpetrators, facing our own extinction or, at the very least, the extinction of our unique identities, whether they be ethnic, cultural, or personal.

Let's talk about ethnic identity and culture. These are the rivers that shape our lives. They mould who we are, how we think, how we perceive others. Yet, in the same way that salmon lice and farmed fish threaten the existence of the wild salmon, our identities are under threat as well. The fluid, mercurial entity we have always taken for granted is, in fact, fragile in the face of relentless threats of homogenization, cultural appropriation, and the unrelenting march towards a globalised society where our cultures and ethnic identities get watered down in the rushing river of mainstream narratives. We are in a desperate fight to survive, much like those endangered salmon.

This does not mean that we are helpless or should resort to isolation. Just as the local authorities in Vefsn are striving to strike a balance between ecological responsibility and local economic interests, we too must tread the line between preservation and adaptation in our own socio-cultural contexts. This ever-changing, often paradoxical, landscape requires constant negotiation.

As we shape and reshape our identities, find new ways to grapple with external influences, we should not forget the strength and resilience that our distinctive ethnic identities and cultures lend us. We must learn to survive — and thrive — persisting against the tide, like a wild salmon in a river.

In my dispirited state, these lines of thought carry a special resonance. A gloomy landscape mirrors my melancholy, the steady drumming of the train is the faint heartbeat echoing the persistent fight against threats to our identities. The mundane journey seems to become a microcosm of the larger world, with all its struggles and trials.

Somehow, it's soothing to know that we are not alone. It’s oddly comforting to realise that, whether it’s a young journalism student on her daily commute to university or an endangered fish species in a remote river, our struggles, our survival instincts, our need for identity, are universal.

It's time to get off the train now. Oslo awaits, with all its opportunities and challenges. In the grand scheme of things, reading about the dire situation of wild salmon in Vefsn is a stark reminder — a reminder that wherever we may be, we are part of the world, we matter, our struggles matter, and they reflect the collective struggle of humankind.

And so, as the train slows, creaking towards another destination, I wrap myself a bit tighter in my coat, bracing myself against the frigid morning air. Much like the plight of the salmon breeds resilience, our fights, our struggles, our sadness makes us stronger and more resilient, in our own human way.

Tags: Identity culture Survival

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