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I thought I would use a poker analogue for today’s column, even though I am hardly a poker player.  But as it turns out one of my favorite restaurants seems to always play poker championships on their overhanging TV sets when I am eating there.  And so I have kind of been forced to learn the basic strategies of poker while I am eating my precious tortilla soup at Carnitas, my favorite Mexican restaurant in all of Southern California.

It hasn’t taken me long to see that it is the greediest and most impulsive poker players always end up as the biggest losers in these contests.  In fact, the champions are always the most disciplined and patient players, who are controlled enough to hold on to all their most important cards for the right time.  The losers have by then lost all of their important cards at all the less important times.

That is because losers have a panic-stricken idea that they need to make money as fast as they possibly can.  The losers turn out to be true gamblers.  The winners turn out to be true players.

So this piece is essentially about the relationship between money and cards. Since I graduated from high school in Coos Bay, Oregon – which is off and on the major commercial fishing area on the Pacific Coast – I have had the experience of understanding early the relationship between money and cards, or let’s just replace the word “cards” here with “resources.”  In Coos Bay, the resources are the salmon.  The money comes into Coos Bay from people all over America, largely for the silver or coho salmon and the chinook or king salmon that comes out Coos Bay. But in fact, the silver salmon that have spawned out of the Columbia River are feared to be already extinct.

With the steady increasing warming of the Pacific Ocean over the past ten years, the delicate breeding of Pacific salmon has been disrupted and the salmon runs that take place every year into the Coos Bay region have been diminished.  The salmon industry has responded in a number of ways, including putting tighter limits on commercial and sports harvesting of Pacific salmon and increasing prices to lower its demand.  The one thing that no one in the salmon industry is saying is “let’s fish for more Pacific salmon while there is still some salmon to fish in the Pacific.”

Unfortunately Pacific salmon is not the only hunted fish to be diminished in this way.   In equatorial coastal nations, the manta ray has been so hunted for its raw elements to be used for medicines that it also is moving to the brink of extinction.  Here there is again is an economic purpose battling against a survival purpose.  The economic purpose is inflamed by the fact that the manta ray is usually hunted in areas where there is no other industry.  The sale of manta ray products to be used to activate medicines in China can typically pay for the maintenance of an entire fishing village, which may well have nothing else to sell to the world. 

 But it is said that mankind developed brainpower by intensely looking outside the box when the box is closed. So even though the people of the manta ray fishing villages may have never thought of finding an alternative economic life, the dwindling of the manta ray is severe enough to see that in a few more years unless the harvesting of the fish is seriously controlled there will soon by no more hunting and no more money making on the manta ray, nor will there be the specific Chinese medicines that the manta ray produces.

So the people in these fishing villages are finally starting to grow and create new products so that they may have a second economy to give the manta ray a chance to reproduce to its own old healthy population rate again.  But this is serious, because the manta ray of all living things is one of the slowest to reproduce itself.

So while we are playing poker with resources as our cards, can you think of other cards – resources -- that are extremely slow to replace? How about the resource we know as oil?

Through all the things we have called former president Nixon, I can never remember anyone calling our former commander in chief who created our Environmental Protection Agency “not a patriot.”  Surely Nixon’s decision to leave law school to serve on a battleship in the Pacific during World War II was the decision of a patriot.  It is also clear that Nixon’s decision to create the EPA – considered then a radical and controversial move from the White House – was nourished by Nixon’s sincere love for America as well as his conservative Republican principles and his respect for America’s environment.  Surely this passion for the environment was fostered by Nixon’s political mentor Dwight Eisenhower, who turned America’s environmental priorities forward with his massive “Make America Beautiful” movement.  Eisenhower of course was one of America’s greatest patriots and Republicans.

But today people like so-called EPA chief Scott Pruitt who call themselves patriots and call themselves Republicans are trying to turn all of this back, because they state that it is more important that America “make money faster” than to conserve oil or any other resource, and to take off the controls of drilling oil everywhere in America, even off our famous beaches.

In poker, these people will end up losing their cards too soon as well as losing their money, and our last look at them will always be looking at a loser.

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.