Changing public consciousness is an inglorious task that seems to involve a great deal of repetition. There is an art to repetition, to saying the same thing over and over without boring or infuriating people or losing one's patience at their benightedness and resorting to jeremiads. But observation suggests that this branch of the suasive arts is, in our drink-Bud-or-we'll-kill-you culture, at least slightly in eclipse.
Still, despite the rather dismal state of the art and the basic human resistance to change — our preferred mode of advance is evolutionary not revolutionary, as science instructs us — change does appear, sometimes with notable swiftness. The imperilment of the world's fish, for instance, is a matter lately ascendant in the global consciousness. (Yes, I know I have mentioned this glum subject before — artfully, I hope.) In Honolulu on Nov. 10, I picked up a copy of the local paper, the Advertiser, to find that the op-ed page carried both an editorial calling for "aggressive management" by Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources of the state's marine life — in particular, for enhanced protection of the bottom-dwelling and vulnerable species opakapaka and onaga — and an opinion piece (by Bruce Anderson, president of the Oceanic Institute) arguing that aquaculture, if responsibly practiced, can ease human pressure on the seas as a source of food. Research and innovation are critical here.
I was pleased, though not surprised, to find major Hawaiian media paying serious attention to the plight of fisheries locally and around the world. I was also pleased — and surprised — to find that awareness of the issue has seeped to deeper levels. While on a brief visit to a friend recovering from surgery at the Towers (the continuum-of-care facility on Cathedral Hill), I glanced at a menu in one of the dining rooms and saw on offer mahimahi, ling cod, and swordfish — all line-caught, the first and last in Hawaiian waters. There are some questions with all of these fish, and I would not give the menu a perfect ecoscore, since apart from everything else, "line-caught" is ambiguous. Some lines are better than others. Still, it was evident that even in some institutional kitchens, care is now being taken that might not have been taken five years ago. There must be more than a few people in the Towers asking an artful question or two about the food they're being served.