When I was in college at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, my best friend had a small flat-bottom boat and outboard, and he and I ran a trotline up what we thought was the edge of the main channel of the Black Warrior River, just downstream from the bridge on Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard. We’d spend an enjoyable hour or so throwing poppers along the bank for brim, and keep a few to make cutbaits to put on the trotline. We caught a few fish most days—blue cats up to five pounds or so, a few lean channel cats, a couple of buffalo. We mostly let them go or gave them away to people fishing along the banks; we never dared eat them ourselves, so fearsome was the reputation of the pollution in that river. This was the 1980s, and Alabama had—it still does—a reputation as a place where the polluters held the power, and where the fruits of their power could readily be seen. The beautiful Hurricane Creek, a tributary of the Black Warrior, where we went to hike and swim and rock climb, had almost no fish in it, the victim of acid drainage from almost a century of coal mining in its headwaters. We were young and didn’t yet know why there were no fish, no life in that creek. We didn’t really expect it to ever be fixed, because we didn’t know what was possible.