The Billings Outpost

Bischke tells environmental tale in fable form

“Fish Tank: A Fable for Our Times,” by Scott Bischke. Mountainworks Inc., 150 pages. Paperback.


Defying all rationality, global warming science is still being questioned and – even more frighteningly – roundly ignored. As a result, our level of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has risen nearly 30 percent in the past 200 years – coincidently, the same 200 years that witnessed the industrial revolution and its skyrocketing rise in the use of fossil fuels.

Some folks are trying their best to prevent or reduce the impact of this ominous change. But the move towards a more environmentally benign energy system is happening too slowly.

Is there still time? We all survive, deep down, on hope itself. Hope keeps us going whenever we face challenges; I believe it is inextricably intertwined with our very survival instinct.

Hope is both the reason for, and one of the main themes of “Fish Tank,” an entertaining and captivating fable by Bozeman author Scott Bischke that offers a cleverly crafted metaphor for the planet-transforming situation we find ourselves (or, more accurately, have placed ourselves) in.

The book tells the story of a gigantic seaside research aquarium, created and cared for by a ocean scientist who has spent his career studying a rare seahorse. When the scientist is drawn away from his beloved aquarium on a yearlong research sabbatical, he entrusts its care to a hired hand whose concern is primarily for minimizing effort and maximizing profit, which ends up endangering the confined aquatic community. The responses of the inhabitants to the pending disaster have an eerily familiar ring.

The all-ages charm of the book includes its cast of interesting sea life characters with humanity-style personalities. The gradual buildup of tension keeps readers drawn into the narrative.

Best of all, though, Bischke’s ending is not predictable. Instead, it is a nuanced close to a multileveled read. Fitting, as the outcome of our vast experiment with carbon and the fate of the entirety of life kind itself will likely follow a similarly unpredictable trajectory.

I found the book a quick, exciting read. I was intrigued, entertained and engaged. This is despite the fact that I generally pinch my nose at anthropomorphizing non-human beings. But Bischke did it well and with a light and thoughtful pen. 

The book is very likely to appeal to a wide audience. I also have some hope (I can’t help it) that the book could even make a difference. (It is clear that Bischke wrote it with a hope for the same.) People understand the world best through metaphor and we base the transmission of culture, values and ethics on telling one another stories in various ways. This book taps into that deeply human way of navigating the world.

Educators will find the book useful - and a According to Bischke, a high school curriculum package was recently completed with a Minneapolis company and a Chinese publisher is reviewing it in consideration of a Chinese translation. An audio book is in early stages as well. 

The book’s early success is impressive considering that Bischke and his wife and business partner, Katie Gibson, are doing all the marketing, distribution and promotion.

Find out more about the book and follow links to purchase it at


Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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