An Earth Day Rant: It’s Time To Step Up

How would you feel if it were all gone?

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Photo courtesy: Morgan Catherine (@_morgan_catherine)

I should clear up any confusion. This will be published to my public online hunting blog and I’m sure some misguided, yet well-meaning, individuals will find this to be a contradiction. Some will think: “How are you to write about protecting the environment, and our earth, when you’re in the business of killing animals?” If you are asking yourself this, clear up your day and read the other articles in my blog. The answers are apparent.

Furthermore, I should provide some background. I started writing and selling articles roughly two years ago. I never read and I never wrote before college. The reasons I started fall into three categories:

First, I love to hunt, and have been hunting since before I can remember. Second, writing is an outlet for my inhibited creative side. Third, we need change, and we need it now.

My writing is targeted towards the hunting community, who within itself is plagued by fallacies and contradictions. A group that is supposed to be stewards of the land bear some members who are guilty of the most repugnant land abuse offenses. I’m talking unethical treatment of game, animal suffering at the whim of poor marksmanship, laying waste to ‘junk animals’, and giving economical, biotic, and political preference to high-quality game species over others deserving of the same landscapes. These are the issues I usually address, as in my eye, and the biotic eye, all species deserve equal share of the landscape, whether they serve as hunting commodities or not.

Now, I am not addressing the hunting community. I am addressing everyone, from all walks of life.

It’s time to quit the bullshit talk and step up.

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It’s been 68 years since The Land Ethic was published by Aldo Leopold in his book, A Sand County Almanac. Aldo Leopold was the first to introduce formally the idea of a trophic cascade, in which the removal of a predator from an ecosystem can impact the landscape itself. The wolf eats the elk, the elk eats the young aspen tree, the young aspens feed the beaver, and the beaver creates ponds and directs streams. Without the wolf, the whole thing breaks down. The elk become over abundant. Unregulated, they consume all the young aspen, leaving the beaver with no food, and the streams and ponds change shape. It’s a desolate landscape without the wolf. His Land Ethic describes a ‘state of harmony between man and land. We can no longer abuse the soils of which give rise to the trees, or treat our rivers as channels for agricultural runoff, or oceans as an endless diffuser for our sewage and trash. Yet we do. We continue to treat our earth like a garbage can, lacking the ethical integrity that Leopold called for. We continue to combat large predators on the landscape. As long as we remain ecologically ignorant, we are inevitably combating all species on the landscape. Leopold condemned the 100 years prior to him as being nothing but mere “propaganda”, and that “conservation still proceeds at a snail’s pace”. 68 years later, can we say anything different? In Leopold’s time, the land was freshly stripped of bison and passenger pigeons, among many other species. Have we not lost just as many, if not more, species here in the 21st century? Have we developed a Land Ethic?

It’s been 55 years since Silent Spring was published by Rachel Carson. You know, the book revealing industrial chemical use in our agricultural practices and the bottom-up biological disaster killing everything from nontarget insect species to bald eagles and humans. In the book, she cites examples of children literally dying from industrial pesticides, yet today there is still a hotly debated issue with labeling foods as GMO’s. DDT is off the table, not thanks to Rachel Carson, but thanks to the overbearing political pressure the agricultural sector faced when her readers acted. Yet, governmental regulations protect pesticides and chemicals of equal detriment. Modern farming practices, although feeding our record high population levels, are unsustainable practices. We have a right to know what poisons are being placed on our food. Crop lands already take 10% of the lands available on earth. And this is not equal distribution. Farms are largely centered in locales such as the American Midwest, and in its sheer density, they displace thousands of species. We have a right for a directive in the move for sustainable agricultural practices. The government can’t be relied on to act in a wholly moral or environmental manner without public pressure. Only when large groups of people join for a common right, can things change.

It’s been 49 years since Garrett Hardin published his article The Tragedy of The Commons. His highly controversial essay warns of apocalyptic scenarios we will face because of population expansion and self-interest uses of internationally shared resources. Hardin demonstrated that, if we were not conscience of our tendency towards greedy consumption, what could entail is an earth depleted of its food resources. An ever-growing population calls for greater stress on Earth’s productivity. We need more land for food production, we need more drilling for oil, we need more land for houses and infrastructure, we need more automotive and fossil fuels for travel, every year. Earth is of finite space. We seem to be forgetting that in our self-employed race of technological and utilitarian advances. And, in return, the earth pays the price. The land is graffitied with ugly civilizational advances, and the air is rank with methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons. The polar ice sheets are melting at unprecedented rates. Yes, the earth undergoes natural climate change, but never at this rate. People are being displaced from their homes, species such as the arctic fox, polar bear, and muskox are being pushed further and further south. Native Inuits must find ingenuity in the presence of habitat loss. In America, or anywhere else in the world other than the North, it’s easy to shrug these issues, as shown for our political ignorance and the still-lasting ignorance for sound science. A conspiracy theory is the denial of human-charged climate change. America is embarking to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Are we to tell our children, when they live in a world of no Polar bear, no Arctic fox, and a coast reshaped by sea level rise that we did this? When the coral reefs fail and our global fish market crashes, garbage fills the ocean, and climate-related human epizootics are common place, are we to tell them we stood back and watched the world change? It’s easy to shrug these scenarios, only if you are diagnosed with sever shortsightedness, or an utter disregard for sound science and future generations.

Earth Day 2017, what will we do? I’m sure children of elementary schools will go out and plant trees. Facebook and Instagram will be full of posts about a green and eco-friendly earth. Yet, I doubt that the elementary schools have a hard-impacting curriculum to provide the foundation of the ecological and sustainable conscientiousness. And, I even more fear and believe, that most who will post photos and saddened rants on social media have thus far failed to lead a sustainable lifestyle.

Leopold believed that conservation education wasn’t enough to change our attitudes. Carson relied on human-rights and pathos appeals to change the minds of thousands, but it failed to revolutionize our views. Garrett Hardin called for an inhibition on human reproduction, and faced a backlash of misled ethical retaliators. It seems we are left with resolute on what not to do more-so than what to do.

I don’t think that anyone has an answer, yet. I’m hopeful that our ingenuity will one day be directed at reverting the damage already done to our ecosystems. But this will take a mass shift in mentality, a restructuring of governmental policies, and a change in the way we view nature.

If you want to celebrate Earth Day correctly, take the time to realize this: Nature is not a commodity in a human world, rather humans are a cog in a natural world. It’s easy to get the two mixed up. Take a look at Manhattan’s Central Park, an enclosed 1.3 square-mile sanctuary of New York City’s wildlife. From its confines, you can see skyscrapers and hear taxis, men in suits and busy roadways. Central Park is nature in a human world, if we can even call it that anymore, and a far cry from the swamps and oak forests that once carpeted the now concrete jungle. We cannot reduce nature in this way.

If we continue to, we are enroute to artificiality. In which, all the nature that we will have left is the byproduct of sanctuaries and wilderness areas. I do not want to live in a time where a long walk in the woods means walking circles around central park. I even more do not want to live in a time where hunting means buying a lottery permit for a Wildlife Refuge, or where to see some of the most magnificent creatures on earth I am forced to seek a National Park. Wild, public lands must need protection. We can’t let America’s, and for that matter the world’s, remaining wild areas turn into tourist attractions and Central Parks.

Legislatively, we need to protect, hold close, and support the integrity of in place acts such as the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Act, and Lacey Acts. Often times, we get too hung up on species charisma and economic incentive.

By charisma, I am regarding species like black bears and mountain lions, both of which draw false assumptions to be endangered and in need of immediate help. No longer can we protect only species of aesthetic and emotional value. Some of the ugliest damn species need the most help. Without some of those species, the charismatic ones couldn’t thrive. Even further down the chain, some of the worlds soils and grasses, shrubs and bushes need more protection. For without some of them, nothing survives. Don’t get me wrong. Some charismatic species do need help, like grizzlys and polar bears. But it is poor practice to protect thriving, and good looking, species over ugly, yet desperate, ones.

By economic incentive, I am regarding both inhibitors and providers. We place high value in waterfowl and game species for the economy it brings to governmental game agencies and sportsmen. Which is true, without them governments wouldn’t have the financial backing that it needs to protect both game and nongame species. But, on that same note, I would not be opposed to increased regulations on hunting moderate population levels of whitetail deer and waterfowl in exchange for bolstering economically insignificant species such as the white cedar and ruffed grouse. Economic inhibitors are those species that keep you from building a house, or a road, or dumping your mineral runoff. Surface coal mining and its effects on the endangered blackside dance and Cumberland darter often go unspoken of. Perhaps because these fish are small, and not so wonderful to look at. Or perhaps because their presence poses a huge threat to short-term monetary gains.

I once wrote an op-ed defending the black bear hunt in New Jersey, using wildlife management statistics and research to back my point. In my argument, I stated that:

“Other species that are not thriving and amid a population boom like the black bear are in desperate need of Fish and Wildlife funding. Bobwhite quail and ruffed grouse are one example and have been absent from much of their southern New Jersey range for decades. Endangered state species such as the Allegheny woodrat, bobcat, and Indiana bat are struggling in comparison to the healthily populated black bear and are much more deserving of state funding.”

I suffered a vicious backlash from well-meaning and crudely ignorant readers, likely because the issue revolved around black bears and not some other less charismatic species like flounder. Yet, through all the insults, and all the claims that I was justifying a sport of machoism and archaic practices, not one argument referenced my point that endangered and locally extirpated species need the funding. Bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse, bats, rats, and bobcats simply take a back seat to creatures who are treated as cuddly and beautiful, even though they may need desperate saving.

Sportsman and outdoor recreation groups have jumped to resolve the plague of an economic precedence over publicly held wild landscapes. The public land sell off in the west is an ongoing effort, and basically public land is being sold to state agencies which do not have the funds to maintain them properly. In turn, they can sell them off to privatized resource extraction companies and take them away for good.

What are public lands? You know the old song “this land is your land; this land is my land?” they weren’t kidding. Public lands are tracts of areas that we all pay taxes on maintaining. We’re talking Bureau of Land Management, National Forest, and National Parks. We are all free to use them, and in fact by North American Wildlife Conservation Model, its lands and wildlife belong to each one of us, or in their words, “the public trust”. Usually the land is managed for a multi-use in which you can recreate, fish, hunt, hike, birdwatch, and extract from in limited manner. Do we want such a prestigious opportunity to be lost?

America is one of the few nations who holds a wildlife and land model so liberal. Europe, for example, has little to no wild places. In the face of such a prestigious and gifting opportunity to enjoy the last remainders of wilderness, it’s important that we protect them.

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We need to look at nature through a lens in which we belong to it, and not the other way around. No amount of technology will remove us from our dependency on the land, and how this can get confused is nonsensical. We need its waters, we need its animals, we need its trees, and we need its soils.

In a biotic sense, every living creature on this earth deserves an equal share to the resources. We do not allow each other to tear down houses for the sake of our own, or destroy whole communities to expand our back yards. So, in what instance is it right to destroy whole biomes and ecosystems without blinking an eye at its ramifications? Can the homeowner understand the ecological value of the soil on which he builds upon?

Leopold grew up in a time where conservation education was failing. And I am living under the same circumstances. We need to revamp efforts in school curriculums, and for that matter at home precedents, on conservation education and awareness. It can be done on the basis of sustainability, in which we strive to continue the human race and its practices amongst a natural world without causing further detriment. Or, it can be done on the basis of biocentrism, in which the evolutionary, ecological, and environmental sequences we see today are recognized as going on long before us, and long after us, deserving inherent protection.

If you made it through this far in the article, I applaud you and leave you with one final thought.

Imagine you build a home from scratch. Your tool is the hammer, and you are forced to find the wood, laboring day after day, hour after hour. You complete your home in 24 hours, and someone tears it down. Would you be upset?

Nevermind that. That would be a small home. It takes you 10 years to build it, and then someone tears it down. How upset would you be?

How about after 3.6 billion years? The hammer and wood are the ecological and biotic forces that drive the wilds we see today, such as evolution, competition, and food webs. The home is our natural environment we find today: the squirrels, the fish, the trees and the swamps, rivers and marshes, deserts and rainforests, bears and frogs. Every living thing we see today.

Biotic life first arose over 3.6 billion years ago. If it all got tore down, how upset would you be?

Happy Earth Day all!

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