Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wolves at our doors

Aldo Leopold (1887 - 1948) is the author of a number of profound and thought-provoking essays. High among my favorites is Thinking Like a Mountain. It includes a sentence that I hope never to forget: "Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf." Wolves are native to much of North American, although they have been extirpated from many places they where they once were indigenous. One of the reasons I consider myself fortunate to live in Minnesota is that it is a state that has wolves. There were few, if any, known instances of live wolves in New England while I was growing up there.

Do the Sawtooth Mountains listen objectively to wolf howls?
Do Minnesota's Sawtooth Mountains listen objectively to wolf howls?
Photo by J. Harrington

When yesterday we considered some thoughts on the themes of native - nonnative and indigenous - invasive, we hoped to raise questions more than provide answers. We haven't lived as long as a mountain and often find it difficult to be objective when listening to our local pack of coyotes, never mind the howl of a wolf. To again quote Leopold: “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” I count myself among those who cannot live satisfactorily without wild things.

deer and pines think differently about wolves
deer and pines think differently about wolves
Photo by J. Harrington

I also find myself wondering if our focus on eradicating invasive species, or attempting to, is because we have been taught so little about how the world really works and that consequences won't happen to us (just our children?). The last time I checked: 
  • We were in the process of creating potential problems for ourselves and future generations by trying to eradicate many kinds of bacteria in many places and, in the process, creating antibiotic resistant superbugs.  
  • A majority of the United States Senate recently voted against the idea that human activity significantly contributes to climate change.  
I think in previous postings I've suggested the Sorcerer's Apprentice seems to be a model we have adopted for a national economic development strategy. Leopold I think would want us to learn that there are no simple solutions. Wolves (predator) and deer (prey) and their habitat need to be in balance. Monoculture is a very difficult model to sustain. Diversity and equity usually help create balance in complex systems.

Most of these thoughts aren't original with me. Unfortunately, they seem lost on congress and state legislatures more interested in playing one-upmanship games than in trying to find reasonable and realistic strategies and tactics to follow regardless of which side is "right."

First Grade

By Ron Koertge 

Until then, every forest
had wolves in it, we thought
it would be fun to wear snowshoes
all the time, and we could talk to water.
So who is this woman with the gray
breath calling out names and pointing
to the little desks we will occupy
for the rest of our lives?

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Please be kind to each other while you can.