Sunday, July 5, 2015

RE: wilding

One of the basic premises of ecology is that everything's connected to everything else. One of the fundamental concepts Peter Berg, Gary Snyder and others have espoused is that cities need to be "rewilded" or else we humans will lose a critical connection to nature. In principle, I completely agree with all the above. In practice, I started to think about what rewilding actually might mean. Would it mean more mosquitoes and the diseases they carry? I can't see too many people favoring that idea. Does it involve more wood and deer ticks and increased exposure to Lyme disease? The answers to these and similar questions I think has to be "that depends."

Mississippi River, Minneapolis
Mississippi River, Minneapolis
Photo by J. Harrington

I grew up in a city, then spent several years in what was, at the time, a far-flung suburb, then back to the city. I remember when I was in the first and second grade swiping not yet ripened peaches from the neighbor's back-yard garden. That helped make the city not quite Eden, but reasonably close for a boy with a sense of adventure. City mosquitoes were never a problem, as I recall. They were more so in the exurb where one of the attractions was a local beach only a few mile from where we lived. The Summer before I started high school, I could have grown gills. Mosquitoes and ticks were acknowledged hazards and were swatted and pulled with some regularity. If I wasn't a "free-range" kid, I don't know who qualifies.

flock of turkeys behind the house
flock of turkeys behind the house
Photo by J. Harrington

I think what I'm trying to get at is it may be time to acknowledge we can't always cherry-pick our way through life and there are limitations to our ability to "manage" nature. Mosquitoes feed birds, mosquito larvae feed fish, I liked to go fishing, ticks are why we get married. The key, as with so many things, is to try to attain a balance. I was thinking about that this morning as a flock of turkeys picked their way through the yard. I hoped they were eating whatever ticks were around. Ticks, or their reduction, might be another reason to consider raising chickens, which is sort of like actual family farming, but not being an industrial "chicken grower." I'm not sure I can comfortably fuss about "farmers" (food manufacturers?) ploughing fence row to fence row and using herbicides and pesticides to excess while I simultaneously wish away mosquitoes, ticks and other creepy crawly things that feed the critters I like to watch. You know, it's all trying to hard to cherry pick the good from the not so good.  Speaking of which, I do believe that polluting your community's (or your neighbor's) groundwater is more attributable to industrial growers' (not farmers) greed and self-centeredness than to "that's just the way it is." We'll talk more about that some day soon.


By Wendell Berry 
If you are not to become a monster,
you must care what they think.
If you care what they think,

how will you not hate them,
and so become a monster
of the opposite kind? From where then

is love to come—love for your enemy
that is the way of liberty?
From forgiveness. Forgiven, they go

free of you, and you of them;
they are to you as sunlight
on a green branch. You must not

think of them again, except
as monsters like yourself,
pitiable because unforgiving.

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Please be kind to each other while you can.