Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wild Playthings

All scientific evidence to the contrary, we humans continue to believe that we stand at the exact center of the universe. There are those of us who act as if the world would stop turning on its axis were it not for our tender interventions. There are men and women who work very hard to shape the world into a perfect incubator for their dreams, glory and profit. And, there are far too many who act to conquer the world, and, with blinding arrogance, call it the will of God himself. We arrive, remodel our environment to meet our needs, encounter a problem, diagnose it strictly from our perspective, and are caught off-guard when things swing out of balance. And, never do we consider that the unintended consequences of our environmental manipulations are our fault.

We claim the top of the food chain, and use our dominance to forward our needs and desires, at the expense of all competition. When we are not running each other off some disputed turf, we are conquering other species, and running them off. Even when we don’t need it, sometimes even when we don’t really want it, we seek undisputable supremacy over our environment. We emptied the plains of buffalo, and then remarked on the emptiness. We killed inedible game for their heads and stole gorilla parts in a futile pursuit of potency. We pushed out housing developments ever further from the cities in an ultimately self-defeating search for rural life, and then complained in town meetings when the deer had nothing left to eat but our gardens.

Some would label this a survival instinct found in every species, but I think that is disingenuous. All other species take what they need, and leave the rest. Only our species takes what it needs and then more – if only to defeat our competitors. Even if we float the theory that our brand of ruthless resource competition is hardwired in humans, I don’t buy it. There are many people on the planet who take only what they require, and leave the rest unmolested. There are many humans who share, without calculating whether or not their gift will strengthen a future competitor. I say this hyper-competitiveness is a corruption, a deficit of spirit, a raw selfishness that has flourished by mutual agreement of our grandness. We do it simply because we can.

So, like the buffalo problem and the wolf problem and the wild cat problem and the deer problem, we have the wild horse problem. For profit, we opened federal land to ranchers, and when the resources began to diminish, never considered reducing the ranching but decided that it was the wild horse population – that lauded symbol of the west – that had exploded beyond capacity. No matter that the statistics disagreed, or that nature self-regulates. Rancher dollars were at stake. We captured the wild horses for adoption (literally running them to ground). Now when far more have been penned than can ever be adopted, and when the cost of care and feeding has begun to eat into those rancher dollars, the Bureau of Land Management claims the only recourse is euthanasia. No listening to other options (more land allocations, birth control, even), no adaptation, no cooperation, no sharing, but euthanasia.

Simply because we can.

For more information, see Let Em Run: http://www.letemrun.com/

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