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Friday Follies

Remember when Nixon said something like, "If the president does it, it’s not illegal"? Well, I fully expect my green friends to say something like "If nature pollutes, it’s not pollution" in response to this story in this morning’s Washington Post.

I was on the road yesterday in Chicago, where, because the in-house ethernet service was down at the Drake Hotel, I wasn’t able to file "Thursday Thoughts." The Drake’s internet server was down for the entire 24 hours I was there, which is simply astounding these days. I left a scortching note for the manager.

Discussions - 16 Comments

Harumph! I’m sure your SCORCHING note will make them realize Steven Hayward is a man not to be trifled with!

Part of the problem lies with the unnaturally high populations of deer, geese and raccoons living in modern suburbs and depositing their waste there. But officials say it would be nearly impossible, and wildly unpopular, to kill or relocate enough animals to make a dent in even that segment of the pollution.

Hmm, so it’s not really "natural" then, is it? Did you read the same article, or was the headline all you needed for this to make your "Friday Follies?"

To some scientists, this makes perfect sense. They point out that a few wild animals have managed to thrive in the environments that humans create: Deer feast on suburban flowers; raccoons raid backyard pet-food bowls. Nonmigratory Canada geese, descended in part from geese brought to this area as live hunting decoys, have fallen so much in love with golf courses and groomed city parks that their East Coast population now stands at 1.1 million.It could be the ultimate irony of people’s impact on nature that the entire system has changed so radically that wild animals now degrade their own environment. More animals means more bacteria-laden waste. Some of that is swept by storm water into rivers and streams.

Uh, so it’s not like animals are building factories and cars and coal-fired power plants, is it? It still comes back to humans. It’s kind of funny that pollution and environmental problems are only real or worth mentioning when they’re supposedly caused by anything other than the usual suspects (such as the mega-corporations that sponsor you).

He didn’t say it was "natural" he said it was "nature." Are you suggesting that deer, raccoons, and geese are not a part of nature?

Phil Thompson’s point, and indeed all environmentalist points like his are also silly because people are a part of nature. Environmentalists have this weird dichotomy between humans and nature, like what people do is not "natural" or a part of nature. When a bird builds a nest, or prarie dogs build a massive colony , it is natural, but when a person builds a house, or people build a subdivision it is not natural.

Oh, you got me there, Steve-O! Building a bird nest is pretty much no different than draining wetlands to build a subdivision, because afterall, "hey, it’s just building what we live in!" Look, I’m not even a big environmentalist, and I’m certainly not arguing that humans should all commit suicide because we’re bad for the planet. What I AM saying is that we’re worse for animals than they are for us.

Oh yeah, and I’m wondering something, Steve- if people are a part of nature and therefore whatever we do is natural, then does that mean you agree that homosexuality is natural?

If the best Mr. Hayward’s "green friends" can do is "if nature pollutes, then it’s not pollution," then I wonder if his friends with different opinions are chosen solely for the superficiality and weakness of their one-phrase arguments. As the Post article notes, "It could be the ultimate irony of people’s impact on nature that the entire system has changed so radically that wild animals now degrade their own environment." This is true because the very existence of certain species in certain places in certain numbers depends greatly on the activities of people (think development, fertilizers, road-building, long-life synthetic chemical production, fishing, intensive livestock and dairy farming, etc.). Also, animals aren’t generally capable of fundamentally altering the essence of nature (think nuclear and genetic technology). I think that both the blame game (to the extent that it occurs outside of anyone’s guilty conscience) and escape-blame games are unhelpful. People frequently are responsible for changes in the natural environment, and we’re the only creatures that can intentionally act to change it for the better.

Steven - avoid staying at the Baghdad Drake - I’ve heard that sometimes their internet (dial-up at that - imagine!) is down for a week or more at a time, and they don’t always have electricity or running water, which of course can really ruin one’s jacuzzi hour!

we’re worse for animals than they are for us.

Depends on the animal, I guess. I’d be willing to bet that my dogs have the sweeter end of the deal at my house.

OK, well who’s the noble soul willing to level their house and plant some trees in its place? Hmm? Any takers? How ’bout those who think we’re killing the planet work on some realistic goals like clean burning coal or something, instead of this quasi-Rousseau/Fight Club idea of going back to being cave men.

Andrew - and exactly who is suggesting that we go "back to being cave men?" (and should you find some example, what micro-percentage of all environmentalists do they represent, if we’re going to charitably allow them to be in that category?) I think it’s mostly your straw men who are suggesting we be cave men.

As for myself, I’d be somewhat satisfied to see a few less golf course-style suburban (or rural) lawns. But I guess breaking up that 2-acre yard with a few trees is a drastic, radical step in the direction of the neanderthal.

Quoth Phil Thompson:

"It still comes back to humans."

Game, set, and match.

Folks, you argue with ignorance. Nature is worse than humans for foiling the biosphere...any idiot who has studying any natural history knows this. Moreover, many pristine ecosystems are impoverished...for instance, the deep oceans are bare of life, as are the deep tropical forests (at least, bare of mammalian life). Wildlife often thrives on monocultural agriculture because we mow down the trees and let the bush take over (which has a much higher carrying capacity than forest). In short, human activities are a mixed bag when it comes to wildlife. We destroy some niches but create others, like any other force of nature.

If you really want to worry, think about Yellowstone blowing up, or a big rock slamming into the planet, or the melting of the ocean’s methane hydrates. Now any of those will be catastrophic. By comparison, humans are a pimple on Mother Earth’s butt (in a manner of speaking...:)

Phil, you kick ass.

Phil/Craig/Abbie...they are legion.

Why is it only man is vilified for changing the environment?

I think it is because some folks, for some reason, feel guilty that they themselves have contributed or not stopped environmental changes. It is as if they have stopped maturing and are stuck in some prepubescent stage of intellectual thought regarding the environment.

It is one thing to oppose pollution, it is another thing entirely to oppose all environmental man-made changes!

This thinking coincides with the elevation of animals to human-type status.

If you want us to be like animals, then I should be able to do as animals do

That is, I should be able to kill the offspring of competing males, lord over numerous females, kill my own offspring if I feel like it or are hungry enough, or change the environment to fit my innermost desires.

That is nature at its fullest, folks.

Humans attempt to rise above nature, but many keep pulling us down back into it!

Personally, I blame Disney with its anti-human themed movies that go back decades for contributing to such ass-backyard thinking!

Also, who the heck in suburbia has 2 acre yards?

You will be hard pressed to find 2 acre yards in most current suburban neighborhoods.

Heck, you will be lucky to get a .5 acre lot, which if you do it will be a corner lot.

Since I was admonished to read the rather trivial "The Blank Slate," I assume that some of you are big E. O Wilson fans. When I was an undergrad, my reading of Wilson included the notion that technology had a way of introducing a monkey wrench into the otherwise "normal" state of affairs of animals and pre-tech humans.

That is, if we are to build huts, or shacks, and maybe even capes, then we may not tinker too much with the normal progression of species toward their respective cultural/genetic goals. But, when we introduce warm rivers for our dams, and when we introduce nuclear plants, and acid rain, and brown clouds over Denver and L.A,. and when we exhaust the aquifer in the Southwest in order to feed lawns and golf courses, then we initiate what Bateson called "exponential curves" away from the normal ebb and flow of animal cooperation and competition for natural resources.

So, for those E.O. Wilson fans out there, my interpretation is that there is a huge (exponential) difference between the effect of a bunch of locusts, and the effect of a bunch of factories. Or, if you prefer, nature has already calibrated itself to accommodate forest fires and volcanos, but it has NOT yet had the chance to accommodate what people and their industrial fallout can do to it.

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