Monday, March 7, 2011

Managing Nature

We humans know best don't we? We know what is the best box of Hamburger Helper for OUR family. We know that Scraps the pup likes to be scratched THIS way not THAT way, Myrtle! We also know what's best on a whole host of things from burgers to sleeping habits (which could be combined as George Costanza famously tried out).

If we know so much, then surely nature cannot escape our gaze or our grasp. After all, we had to kill Mother Nature with CO2 just to get a decent NorthWest Passage!

So what about nature? Well, when we are not busy figuring out ways to Hydrofrack the hell out of it other people go 180 degrees in the opposite direction. They don't want to just preserve nature, they want to make it more natural.

(if you can't tell that is a little wire white fence surrounding 15% of a pine tree)

Recently, the New York Times explored California's own Muir Woods' efforts to reduce noise pollution of the hikers and visitors of the wood. It seems several studies demonstrate that animals change their behavior (perhaps adversely so) when the noise of humans reach their little fuzzy ears.

Do you remove a paved trail? Do you take out humming electric generators? Do you switch to (ironically) quieter electric vehicles? Do you tell hikers to "shut the hell up"as they are snacking on their Ring Dings as they visit the forest?

These are all questions the article raises and I am not sure I know the answer. Smoky Mountain Hiking has some answers. I have railed against humans in the past spoiling the solitude and quiet-affirming qualities of nature on the more traveled trails of LA. I want nature unencumbered and yet I guess by my very presence, I am screwing up nature.

There was a recent study basically proving just that point. Hiking apparently changes the predator/prey dynamic and even 18 hikers a day is alleged to be too much. Hikers! The ones who care about nature are squeezing the heck out of it right now.

This attempt to control nature also extends directly to wildlife not just as byproducts of human interaction. As the absolutely wonderful magazine/website HCN points out that efforts trying to increase animal populations for hunting can be messy. Messy like catching bears in bear traps and then shooting them regardless of whether they are actually killing game animals or not. Good times. That article can make you mad or make you nod your head in approval but the end result is humanity is managing nature.

Humanity has always killed to manage, be it wolves, whales...other animals starting with "w" (I dunno wombat?). Yet we are clearly failing in our attempts.

Animals like the "ghost cat" just go extinct on their own, we are spending millions of dollars on a fish we can't save, and don't even get me started on the failings of the wild burro program (has there ever been a better name for a program?).

Humanity is doing its best to screw it up not matter what we are doing. Nature is paradoxically at our mercy. Paradoxically in that nature needs humans to make conscious choice to preserve certain areas but at the same time, preservation is 99% of the time justified for not only retaining the wild character of the place but allowing humans to access it. So we are preserving for our use.

As a hiker, I am part of this and am glad to be because at the end of the day, I see it as the lesser of two evils. Do we want the woods and the 'munkers and the bears who are learning how to drive to go away or do we want them to stick around but with changed habits? Since humans are here to stay and since nature can only seemingly be preserved by using it, then we just have to admit that we are changing nature and some of nature can't be changed.

Way to end on a depressing note ADKinLA. To make up for it, here is a duck that followed my canoe!


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