Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Rocking Horse Effect

At last we have a real summer day, the mercury has climbed into the high 90s and with the humidity we’re having a heat index of 107. For us, that’s a lot of heat. We’ll be dropping back into the 80s and below in a few days so we will have had our “summer heat wave.”

One of my pleasures in life is thinking. I know that all of us “think,” but what I enjoy doing is taking a problem and putting it in my head, somewhere in the subconscious, and letting it percolate. After some amount of time I have my answer. This is probably why I am lousy at taking tests. I want to spend too much time looking at the problem before presenting my answer. This is the point of “The Thinking Hunter.” I am not interested in presenting quick answers to questions that are presented to me, but answers that I try to reach after working with the question. I like to research the question and the ramifications of the different answers before I settle on one. I am not saying that my answer to a question or problem is “the” answer, but that when I do offer an answer it is one that has been carefully thought about. Some questions have no viable answer because each answer creates a new set of problems that require different answers. Philosophers have dealt with this problem for centuries and while they understand it, have identified it and provide several different descriptive names and analyses for it, are no closer to resolving it. An example of this (in our world of the outdoors) is the question of wild geese. Regardless of the course of action taken to control wild geese numbers that have reached problematic population levels the action is going to produce both negative and positive results. Plus, if the action taken is emphasized to produce greater results, whether negative or positive, more negative results will be produced.

For Example: If, in one population area, the action taken removes 500 geese and the positive result is a cleaner (but not completely clean) park then removing 1000 geese should increase the positive result. In fact, the result will depend entirely on the remaining population. If the number of remaining geese is too low to insure the population’s survival of the annual migration there are new problems to consider. Will the park’s aesthetic value be decreased by the lack of returning geese? Or, perhaps the value will increase because the geese were actually decreasing the value. The list of consequences for each action goes on.

So what am I getting at?

Recently I was in a discussion in which the primary topic was whether we (humans) could actually manage wildlife and/or nature. The center of the discussion consisted of the fires, floods, geese and of course wild hogs, all which were brought up by one side as examples of failures of human efforts, while the other side claimed that the present flood situation is a product of humans never having seen this much water, the fires are wholly nature’s doing because of the droughts, the geese populations are a success story and the spread of wild hogs is a benefit by providing meat (when on accessible lands) and income (guides, etc.). I retreated from offering an opinion because I wanted to think about the question: Can we humans manage wildlife/nature without creating such imbalances that nature’s corrections create an ecological rocking horse effect?

Think about it--I am.



Holly Heyser said...

My friend, you should read Jan Dizard's "Going Wild: Hunting, Animal Rights and the Contested Meaning of Nature." It is a long exploration of exactly the notion of "managing" nature. I think you'd enjoy it. (And the author, FYI, is an Amherst College professor who hunts.)

Galen Geer said...

Ummm, Holly, I know while you were sitting on that bucket plucking those birds you were looking at my book shelves and commenting. Anyway, yes I've read Dizzard's book and "Mortal Stakes: Hunters and Hunting in Contemporary America." His work is every much worth reading and he has had an influence on my thinking. I also used him in some of my gradute writing including my Thesis. So, you are right on the money about reading him. glg