To Earth Day and the Women who made it possible.
(I wrote this today, 2011 Earth Day for sweet Hallenger’s class another wonderful women, the piece is a bit pedestrian and this author deserves more, I will work on it when I have some time, until then My Homage to Rachel.))
It has been suggested to us that we choose an author that we find has a voice much like our own. Here I feel some-what like a Salieri to Mozart. There will never be a day when I can match the caliber of depth involved in the research this writer undertook to do her ground breaking book. Nor in my wildest pursuit of language will I ever be able to pen anything close to the lyrical beauty by which Rachel Carson wrote it.
Her book is considered to be science writing. What ever genre we want to label this book, a manifesto, a love story, a marine biologists field note book, it matters little to me, as it is and arduous pouring out of ones heart in a convincingly passionate art of story telling. A story that moved a generation in America and beyond into action, It is writing at it’s best, the author is Rachael Carson, the book is Silent Spring.
While I normally resonate with the renegades and word smiths, such as T. Corsogon Boyle, Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson or Tom Robbins who I honored last time, today with Mother Earth being the battered wife she has become, the thankless and reviled provider who gives and gives until she is rendered anemic and almost empty, I felt compelled to shine a light on a book that is timeless and still holds gargantuan weight, and gives those who care great guidance on how to stop the man made abuse we heap on our support system
This is a story that helped shape and herald in an environmental movement.
Choosing Silent Spring did not win without some struggle, there are some contemporary science writers that make my mouth water and my heart race when I read them. Two come to mind. Natalie Angier, a women who’s brain, wit and humor cuts the confusing cloud of science away to reveal to the laymen all facets of the scary stuff and make us beg for more. I beseech you all if you have not read anything Natalie has penned you are missing out on a wild romp. Then down the science rabbit hole I tumbled, should I consider Julia Whitty? Both authors do our world a great service but it is Rachael who set the bar for all of them. It is her book I often turn to for encouragement, wisdom and solace. It is Rachel’s character of spirit that I return to again and again, the well I drink from and the heroine I so much would love to be just a smidgen like when the world and all her woes come pressing down on me.
Her words and even her appearance were delicate, woven with a compassionate and gracious skill that on occasion stumped her opponents who surely underestimated the message she was preparing to deliver in her book. A message as ferocious as any mothers warding off danger to its young, so relentless in detail and scientific exposure that her voice would sound a loud enough call to wakeup a large enough section of America with it. No one could ever again, once awakened, look at our planet and what we do to it as a species now that the vale of ignorance or innocence had been lifted. With grace and powerful evidence Rachel pulled back the curtain of Oz for us to see the ugly hand attached to humanity. Whether it be corporation or commoner if we kept silent we were then complicite in our own demise and poisoning of the planet. Our lifestyle and our need for more was killing our planets living systems at a rapid pace.
What makes this particular book even more extraordinary is the time in which it was written. With any author the era or political climate they lived and wrote in gives us a great deal of information about them. As a women and a scientist no less, who was able to get things published in the 50’s may seem a small undertaking but it was monumental. What she discovered as a field scientist, a biologist and marine biologist while working for the US fish and wildlife Service, shocked her and lead her to be an advocate for the living things that could not defend nor speak for themselves. Here it doesn’t hurt to say that not all scientists nor people who discover truths have the courage to tell them. And it is of course because telling them, as we can see today, comes at a great personal price. That was no less true for Rachel, with great odds, power and finance stacked against her, she stood her ground. Her understanding of science and biology coupled
with her conviction that this knowledge must be revealed, drove her to continue when others may have conceded defeat. She exposed to us the naïve position that our world is segmented and compartmentalized. She showed us the fallacy of trying to save one thing by killing many was worse then Myth. Pesticides used to poison one critter, is like the futile effort to pluck plastic out of our oceans today expecting not to disrupt entire ecosystems, it is just not possible.
While birds went the way of poison, along with the bugs, now our bees and butterfly’s, floras pollinators are in such decline we must take Rachel’s message to the highest mountain-tops and shout. We must do what she did in the early 60’s when she began to expose to the civilian population that what happens to one thing will most certainly effect another. In doing so she helped show us the beauty and interconnectedness of the webs of life, and the dire consequences of what happens when we foolishly disregard that wisdom. Clearly this is an ongoing battle to this day, to have enough of us realize that what we do actually has an affect on the world around us. In other words if you shit in Africa it will end up in your own back yard, or if you have a nuclear plant spill in Japan it ends up on the shores of California and on your dinner table.
That Rachel Carson was reviled, by huge chemical and pesticide-company’s along with the growing agribusiness after world war two, should come as no surprise to us. Her warnings began to show a population that had pretty much bought the American dream hook line and sinker just how high the stakes were for these new and powerful corporations, companies that had been born and expanded during the war. The public began to see that some companies would do just about anything to make their bottom line. Even if the line they crossed was neither ethical or sustainable for a healthy planet. Mention her name to a Monsanto or Dow executive today and you will still get a very negative response.
While she began to publish and talk about her findings on the dangers of pesticides, DDT in particular, she was ridiculed, dismissed and threatened. When that didn’t shut her up,. She had the full Monty of fear mongering thrown at her. Rachel never married so she was called lesbian, as if that mattered, she was called a communist, a traitor to her country and had she been alive today she would have been called a terrorist because after all if you don’t like chemicals, oil, and the complete marching band of toxic monsters, then you must be working against national security.
- There was no woman’s movement, no effective birth-control, no right to choice and certainly no equal pay when Rachel was working on Silent Spring. In general if women went to college at all, often they went to find a better pedigree of husband, and to better become the good women behind that husband. So that Rachel had a degree, did not have a husband, nor a movement to stand with her while she worked to publish her book shows us her tremendous conviction, and a courage so profound she was able to tap into a well spring of it while being mesmerized by the beauty and diversity of all living things. This deep reverence for all the fascinating living things she studied would fortify her to weather the obstacles that were to come. Watching the living flora and fauna die, knowing why it was happening and not speaking up was unconscionable and unacceptable to her. (And because I have read her book and understand it, I have been shown that to stand by
quietly watching as the dying of our flora and fauna takes place as a result of our life style today is unacceptable to me as well. That to remain silent, to give up is as criminal or certainly as cowardly as any act by those who perpetrate it. Complacency and cynicism, a recipe for paralysis and failure. Something we as a species in total have never accepted.)
Her book took longer than she had hoped to complete due to her own ill health. She persevered and refused to die until it was finished. A little over a year after Silent Spring’s publication Rachel Carson died of breast cancer. Her will and determination is one that is difficult not to admire and be irrevocably inspired by. A heart so generous its rhythm can be felt today.
When I am reminded that out of the animal kingdom it is only mankind who has been able (other than mother nature herself) to alter, transform, enhance and more often then not disrupt and destroy the environment, It is Rachel who’s words I turn to. And when I find that science is under attack or downright suppressed so that the worlds citizens are kept ignorant or silent to the plight of our flora and fauna, many that are sick and dying, causing me to lose heart and courage because of these unspoken truths that seem to difficult to tell and to insurmountable to overcome, again it is Rachel who plucks up my sporting blood. Just as the letters that asked Rachel back in the very early 60’s what could be done.” I recall some of Rachel Carson’s words. They soothe me and they shore me up…. And I know . Where then does the responsibility lie? It lies with me. Who is to sing a song loudly for our winged family, to speak loudly and clearly in defense
of all things living whether we recognize a value in them or not? I know it is my voice and my song that must be sung.
And for the very mother that sustains us all, earth, she says this, “In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference.”
Ms Carson wrote this at a time when there was no certainty that what she was saying would make print to paper, let alone be welcomed into a modern world that felt invincible. And yet one voice added to another, and then another, giving rise to the vocal orchestra that changed the winds direction and bought a little time for us. Gave us some breathing room to learn more and fight.
If your heart breaks open from the state of affairs today and you need a little lift, if you never read another thing on the environment, Rachel Carson’s book should be your bible.
We are told and to often we are under the spell of the falsehood of our own powerlessness. that what we do or say does not matter. Certainly what we do not do causes harm when we know better. And what we do without conscience creates harm from the smallest acts to the largest and most destructive. That we can see. So then it is easy to not see the good. It is easy to believe doing nothing will not hurt or will not change. Nothing could be more wrong. Inaction is leaving the arena open for only those who act. Often what we do or say is not so apparent. So it must be noted that the opposite is true, that what we do with great courage, and awareness, even if it feels like the most feeble and futile act added in it’s mighty numbers hits a critical mass , so even a single small act has great residuals.
To conclude in my homage to this most spectacular women on Earth Day I will quote a portion from her book. This is someone asking Rachel what to say or do.
From Chapter 8 And no Birds Sing “After several years of DDT spray, the town is almost devoid of robins and starlings; Chickadees have not been on my shelf for two years, and this year the cardinals are gone too; the nesting population in the neighborhood seems to consist of one dove pair and perhaps one catbird family.”
“It is hard to explain to the children that the birds have been killed off, when they have learned in school that a Federal law protects the birds from killing or capture, ‘Will they ever come back?’ they ask, and I do not have the answer. The elms are still dying, and so are the birds. Is anything being done? Can anything be done? Can I do anything?”
And I weep that we still have to ask these same questions multiplied by X10. And Yet we know they must be answered. Yes, I will add my voice and speak for the voiceless. I will speak for the winged beauties and the waterways and watersheds and oceans with her multitudes of life. Yes Rachel I will speak for our mother….so that all of her children can sing.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Bonobo Handshake, An Epic Love Story
Love is a word not often used in the vernacular of science. Yet what is it, if not love that drives much of our species to do unselfish acts of kindness, along with what looks to be superhero courage in the face of unimaginable dangers and diminishing odds? Scientific pursuit backed by this potent ingredient is the stuff of inspiration, the necessary contagion. So when I read Vanessa Woods book Bonobo Handshake, I found it to be an epic love story, with the primary purpose to educate the public about the critically endangered Bonobos.
Vanessa Wood’s journey that led her to the Bonobos was as much a surprise to her as the books impact was to have on this reader. Like many young people uncertain of their purpose or mission in life, she quite a job with the Discovery Channel, one she admits she would have been fired from anyway. With nothing on the horizon she packed up to do volunteer work at the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee refuge in Uganda. There she met her future husband Dr. Brian Hare. Brian speaks with a southern accent, as he is an American born in Georgia . Vanessa is from Australia and speaks fluent French, this would later come in handy. She also considered herself to be a Chimp gal. Vanessa had never heard of Bonobos before meeting Brian. This is one of the themes of her book. “We cannot save something if the majority of the world does not know they exist or that they are in danger of extinction.”
Vanessa’s book reads like a thriller. I had to put it down on several occasions to remind myself I was in the safety of my own home. Since the first war in the Congo, which started in 1996, most research on the Bonobo, our closest relative and least studied or understood came to an almost complete stand still. The cruel irony of the Bonobos, is that they evolved only in the Congo, a place where unthinkable atrocities befall not just them, but human populations and all flora and fauna as well, due to war. Throw in habitat loss, pet trade; poaching (i.e. bush meat) along with mining and the Bonobos plight is daunting. Some might consider wanting to travel to a country that is listed as one of the ten most dangerous places in the world fool hearty. Dr. Hare didn’t think so. He had decided he could no longer study primates in the sterile, confined and unnatural environment of biomedical labs in Universities. Not just because nothing could be further from their natural habitat than a lab, but he could no longer abide by the utter disregard for the primates mental well being he witnessed while studying for his PhD. Still a scientist, and as Vanessa says of Brian, “ he, and now we were on a mission from god, the god of science.” Brian wondered what many so often wonder, “What makes us human?” In particular, how had these primates evolved to resolve conflict with sexual interaction, be socially structured with females at the helm and never once been observed killing their own species in or out of captivity. All this was worthy of whatever dangers might await them. So in 2005 Brian convinced Vanessa to join him on his trip to the Congo, destination-Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary, the only Bonobo Sanctuary in the world.
Although any animal that is in danger of extinction is worthy of attention and full support, there is something extraordinary about Bonobos.
Bonobos (Pan paniscus) evolved on the south side of the Congolese river where food was plentiful and climate was temperate. Confined to the north side of the river, chimps experienced a less favorable terrain and had to roam further for food and shelter. This difference in environment is now believed to be one reason for the disparate behavior of the two species. The plenitude of food allowed the Bonobo females to cooperate, never having to rely on males for protection or sustenance. Without scarcity, females did not have to compete with each other for the survival of their children. This led them to bond with one other, and eventually to stand up as a group to male aggression. They also use a formidable weapon to their advantage - sex.
The Japanese primatologist Takayoshi Kano, who was the first to study bonobos in the wild in 1973, and the American primatologist, Susan Savage Rampuagh, argue that it is not primate nature to be violent, instead, they propose that violence is cultural in nature. Vanessa Woods and her husband at Lola worked to substantiate this.
Vanessa admits she was initially a bystander, along for the ride. What she wasn’t prepared for was having to run most of the scientific hands on experiments with the Bonobos. Initially none of the Bonobos would have anything to do with Dr. Hare, being a young male, so Vanessa stepped in, leaving him to be the assistant. Female Bonobos where making their differences from other primates known from the beginning of the experiments.
Unlike most primates, food was not a huge motivator to get the Bonobos involved in any regular experiment. Green apples, it was discovered, something that had to be imported, did the trick. A tolerance test, which will determine if animals will cooperate or share food, was done. What they found over and over again with different variations of experiments is that Bonobos share food. Not only with the Bonobos in the room, but others not in the room will be called in to eat. Vanessa likens their meal to a slow enjoyable French feast. It is a social act, often lasting up to three hours.
Socially structured with females at the helm, aggressive but non-violent, mitigating conflict with sexual behavior and sharing? Clearly we have much to learn from Bonobos. Vanessa continually shows us the absolute value of these magnificent relatives and asks that we do all that is in our power to insure their well-being and survival. To lose them could mean a loss to one of the most valuable secrets yet to unfold, one that could help us learn more about ourselves and how we too could live and coexist in peace. In a world that continues to escalate with more violence and destructive wars, the importance of studying and learning from this close relative is tantamount.
One of the most spectacular outcomes of the research and collaborative work with Vanessa, Brian and the Lola Sanctuary, was the project to re-release the orphaned Bonobos back into the wild. An area where a local village works in tandem with the projects mission for their safekeeping. This is every conservationist goal, and as of 2009 until this day more Bonobos are being released and are thriving.
Educating the world and most particularly the Congolese population of the precious value they have in the Bonobos is the hope for their future. Vanessa Wood’s book struck such a deep cord in me that I have been filled with all the youthful idealism of a twenty two year old. That good stuff that cuts through despair and cynicism, so we can do what ever is necessary in the face of disheartning obstacles. Replenished with renewed vigor and focus, I have rolled up my sleeves to help save the Booboos. For a book to accomplish this, since I haven’t seen my twenties in a very long time, is a women’s tale that has hit her mission’s mark, bull’s eye and dead center.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
What is the Real Cost of the Exotic Pet Trade ?
I didn’t expect to find the Exotic Pet Trade, illegal drugs and weapons sales in the same sentence together, but as it turns out they have much in common with one another. They are, all three, multi-billion dollar a year industries. All use black-market distribution networks; a complex infrastructure in which poor nations whose rainforests and climates house the exotic wild life, are then, enticed by huge profits to capture and sell them.
What drives this market are the wealthier countries insatiable desire for the next different and unique pet to own, and clearly like illegal drugs there is a huge demand. The ASPCA tells us that the United States alone pulls down15 billion dollars a year from the Exotic Pet Trade. The transactions of live exotic animal trafficking is made easy with Internet sales, trade magazines, and some big pet store chains.
Not so easy a transaction for the animals.
This trafficking is global in scope. While the profits are high to those engaged in this criminal market, the cost to wildlife and ecosystems is almost immeasurable. To help focus and characterize the problem, I will use the statistics from Brazil as an example. They are the most conscientious of the South American countries. Due to emerging wealth and national pride, they have begun to put the breaks on the loss of their rain forests and the wild life that fills them.
Even so, 12 million exotic birds a year are captured for the pet trade there. Most of the birds are young fledglings. In order for hunters and poachers to get to the nests, trees are cut down, disrupting habitats and entire ecosystems. Many of the birds captured are critically endangered, adding further stress to bird populations. Of the chicks who survive the fall from the felled trees, many won’t make it alive to the auction block. They are often too young or fragile to withstand compartments or containers that cause dehydration or suffocation. Of those that survive that ordeal, more will die on the trip to their destinations from similar abuses; stored in hubcaps, given alcohol to keep them quiet on flights. There are a multitude of other dangerous and perilous schemes to get them shipped to every crevice of the world, where they will simply perish.
Now take into account the other species; mammals, (big cats are a favorite), reptiles, amphibians, and non-human primates. The ASPCA reports that infant animals are the most desirable and garner dealers the fattest profit. Poachers will often kill the protective mother first, making capturing her young easier. These cute and cuddly young, which most buyers have in their possession, arrive in a world that is nothing like the one they have adapted to for millions of years.
Once in the hands of naive owners, clueless to the responsibilities in store for them and faced with providing proper food and habitat to growing, unpredictable, destructive, dangerous adults in captivity, survival becomes problematic. Not to mention, these ‘pets’ often come carrying highly infectious and potentially fatal bacteria and viruses, including salmonella, herpes B, rabies and monkey pox.
Owners who lose control or interest will leave some animals to languish in horrifying living conditions, or some to die from poor diet or untreated illnesses. Many are released into an area they can not survive in; starving and slowly dying a cruel death. Many experience the reverse, thriving in order to disrupt the natural ecosystem they are unleashed in, i.e., the python in the Florida keys eating everything in its path.
To add insult to injury, exotics are now put on display at public animal attractions, and become the targets in ‘canned hunting’. A canned hunt is one in which the prey are exotic animals confined to a certain area. Hunters shoot at close range, much like shooting fish in a barrel, paying large sums to bring home an exotic trophy. According to the ASPCA, there are over 1,000 canned hunting operations in the U.S.
So what can you do about a global billion dollar phenomena that is endangering already endangered wildlife and ecosystems?
Always educate yourself and others about the problem and give solutions.
Simply stated, we are one of those wealthy nations with high demand for exotics. So do not buy them or frequent places that do. Know the laws and help enforce or strengthen them. Know the organizations that watch and enforce them:
A few federal laws do exist prohibiting the sale and interstate transport of certain exotic animals, including the Endangered Species Act, the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, and the Wild Bird Conservation Act. Most states have restrictions on keeping exotics as pets.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: ASPCA
International Union for The Conservation of Wildlife: IUCW
Convention on International Trade of Exotic Species: Cites
Species Survival Network: SSN
US Fish and Wildlife Service: WWWswf.gov -
Interpol Environmental Crime Program
or “Operation Cage” And “Operation Cyberwild” are newer organizations in Latin America formed to crack down on the growing rape of their wildlife. Here is a brief quote from IECP’s article,
“Over 8,700 birds and other animals have been seized - and 4,000+ people arrested - in what appears to be a large-scale crackdown on the black market Latin American bird trade. The arrests and seizures were conducted between April and June of this year, as part of INTERPOL's "Operation Cage.
Operation Cage is involved with interventions and raids at sites including airports, postal services, markets, pet stores, and taxidermists across Central and South America, sending a strong message that the wanton disregard for wildlife will not be tolerated. As the general public becomes more aware of the magnitude of this heinous destruction of the world’s wildlife, more will be protected and saved.”
Case in point, fifteen years ago I was delighted to partake in a Chinese delicacy at a wedding, being served shark fin soup. My ignorance and prejudice of sharks were common place at that time. I just didn’t know what I was participating in, nor the damage I was a part of. Now I do. Thanks to others who continually speak out for wildlife and spread the word I am aware of my behavior and its consequences to our planet and have added my voice to speak for the voiceless. Every voice makes a difference. It did for me.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Redefining ‘Wild’- It Is Not ‘out there’ it is everywhere among us. A VEIW OF NATURE FROM MY BACK YARD“They are all dying, all the ones who make living worth the price, and there is hardly time to lament the passing…”---------“Death as History” Jay WrightJAY WRIGHT was an African American poet from the 60’s; this particular excerpt comes from a poem about death from war, genocide, racism and all the horrors that befall ignorance. Jay Wright’s poem is how I often feel about the rapacious extinctions taking place on our planet, to too much of its inhabitants. And quite frankly it wares me out. Fear Politics, fear conservation, I am sick of it. Like hanging on to the tail of a dragon, being whipped and unmoored with every atrocity that befalls the wild, I often feel as if we are always coming from behind, one salamander, one panda, or polar bear, one bird or golden tree frog, one bonobo or wolf, one tortoise or whale, one lost or endangered species at a time, to late, to late to save the wild. So I asked myself the hard question. Can we… with 7 billion people and still breeding ever go back? Can we get it to be the way it was? Even 10 years ago? And if we can’t what are we to do? What must we know about ourselves so we can change? To look at things from a different angle, a different perception, a different attitude, so maybe we can give all living things an advantage. Change the rules, the paradigm , the game that makes us feel, makes me feel, like we are always losing and on the defense of this up hill battle.. So I am walking out of this ball field, this bloody battlefield, to look with new eyes and an open heart at what surrounds me. Instead of looking at what is wrong, I want to see what is right, see where things are thriving and build from that. I am taking the old and wise advice, that change starts in your own back yard. Even to re-wild I must start there. So I considered mine. OUR DOG got skunked again. When will we all learn that nightfall is when the nocturnal darlings come out to grub and forage. We have three dogs, one of them, Nashville or the Ville, or just simply Nash, the only male, can’t leave the skunks alone no matter how many times he gets hit in the face with their pungent mercaptan musk. Neither Gretchen nor Tallulah care much for skunks, but are insane for squirrels. Gretchen has suffered greatly for her obsession, jumping fences and not always clearing them. Our dogs the holy trinity, the domesticated wild things, that love all that is wild, will chase, bark, toy with, roll or try to eat anything that strikes their fancy. WE HAVE an out door aviary. It started innocently enough with a few Agapornis, small Connors, as homage to my mother, a gargantuan lover of all earth’s flora and fauna. It has now turned into a very large brood of Love Birds, an appropriate name, as the 6th extinction is news to them. These little ancestors to the dinosaurs will find away to make a nest, breed, and have successful offspring in ways that boggle the mind, Aga-porn-is indeed! THE BREAK of dawn often finds a lone coyote or whole packs cruising down the street, looking for dog food most likely, small critters, or a drink of water, while still others distant and haunting songs can be heard rising from a hidden den. On this morning over head, almost simultaneously, was a flock of geese heading to the golf course, or the Arroyo in concert with the numerous and comic green parrots, their numbers close to one hundred as they browsed in trees above my yard. Housed in a near by tree is a family of screech owls, while several times a day the sky’s are graced with a plethora of red tailed hawks. I find them magnificent, although when they dine on an occasional Asian dove or sparrow my lovebirds watch in horror from the safety of their aviary. Kestrels and Falcons have been known to have a bite or two of what is available to eat in my back yard as well. Happily I noticed the Blue Jays are coming back after much decline from the bird flu several years back. Are they stronger for it, the ones that survived? And I considered the bats with white nose syndrome and wondered, like ourselves, who have come back with a vengeance after the plague, that maybe too the bats, those that can adapt and survive will come back stronger. And those gophers, the menace to your yard, what great movers and shakers, soil aerators, burrowing, digging, and mining. Lets let them be, it is their yard too. And I looked at all the beauty that surrounds me daily, possums, assorted variety’s of finches, chickadees, woodpeckers, humming birds, butterfly’s, fly’s, bees, grasshoppers, moths, praying mantis, grubs, red worms, earwigs, sow bugs, mosquito’s, and more, much much more that I couldn’t see or missed. All thriving in urban-ville, Los Angeles, my habitat, my home, their home. A CLIENT of mine in Altadena, is concerned that a cinnamon mother bear with her two cubs won’t make it through the year, as she has wandered further down the neighborhood than is safe in search of food for her babies. She informs me, “ Folk’s off the hill are less apt to be adaptable to the ‘intrusion’ of a wild animals. Most people that live up top of the Altadena Mountain’s are used to deer, coyotes, bears, and mountain lions. You have to keep an eye out for the mountain lions, but if you leave the bears alone you will be fine. Most of us that live up here are thrilled there is still so much wildlife roaming around.” Most, but not all. And I’m putting my money down on the side of history and our future that bets there is more, not less, that feel like her, feel like me, feel like you.ANYONE who works or volunteers for an animal facility gives a peace of their heart everyday. We work to protect what remains of the wild ‘out there’, while we hang on to the dragons tail with all of our might. So what do we make of these ‘interim wild’? The animal kingdom that lives right under our noses, that we often miss, dismiss or have conflicted relationships with? These fierce and ‘wildly’ adaptable critters that are beating all the odds, which share the habitat we dwell on now because we have stolen theirs. These animals co-exist with the most ferocious predator ever to evolve, man. AND THE second question I asked myself was this, “If we are so capable of adaptation, then why not other species? The wild still crops up where we least expect it, or a species thought to have been gone forever, reappears. Maybe, just maybe these wildlings are much smarter and stronger than we have given them credit, and that we the scariest species to come down the food chain may be smarter too. I believe billions of years of evolutionary skills counts for something, so it must count for all the other species as well. That this inherent drive to survive and pass on our DNA could over ride what looks like mass suicide, and lead enough of humanity to see our global connection, sooner, not later. So in history, as in nature, it is darkest before the dawn. As Jeff Corwin stated in his beautiful book “100 Heartbeats” “Ironically, the only species capable of saving these animals is the same one responsible for putting them in danger”. Are we capable.? I have been stunned that humans have been able to regroup and flourish after, Rwanda, Kosovo, the destruction in Iraq, Japan, World War 11 with its death camps, Viet Nam, Cambodia after Camorouge where not a bird was left singing for over a decade. And yet the relentless and unstoppable heart of humanity held out its hand beneath the rubble, cruelty and destruction and lived. Denial and innocence fell from whole nations, with broken hearts and unspeakable losses; they rebuilt, towns, provinces, villages, homes, cities, countries, and families, and saw the value in all living things. Wounds healed that seemed so deep there would be no closing them. But rebuild and heal they did. If our species can do this, along with the millions upon millions who work quietly in small and large ways to sustain life, then we can surely turn the tide and save our planet with all of its beautiful diversity, and do it in time. One-inch worm, one butterfly, hummingbird, Californian Condor, or Pronghorn, one back yard at a time. WE CAN learn and teach and work.... People want to see what they have been so severally severed from as they have become ‘civilized’. There is an unrequited longing for what we once lived among and were apart of. The closest thing to nature the majority of humanity sees is at our sanctuaries and zoos. More people visit zoos each year than all the sporting events combined in the United States. Maybe, just maybe we need to redefine wild? It isn’t just out there, away where we can’t see ‘it’, or in another country, or even in our zoos,t aquariums, sanctuary’s or preserves. It is every living thing around us. And while we can not, while I will not give an inch or acre if I can help it to those who would rather have a dollar than a frog or an orangutan or cheetah or a forest filled with rain, I will start with the wild in my yard, I will live with them and be glad for their thriving. I will take my grand daughters hands and at night we will go spelunking to see the wild life with there distinct and pure language and teach her what has real meaning and value. SO WHEN you go home tonight from whatever place you’ve been, smile at your snails, be grateful for all the spiders, bugs, caterpillars and crickets.. Kiss your cats and dogs, and let your heart grow glad that there is still the sweet sound of nature all around you in your own back yard.
REWILDING NORTH AMERICAIf biology, particularly conservation biology, has taught us just one thing, it is the knowledge and importance of how flora and fauna are interconnected. It has also taught us one painful lesson; we humans have made a mess of it. If it is true that our species has evolved to only have the capacity to care for no more than 100 individuals, as we evolved in small tribes, then maybe the development of the Internet in some obtuse way will remedy that. It has forced us to see on a larger scale, and it has helped to back up scientific data, that we are indeed one big living interconnected ecosystem. Trying to juggle or wrap our heads around global is difficult at best. When it comes to conservation or to halting the destruction of our living support system, it is on a par with pondering the infinite universe, daunting; non-the less it must be undertaken. And indeed it is, so take heart; we have visionaries in our mist. There is hope, as a stunning project is in the works to re-connect what we have so haphazardly disconnected.In a wildly bold, gargantuan and radical vision to work towards arresting what is being seen as the 6th extinction, Earth First founder Dave Foreman brain storming with Michael Soule professor emeritus at the University of California-Santa Cruz, and one of the founding fathers of Conservation Biology, merged data from both activism and science to propose Rewilding North America. The project is Wildland Network, formally the Wildland Project, its website is The Rewilding Institute or TRI, and it is projected to be finished in 100 years. It has been in progress now for fifteen years. A completion goal of one hundred years can only be described as a broad and sweeping mission whose time has come. What Rewilding has proposed and has begun implementing is reconnecting corridors for keystone species to cross, which will allow the travels of big carnivores bringing with them the biodiversity they haul behind them. The four corridors or Megalinks to be developed and encompass are:1. The Rocky Mountain spine of the continent from Alaska to Mexico 2. Across the Artic/boreal from Alaska to Labrador3. Along the Atlantic via the Appalachians4. Along the Pacific via the Sierra Nevada into the Baja Peninsula Others are the Terai Arc in Asia; Gondwana Link in southwest Australia; the Transboundary Peace Parks in Africa Building these four corridors is a grand effort to save Earth’s living membrane, to try to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Up until this breath taking idea came into being most environmental efforts have been ecosystem management and community based, separated and isolated from the big picture that is Mother Nature. . Even in these conservative times, good science eventually prevails, even with arduous setbacks and battering. Hope springs from the strength of numbers and the word is taking root. Rather than work at odds or compartmentally, many environmental groups have joined forces to lean together and make this a reality. Environmental heavy weights the likes of Defenders of Wildlife, Naturalia in Mexico, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council and the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project to name a few are on board. Joining them are governmental agencies, National Parks and Recreation, as well as many private landowners, ranchers and farmers. One concrete step that is being developed now is building land masses above, below and along side some roads and freeways that fracture wild life’s migrations, as well as vehicular deaths. Because of so many insurance claims from auto and animal collisions some Insurance companies have come on board. E.O. Wilson calls it “mainstream conservation writ large for future generations. Only megapreserves, modeled on a deep scientific understanding of continent wide ecosystems needs hold that promise.” Each megalinkage, connects, or will connect public and private lands, providing safe passage for wildlife to travel freely. To Quote from Julia Whitty in her article Who Will Survive, where I first read about the Project, she has this to say, “At its heart, rewilding is based on living with the monster under the bed, since the big scary animals that frightened us in childhood, and still do, are the fierce guardians of biodiversity. Without wolves, wolverines, grizzlies, black bears, mountain lions and jaguars, (here I would add beavers for waterways and other animals that help balance out the insect population), wild populations shift toward the herbivores, who proceed to eat plants into extinction, taking birds, bees, reptiles, amphibians, and rodents with them.” Which then affects soils, topsoil’s, seed dispersements, migration and breeding sites, waterways, etc. Taking an aerial view our wild lands appear more like bombing sites from a war zone then the lush interconnected ecosystems necessary for sustainability. Land is fractured from ski resorts, logging, mining, strip mining, farming, oil and gas development and urban sprawl. No wonder it’s founders set a 100-year goal, something when completed our great grand children will benefit from. So if this project seems more than a little challenging, take heart and sleep well at night knowing something grand and good is going on under foot. Of course it is still important to continue to do conservation work anyway we can, bringing solutions to what is now a global phenomenon. With most issues it is best to start in our own back yard, one back yard is the Wildlife Way Station, taking that work and knowledge and bringing that to bare on a larger scale.To give an overview of what scale Rewilding is talking about I quote at length from Caroline Fraser’s book ReWilding the World. Here she is talking about how rewilding is being implemented in Africa. “The original proponents of rewilding were careful to propose it as a “complementary” method to those being implemented by nongovernmental organizations like the WWF. Some of those methods are similar to rewilding in their focus on large-scale conservation. “Representation,” for example, is one large-scale strategy, focused on preserving representative areas of every identifiable ecosystem, such as savannah, tropical moist forest, tundra, desert, and coral reef. The WWF’s “ecoregions” program favors representation. Another model, “Hotspots” is designed to save unique areas of high endemism, places like the Galapagos Islands, where many species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world have evolved. The large-scale continental reserves envisioned by rewilding might neglect island hotspots like Madagascar or Java. Likewise, a single-minded focus on hotspots might shortchange areas life African savannah, which is low in endemic species but enables mass migration.”“But rewilding’s unique triple focus on protecting and restoring cores, connectivity, and carnivores (or keystones) sets it apart from other large-scale conservation methods and projects. The goals of reintroducing carnivores where extirpated and restoring connectivity even if it means replanting or re-growing bush land or forest between reserves- makes rewilding more ambitious than even the most visionary conservation plans of the past.” Transboundary’s and Peace Parks work to link war torn areas that have prevented large wildlife from roaming or migrating. Separated for years, poached or diminished through attrition due to habitat loss or bush meat, these links work to bring the local villages into the process of saving their own wildlife. Eco-tourism is a big part of the plan but comes with its own set of contradictions.QUESTIONS TO ADDRESS WHEN PLANNING FOR CONNECTIVITYIn two of life’s human ironies, where nature is left to do what it does best with out human interaction I urge you to watch on the Nature Channel, The Radio Active Wolves of Chernobyl. And to investigate what is happening on the DMZ between the S. and N. Korea. Life comes back in balance and heals itself, even under the worst scenarios. So imagine what is possible when we develop large sections of land, corridors and buffer zones, a healing of sorts that we cant’ yet even measure.For anyone working in a facility that houses and protects wildlife, you are the Noah’s Arch’s of our planet. This is no minor undertaking. While many animals will never, nor are able to be re-released into the wild, preserving and caring for the rich and magnificent animals is a worthy purpose, one, that one day may make possible through DNA or yet undiscovered ways to preserve them and ensure their continued existence. This so they make it to the final conclusion of the rewilding project, where their offspring may roam where they deserve to roam and flourish, in wide open grand and large vistas.What has been suggested in particular is this.If you're a ZOO or AQUARIUM, or a Sanctuary; as the Wildlife Way Station most certainly is: consider these possibilities:• Educating visitors about Wildlands Network's conservation vision• Host a Wildlands Network fundraiser week with donor, member, media and employee dinners, educational presentations etc.• Tying in your North American species to Wildlands Network's vision. Our keystone species include: jaguars, cougars, grizzlies, lynx, wolverines, wolves, martins, thick-billed parrots and more!• Creating a Carnivores are Cool education programAdvocating for wildlands habit protection programs that conserve species in your collections.We are here in very large numbers and don’t appear to be going away any time soon. We have changed our living landscape unwittingly in the blink of a few decades. Always the optimist, I believe with every step no matter how small along with ones as lofty as the Wildlands Network we just might save our big carnivores and perhaps ourselves in the process. We must all dare to be wild, and help rewild.For more information go to EcoWild working group/The ReWilding Institute and The Wildlands Network and (Creating Linkages QG-Web-1.pdfThe ReWilding Institute website has a wealth of information, and updates often, Also go to Uncle Dave’s section for a list of readings that will boggle your mind.Thank You Sandra Cruze