October 6, 2000 (Ira Pilgrim)
Even with his atom bombs, man is incapable of destroying
the earth. He certainly can't do it with the greed and rapacity
that has characterized him for millennia. He can, however, destroy
man; and he may!
With his customary arrogance, man considers himself as apart from nature. The largely unexplored science of human ecology is not taught in the universities. Yet the same principles that apply to fish, or deer, or mountain lions, or cockroaches, apply to man. For example, if man exhausts his food supply, he dies. The only difference is that man can have more control of his food supply than does a cougar.
Environmentalists often talk about the natural world as if the human world were a thing apart that is destroying the natural environment.
There is no doubt that Homo sapiens impinges on other species with a greater effect than anything in the history of Earth, with the possible exception of the postulated comet or asteroid impact that occurred about 67 million years ago.
Native Americans were limited in their ability to destroy their own food supply, which was mostly animals, by the limitations of their weaponry. This also limited the growth of their population. The same limitations existed in their agriculture. Those limitations were changed considerably by the introduction of the rifle, the horse and the steel plow.
A rifle in the hands of a marksman is almost a sure kill. The buffalo was brought to the brink of extinction by the market hunters, who also completely wiped out the passenger pigeon and were on the verge of doing the same thing to the deer and its main predator, the mountain lion.
What saved the deer was the deer hunter. In an almost unheard of spasm of rationality, they managed to get game laws passed that limited the number of deer and other animals that could be killed by an individual and limited the times of the year during which they could be killed. The same thing was done for the protection of fresh water fisheries, although with nowhere near the effectiveness.
Ocean fishing has come to the same point. Unless extremely restrictive laws are passed and enforced, there won't be enough fish in some parts of the ocean to make it worthwhile launching a boat.
The same rationality that saved the deer doesn't seem to exist among commercial fishermen and whalers. This is because they do not hunt and fish for fun; they fish for money; or in other words, for their livelihood. No fish means no money. They are the equivalent of the market hunters who decimated the buffalo and wiped out the passenger pigeon. The market hunters of the past opposed regulation as do many commercial fisherman today.
In contrast to the farmer, who plants and cultivates the food that he harvests, the stuff that market hunters and fishermen harvest does not belong to him. Who does it belong to? So far as I am aware, that has not yet been clearly defined.
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