Think of this as Volume 17, Number 25 of the newsletter I have written weekly since March, 1997. Enjoy.
Her interest was piqued by her studies at Texas A&M Kingsville, in range and wildlife studies, with an emphasis on wildlife.
She said her professors considered this a new field, an important field, but admitted there really aren't many jobs yet in the field because much of the fieldwork has not yet been done.
Here's what I think.
In my own Atlanta backyard, there are a host of critters right now. Not just insects, but mammals and birds in uneasy harmony. And the balance has changed in many ways since I moved here.
For instance, we had a big problem with pigeons around our MARTA station for years. The authorities tried all sorts of things. Especially amusing were the plastic owls hung from the station rafters. Then they hit upon the answer – predators. Falcons and hawks were released to nest and breed.
No more pigeon problem.
But what happens when the pigeons are gone? The hawks and falcons go after other prey. There have been lots of pictures in local blogs lately of squirrels being taken for a final ride by a hawk. (This one appeared at Decatur Metro, and was taken a few blocks from my home.) Chipmunks, too. Who knows if the balance is right? I sure would like fewer squirrels...but what if the next picture posted shows a kitten in that hawk's talons?
For most of my time here domestic cats have been the dominant predator. They're a major threat to ecosystems around the world, felinus domesticus. Those with homes hunt like Elmer Fudd. They don't need the prey to live, so they make a game of it, going only after the pretty birds. Usually they fail. But not always. And it adds up. Hundreds of species are under threat as a result. Then add in the feral cats, and you've got a much bigger problem, a global problem. These cats kill to eat, they're hard to catch. Extinction looms for many, many creatures because we think cats are cute and we let them roam our ecosystems.
Finally, there are coyotes. They're new to our area, but they're becoming common in more-and-more eastern cities. Coyotes live in the bottom lands, or in any empty unkempt patch of green. They come out to hunt at night, and they'll take whatever they can find. Your cat, maybe your cute little dog. Maybe from right off your leash. What do we do? We're killing off the natural habitats of these creatures, so your answer to “kill them all” means extinction for all large predator animals.
That's just in my city. Problems exist everywhere. Red foxes in London. Rabbits in the Denver Airport parking garage. Wild pigs in Texas and New Mexico. Bears and mountain lions in California. Both predator and prey species can destroy habitats, if not kept in check. Larger animals can keep them in check, but how large a predator can we tolerate? How large a predator must we tolerate?
Regardless of your politics, you're probably getting a lot of these issues wrong. (This cat caught and killed a rabbit.) I include myself among your number. We have a preference in our species for the “cute” – cute is meaningless in terms of ecosystems. That vulture circling over your in Texas is an important part of nature's clean-up crew, preventing disease. And if you kill the mammalian or avian predators, in order to protect the “cute ones,” then the “cute” species wind up taking over, until they starve.
I don't have the answers here. No one has all the answers yet. My daughter is one of many people searching for them, and it's hard work. It's worthy work, far more important in the long run than my own career covering the rise of the Internet and Moore's Law has been. I'm not in Wikipedia. She will be.
It is past time that all men, women and children around the world accept our responsibility, the one given us in the Bible, to hold “dominion” over the Earth, and to understand that “dominion” doesn't mean what Hitler thought it meant, absolute control over everyone else's life and death.
It means what Christ meant, a responsibility that can't be evaded.
We're all called to the hard work of saving this planet, and that starts with creating stable, or at least sustainable, ecosystems in our own back yards.