Think of this as Volume 18, Number 22 of the newsletter I have written weekly since March, 1997. Enjoy.
She should have added, “But nature has to be.” Because it's true. And it's a truth people ignore all the time. It may be the most important truth in America today.
The cat chases the mouse and our sympathy goes to the mouse. The dog fights the cat and we call the cat a hero when it wins. We support the cute, and fear the powerful.
Which is why evolution has been going in reverse, and that reverse has been accelerating since Darwin's first description of it.
Nature is cruel. The big animal is supposed to kill the little one. The predator is supposed to eat the prey. As that happens evolution moves forward. A balance is achieved, between the predator species and prey species. The predators are always hungry, the prey is always scared, but that's the way God made the world.
This is true whatever you call God. Whether you pray the Jesus, or Allah, whether you chant to Buddha or the Hindu patheon, even if you pray to no God, this truth remains true. This is nature's way, it is what God intended.
When we condemn the predator and save the prey we violate this principle. We do this routinely yet we never accept responsibility for it. You become God, put nothing in his place, and then act surprised when evolution's family tree no longer forks.
You will see this on every social network, every single day. A dog that acts like a cat becomes “adorable.” The cat that fights off the dog is a “hero.”
We pretend that, by isolating nature to national parks and forests, somehow a balance is maintained. But it's only maintained by hunters, who have a bad habit of seeking out the biggest buck and the best-looking trophy. Some don't even care about the legalities. Our wild lands thus lose their top predators, and evolution runs in reverse. The only wild animals left are prey, which then justify more hunters with more guns.
This is the way it is in Texas. Deer with gnarly horns not found in nature wander around fenced yards. Any animal on your land is your animal. Yet that's not nature's way. Texas ignores it, and wonders why things are out of balance. Look to yourselves, to your law, if you're looking for the root of the stupidity.
It's worse in our cities and suburbs. Our preferences ignore what nature is doing, and so the cities get overrun with what we call “vermin,” prey species that nature can't deal with. We deal with that through what is called “pest control” but that is woefully inefficient. Squirrels and pigeons, mice and rats thrive in our cities because they're able to find places to hide amid the poisons we throw at them, poisons that often just rebound against us.
There are solutions, partners willing and able to deal with many of these problems. They're called predators.
A few decades ago my part of Atlanta had a terrible problem with pigeons. The city tried all sorts of things to get rid of them, even hanging fake owls from the rafters. Noting worked, until someone got the idea of lettng raptors loose from high office buildings. Roosts were created, and today hawks, falcons, and owls have the situation pretty much under control.
Yes, there is blowback. The same bird that can swoop down and catch a squirrel on the run can catch a small cat or yippy dog. But those who would destroy the birds need to answer for their own collateral damage, the situation as it was.
Or take the problem of rats and other rodents. Over the last few years coyotes have made a home in bottomlands and parks, wherever they can find a place to hide during the day. The come out at night. They kill the vermin. They are doing a fair job of it.
But some people are frightened. Coyote makes no distinction between a house cat and a rat when it's searching for a meal. They then try to kill the coyote, with traps, sometimes with guns. Someone is going to get hurt that way. And when you remove the predatory the prey runs riot. It's the prey species that are evolving in our cities, becoming immune to our poisons, become more adept at hiding, even better at simply proliferating.
Atlanta is ripe for these issues because no city in America sprawls like we do. People commute to Atlanta from North Carolina, from near the Alabama border, from towns halfway to Macon in the south and 30 miles to the east. The result is that there is other place for wild life to exist except in our cities and our suburbs. Our yards are an environment, yet we refuse to consider them an ecosystem. We need to do that.
You cannot build a home, or a town, and pretend that the result is no longer part of the natural world, while that place out there is. It is all one. You can't do it with Texas ranches, you can't do it with Atlanta backyards. Which means, if we want nature to continue to exist, we have to find ways to co-exist with it.
And that starts with understanding what nature is. Nature is red in tooth and claw. In the natural world the old and the weak are killed, so that the strong can reproduce and drive their species forward. Once you accept this fact, you have to also accept it in your daily life. Accept the existence of predators and take precautions. Don't let your cats run and pretend to be killers unless you're also willing to accept the risk that they become prey. Feral cats and feral dogs have become our primary predators in many places, and it's time for them to compete for that territory, without our interference because dogs and cats are “cute” while coyote or other predators aren't.
The idea of a “nature reserve,” which was the first instinct of conservationists a century ago, is passe. Nature is everywhere. We can no longer pretend it's not. We run it, we are the Gods of our cities and our suburbs, of our farms and our ranches.
If we're to be sovereign over this world, then we need to become better sovereigns. We need to put nature into our laws, not just our national law but our state and local law as well.
This is the job my daughter Robin has chosen for herself. She has been well educated in the basics, but there is little knowledge around save the basics. She needs funding. She needs research programs she can learn from, college platforms to teach from. She needs the support of charitable and political groups. She needs a chance to educate and to guide.
When I was in journalism school in 1978, only a few people understood there might be an online world about to created. There was some trepidation about that, but I said it was the world where I wanted to make my life. It took me 6 1/2 years, from graduation, to find my first online job, and it wasn't my primary source of income for another five years. Since then I've had a good run, and I am the only person from my journalism class, to my knowledge, still practicing the craft we were all trained for.
If you want to get ahead of change, you may have wait a while for the world to catch up with you. That's what I tell Robin. But when the world catches up to you, you'll be ready for it.