Saturday, November 26, 2005

A little Respect for Animals in our area:

Today, in several articles in the news (see the article online), are important stories about animals issues in our area. This is extremely important because recently the killing contests of old, where we picked an animal and for some reason or other decided to exterminate them in large numbers, are back via killing contests. Besides the ethical problem of arbitrarily (because most animal exterminations are based not on evidence, but our prejudices) killing off specific creatures with fun-loving killing contests, there are environmental reasons why we should hesitate before taking a species aside and scheduling it for extermination:

Read: "Animals In Our Mirror" - What image of ourselves is reflected by our attitudes towards animals? First of all, an animal is certainly more than its dictionary definition: “…a multicultural organism of the kingdom Animalia, differing from plants in certain typical characteristics such as capacity for locomotion, nonphotosynthetic metabolism, pronounced response to stimuli, restricted growth, and a fixed body structure.”

I would add to the definition of animals that it is a living being that shapes and is shaped by its environment. An animal and its environment are one. Remove an elephant from its habitat and you have a large mammal without a home and an environment that will begin to change. Beyond the moral and emotional connections we have with animals, it seems to me as if the most important relationship we should be having with animals is learning about their role in the environment—not in a zoo. How we treat animals is in part a measure of how well we understand our environment. If animals are merely pets, zoo creatures, pests, experimental subjects, beasts in service, or food, we are missing the most important aspect of what an animal is. --from my book: We Don't Get It! Essays on Nature's Indifference.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Local Pandemics

It is in the nature of environmentalists to caution on the side of caution. That is, the Precautionary Principle rules. It is our job, I propose in We Don't Get It! Essays on Nature's Indifference, that our environment on the level of environmentalism is to use the Precautionary Principle to assess the importance of environmental matters because we know so little how our environmental actually works as a whole, and because most times when an environmental disaster occurs, it's too late to do anything about it. So, in keeping with this, it is extremely important that we focus of the possibility of a global pandemic flu influenza--and how we as a species will react. It is real threat.

Check out this great story from Westside News Inc., called The 1918 Influenza Pandemic "Chances are every local family has a member, or two, who was sick or died in the great influenza pandemic that swept around the globe and across America in 1918-19." And, getting a vaccine quickly and comprehensively to most of the world's people is probably an important aspect of this problem, but in my view not the most important part of dealing with the possible flu pandemic. What is, is getting our public health system up to date.

That our county, and many nations (especially Russia), are woefully inadequate for such a flu pandemic is a major theme in this book: The Coming Plague, by Laurie Garrett. Understanding how the possible flu pandemic might take hold and how our local health organizations will respond to this great health threat, should be our main focus. Voluntary quarantine for a limited period might be one way of dealing with this very fast moving disease, but because it would mean a major disruption of our economic infrastructure, I believe it is why we are not hearing much about it on our corporate media.

The Bush Administration's proposal for the military to force a mandatory quarantine is, I believe, counterproductive, and irresponsible. We, as an intelligent species, should be able to understand the possible threat by a worldwide pandemic and respond to it wisely, not panic and throw "boots on the ground" to force our citizens to act in their own best interest in a calamity.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Coyote in Situ:

Coyotes are surviving well within and outside our suburbs here in New York State. They are like those other creatures that have 'learned' to exist amongst us intolerant humans and sustain themselves: the raccoon, crow, pigeon, sparrows and (of course) insects. But, none of those creatures are as misaligned as the coyote (except, perhaps, the crows in Auburn, New York) so as so to spark a return to the killing contests of old.

In our nation's past, there was not a whole lot of tolerance for animals we determined pests. For example in our area a century or so ago, there were killing contests for black squirrels, which ravaged the houses built from the trees the squirrels called home. We had taken their tree homes and so they went to our homes. In an effort to stop this nuisance (and entertain a lot of people who liked to shoot creatures) barrels of black squirrels were acquired in killing contest. These ‘contests’ were so effective that only now are their numbers returning to this area.

I don't know what the repercussions were of these mass extinction events, though I suspect there were at least subtle ones. Creatures do not exist in an environmental vacuum. In the natural world, you are either predator or prey and often both in a three dimensional arena of cause and effect that extends far beyond boundaries we humans recognize. So, it is quite possible that many other creatures were profoundly affected by the sudden (and inexplicable disappearance, from their perspective) of the black squirrel.

Even so, the Eastern Coyote is a creature not as readily observable as a squirrel. Indeed, these creatures are so secretive that relatively few of us have seen one (I, myself, have not), though there are between 20,000 and 30,000 in New York State. Secretive can be good if you are a species on the decline and wish to avoid human detection. But, coyotes have that bad luck to be just secretive enough to create a sinister mystery in folks, enough so that an agenda of fear and hatred seems plausible to those who want to justify their rampages.

They say coyotes are spreading diseases like distemper and rabies. They say coyotes are killing off our deer and domestic sheep in such large numbers as to be threatening their existence. They say our pets and children are in constant danger from these cagey marauders. But, the facts are more subtle and important: Check these sources below for specifics, keeping in mind that even at the state conservation level, the Department of Environmental Conservation, there has been little research on the Eastern Coyote and how it actually survives in situ—that is, in our wooded areas of New York State.

Fox Wood Wildlife Rescue, Inc --- Fox Wood Wildlife Rescue is a Wildlife Rehabilitation facility, Education Center and Sanctuary located in East Concord, NY.

Living With the Wiley Coyote - E-Files - Sierra Club The Navajo call the coyote "God's dog" and, in some ways, this member of the dog family does seem to enjoy divine benefaction. While virtually every other North American predator has seen its numbers decline, the coyote has managed to increase both its range and numbers during the past century -- despite a long history of trapping, poisoning, and hunting by humans.

The Coyote in New York State - From the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry... The coyote has been present in New York state for about 85 years. As with its western cousin, the eastern coyote has been the object of much controversy as well as curiosity.

The Coyote in New York The Eastern Coyote - at a glance Description: The Eastern coyote looks like a medium-sized German shepherd dog, with long thick fur. The tail is full and bushy, usually carried pointing down. Ears are erect and pointed. Length:4 to 5 feet (including tail) Weight: 35 to 45 pounds (males usually larger than females.) Color: Variable, from blonde or reddish blonde to dark tan washed with black. Legs, ears and cheeks usually reddish.

The Humane Society of the United States The human-animal bond is as old as human history. We cherish our animal companions for their unconditional affection and acceptance. We feel a thrill when we glimpse wild creatures in their natural habitat or in our own backyard. Unfortunately, the human-animal bond has at times been weakened. Humans have exploited some animal species to the point of extinction.

Perhaps the greatest problem for the coyote is the lack of a body of objective research to properly place their role, and consequently how we treat them, in the proper context. That, for my money, is the key to understanding the role of the coyote. While I am ethically against coyote killing contests, I think there is a more compelling practical and environmental argument for having a healthy population of coyotes in our state. They, as the top predator (if you don't rank loose dog packs, a few bears or mountain lions not yet exterminated) keep disease and pest numbers in check. We often gauge our attempts at environmental control on how each pertains to us. That is, deer become a nuisance based on how often they careen off our vehicle or the property they damage. Not on their role in our environment. But that is not a wise attitude towards our environment, of which coyotes are a part.