January 18, 2014

"Thinking Like a Mountain"

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We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.

I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes — something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.
Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. ... I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. -- “Arizona and New Mexico: Thinking Like a Mountain”, pages 130-132

We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness.

The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men. -- “Arizona and New Mexico: Thinking Like a Mountain”, page 133

Thinking Like A Mountain: Full Text in PDF

Posted by gerardvanderleun at January 18, 2014 10:17 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Over the years, I've come to see the gun control issue in very similar terms. Yes, there are great risks associated with an armed citizenry, just as there with keeping wolves in an ecosystem. But the negative outcomes that accumulate when you get rid of either, outweigh the "safe" alternative.

The wolf on the mountain or the armed freeholder are tough sells. One slaughtered calf or one murdered child creates a cacophony of emotion that drowns out all of your reason in an instant. Almost everyone misses the irony that the death of an innocent lamb is how we justify making mankind live like sheep.

I believe in a hard, tough God. He challenges us every day to be good and just in a world where wolves are the least of the monsters we must face. Such is the nature of free will.

Posted by: el baboso at January 18, 2014 11:37 AM

The residue of unforeseen consequences lies in the wake of interference of nature's order. The "system" was originated an eternity ago and yet we act as if today's knowledge outweighs the the long enduring existence. We have paid slightly in the past for our misguided efforts but one time we may go too far and protecting that "snail darter" my prove to be the end of us all.

Posted by: tripletap at January 18, 2014 1:47 PM

Wolfs have been reintroduced into Idaho and now are reproducing at a rate of two litters per year with expanding population spillage into Washington and Oregon. Cost has been so far more than 90% of the Elk and a substantial loss of Deer as well in the Idaho Northern and Central high country which before the reintroduction had enormous herds attracting instate and out of state hunters who now have stopped buying tags for the most part. The economic impact has been severe. BTW, the wolfs that were introduced were not the American Timber wolf but a Canadian wolf species that is much larger than the Timber wolf. These Canadian wolves are 190 - 200 lbs when full grown.

Dan Kurt

Posted by: Dan Kurt at January 19, 2014 10:36 AM
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