I’m sure you’re well familiar with the current news headlines and world events: refugees, war, hatred, taxation, bombings, pollution, Donald Trump’s ridiculous hair…. The list goes on and on.
But what you might not be too familiar with are the population dymanics of one of the largest deer species in North America, the Elk. (Note, the moose is the largest.) Elk (Cervus elaphus) play a fascinating role in our ecosystem.
They are large ungulates that eat a lot. They eat plants at an astonishing rate, including some of their favorites, aspen and willow.
And I have this theory: people are like elk.
You see, elk were designed to be part of a larger ecosystem. They aren’t the top of the food chain, but when there is no top predator to keep the elk population in check, they eat everything in sight, leaving little food for smaller mammals. Those other species then suffer.
We Homo sapiens are just another species in the grand scheme of things. We may think we are the top of the food chain, but there is so much in our world that we either cannot control or mess up horribly. So much of our behavior backfires on the general pattern of (our) species existence.
We are quickly sliding down a slope to extinction. At least extinction of the life we humans know. Throughout the last 100-150 years, here in North America alone, we have caused two key phenomena (among many, these are the two I am choosing to mention here) that have forever altered the continent: the almost total extinction of the bison and the permanent damaging of the continent’s natural hydrology.
The removal of bison not only aided in one of the largest acts of genocide in world history, but it actually changed the soil quality of the interior of the continent.
Hydrology can be thought of as a fancy term for the earth’s water system and how it works. It should be obvious how polluted and/or drained our water system is becoming. Do some reading on the Ogallala Aquifer. Or Coldwater Creek in St. Louis County, Missouri. And if those two situations don’t scare you enough, acquaint yourself with the Colorado River and its tributaries. Then read up on the history of water rights in the west or pollution in the east.
We have done this to ourselves, folks. We may think we’re the top of the food chain, but we are slowly killing off our very own existence.
Yes, science and research can help us. I believe we should be investing in more scientific research. But we need to take a healthy look at ourselves and see the bigger picture. We need each other, and we need every single natural resource around us. Those resources are finite, at least in the span of several generations, so use them well.
**Want reading lists of good articles on elk, bison and water? I’ll post them sometime soon.