Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

20 June 2008

The Fallacy of Man the Vicious Animal Killer

A great many Americans believe that we are greatly endangering the animals of the United States by virtue of our high technology, mobile, and reasonably comfortable lifestyle. They believe that we have pushed those other animals of North America, which we commonly simply refer to as the animals, as though we were not animals ourselves, to the verge of extinction. Where they are not almost extinct, their survival has become more brutish and nasty than ever before. Cities now cover the continent and there is nowhere for wild animals to live anymore. We build roads everywhere and our mining, lumbering, and oil and gas fields are destroying animal habitats everywhere outside the cities. We have no right to deprive these other animals of their place in the environment and ought to return to the status of the Noble Savage in order to claim no more resources than it is our right to do.

This flies in the face of both simple everyday observation and the observations of many scientists who have studied a wide variety of animals. Since those scientists who do publish or broadcast alarmist claims of the deaths and extinctions, usually possible future extinctions, of the animal kingdom's denizens get far more publicity than do those who report that the animals are holding their own in most cases, let us concentrate on what we ourselves see, if we are observant at all. Certainly the states of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio ought to be among the worst states for animals if they are fairing badly in the onslaught of habitat destruction by voracious humans. I speak of these states because I hear news accounts more regularly about the deer, raccoon, fox, and rabbit populations in this area of the country than in others. I also travel about in them more than in other states over the time period since 1971.

In the 1970s, I lived in Cleveland. In Cleveland, not in one of its bedroom communities. We had rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons in the neighborhood on a regular basis. In 1980 we moved moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, a Washington, DC suburb. In our yard we see squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, mice, moles, and voles. In the woods along the Paint Branch Creek a few hundred yards away, I constantly see deer, as I did last weekend on a bike ride. I have also seen opossums there. In the woods near College Park, home of the University of Maryland, I have seen many raccoons. On my drive to my laboratory in Columbia, MD in the Baltimore - Washington corridor, I constantly see deer and foxes, both silver and red. Of course, I also smell skunks with great frequency. I have seen muskrats on the drive to work. I have had both skunks and foxes in front of my laboratory. I just returned from a bike ride along a bike path through a large residential neighborhood in Columbia and I saw three deer on this ride. When we moved here in 1980, the number of deer was starting to grow and their numbers were way up in the late 1980s. It has only been in the last 10 years that I have made frequent sightings of foxes.

On a trip to Virginia, I saw a coyote in a park east of the Appallachian Mountains. On trips in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia, I am constantly seeing deer. Twice in Maryland, deer have run into family cars. Just over a week ago, a deer in Rochester, New York ran into my daughter Katie's car. Everywhere we hear and see the evidence of a burgeoning deer population causing more and more car accidents. Yet the deer populations continue to grow. Apparently, as we have become more wealthy and more people move to metropolitan areas, we hunt less and the hunting is apparently more of a factor in decreasing deer populations than is their foolish tendency to run into cars. Perhaps another factor favoring deer population growth in many areas outside the growing metropolitan areas was the long term reduction in the amount of land being farmed. In much of the country, land farmed in the late 1800s and early 1900s has reverted to forest and woodlands. But this has not been a necessary factor in the increased deer or fox populations, since they are growing even in the face of the growth of the Washington - Baltimore high population corridor.

Once upon a time, most Americans did not want to see foxes. They worried that the foxes would eat their chickens, cats, and small dogs. Nowadays, people are clearly more tolerant of them and even of coyotes, whose population is also growing. Reports are that puma and black bear populations are also growing. Apparently, when people are not dirt poor and when farms are better equipped to provide their farm animals with more protected housing, more and more people are not driven to exterminate carnivorous animals or to worry quite so much that the deer might eat a few ears of corn. Generally farmers are making very good money these days.

Maybe humans are not so voracious after all. Maybe they become less so as their lives become more secure and they feel less threatened. Maybe they even acquire some significant joy in seeing other creatures thrive and living well. I do. Yet, we see this happening even in cities and metropolitan areas. If this is the case, should we be so ready to believe that drilling for oil and then producing it and delivering it by pipeline is going to kill off the caribou? Well, that experiment has now been done. The results are in. The caribou herds are growing, not dying off. Similarly, we hear that some future possible few degrees of warming is going to decimate the polar bears. Well, the warming of the 1970s to 1998 did not do that. In fact, the polar bears did just fine. For them, it is not swings of a few degrees of temperature that matter so much as how much they are hunted. Rather the same situation as with the deer or foxes and coyotes.

There is no reason to prevent the exploration, drilling, and production of oil and gas on the Federally owned lands that dominate most of the western states or of the lands and waters of the northern areas of Alaska or anywhere else. We can easily both find and produce oil and have a habitat very suitable for wild animals. Apparently, the animals are more adaptable and sturdy than many give them credit for being. In fact, some animals just love oil fields and pipelines. In the late 1960s I worked in oil fields and on pipelines in the summers to earn money for college. In the oil fields along the south bank of the Red River in Texas, the copperheads and scorpions just loved the pumphouses as a place to live. Along the pipeline in north central Oklahoma and another in west Texas that I worked on, the prairie dogs loved to establish colonies straddling the pipelines. Why? Because the pipelines are heated in the winter to allow the oil to flow better. Prairie dogs are not fools. They like warmth in the winter. Working on the pipelines you had to be careful however. Sometimes, rattlesnakes by the several dozen would move into prairie dog colonies. They really like the ready-made holes and the warmth also.

Many scientists can be bought with research money, and/or with fame, and/or with political correctness incentives. Some courageous scientists will buck such political delusions, but many non-scientists may not be able to or inclined to read their published work and make a critical analysis of it for themselves. However, most Americans do evidence significant analytical capability in their own line of work and this has made them the most productive workers in the world. So, when you see yourself that so many animals are flourishing, as you must see, or smell in the case of the ubiqutious skunk, trust in your own ability to evaluate the claims that man is eradicating the animals and appropriating all the resources of the planet to his own needs and leaving nothing for the other animals. This politically correct thesis is clearly nonsense.

So, do not buy the line that man must not drill for oil and gas in the Federal lands of the west or in the north slope of Alaska. Do not accept the idea that drilling in the oceans will pollute all the beaches and kill the fish. Actually, the fish thrive around the oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Do not believe the nonsense when environmentalist radicals claim that the caribou will be eradicated by a single pipeline across Alaska or even by several. Use your common sense. Do not go gently into the night and the dank cave that those who worship the Noble Savage would thrust you into. Demand your use of energy so man can continue to be nobly productive and creative in building a world ever better for man and also for the animals who seem to be thriving even as we thrive.

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