In the beginning, we humans had to battle nature for food, water and shelter. Today, although these “necessaries” come to us relatively easily, we continue to rail against the natural world. It makes me wonder if we’re hard-wired to fight nature.
Consider the soldiers among us who wage war on dandelions. The harmless dandelion isn’t taking over the world. It grows only in areas that Man has disturbed. It’s the first flower of spring. By all rights, it should be Alaska’s state flower. Yet, people go to war against it. They denigrate it by calling it a “weed,” so they can kill it without mercy or regret. Then they spray hazardous chemicals on this beautiful flower, just so their lawns will be a solid, boring, green color.
Wars have unintended consequences, and the war against dandelions and other plants that are summarily judged to be useless weeds is no exception. Chemicals end up in the water. Water flows downhill. Chemicals used in the 2,000-square-mile Kenai River watershed end up in the ocean. Another consequence of the endless war against “weeds” is that the “better living through chemistry” people continue to thrive and spread their poisons.
I’ve never liked fighting for no good reason. I suppose that’s why boxing has never appealed to me. I enjoy “necessary” violence in movies, but watching two men pound each other into a bloody, painful stupor is not my idea of entertainment. To abuse your body to the point of permanent damage for money or fame, you’ve got to be a little “off.” Yet, we constantly abuse nature for no reason but money. The so-called Pebble Project — the world’s largest copper mine in the headwaters of the world’s largest salmon fishery — is a prime example. To battle nature to this extent, with so much at risk, you have to be more than a little bit “off.”
On a smaller scale, some people plant vegetable gardens and ornamental shrubs, then wage war against every moose and snowshoe hare that comes around. Shooting moose with air rifles or bird shot is not only illegal, but can kill the moose. These people eventually either surrender to the wildlife, or fence in their shrubs and gardens.
Some people seem to enjoy chaos. They apparently need it in their lives. If you’re one of those, if five kids, three cats, two dogs and a parrot aren’t enough excitement, try raising a few chickens in your backyard. That thump in the night might be one of your cats jumping off the couch, or it could be a bear in your henhouse. Bears love chickens. People who try raise chickens or other domestic fowl in bear country don’t realize they’re setting the stage for a war against nature, but they are. They mean well, but they’re baiting bears right into their backyards. This is why the Kenai City Council recently voted down an ordinance that would’ve made attracting bears into Kenai even easier than it already is.
Feeding birds all summer is another seemingly innocuous way to set the scene for a battle. Bird seed attracts not only birds, but voles, squirrels and bears. Voles don’t cause any problems that I know of, but they will attract predators. Squirrels are by nature territorial loners, but shoot a “resident” squirrel, and 10 squirrels will show up at its funeral. Bears will walk right up onto the deck of your house for a meal of sunflower seeds, then walk over to your neighbor’s house, looking for more.
This constant war against nature is crazy. Moose get along just fine without vegetables and ornamental shrubs. Birds don’t need to be fed in the summertime, when their natural foods are growing everywhere. Bears will muddle through without human “help.” There’s a time for war, yes, but there’s also a time for peace. It’s high time we made peace with nature.
Les Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.