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A divisive issue

By Gary Bogue
Friday, February 23rd, 2007 at 8:37 am in Hunting.

Anyone looking for letters about killing wild turkeys in Rossmoor can find them below, under February 22, 2007.

Dear readers: I thought this provocative letter to the editor of “Nature Conservancy,” the magazine published by the Nature Conservancy, written by Dr. Michael J. Vandeman, might interest you. Dr. Vandeman gave me permission to also print it here for you to read.

You can respond to Dr. Vandeman’s comments with your own thoughts, if you feel so inclined, by clicking on “Comments” (below) at the end of his piece. /Gary

From Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.:
The Winter 2006 issue of “Nature Conservancy,” the magazine published by the Nature Conservancy, published the following letter:

“Divisive Issue. You can count me among your growing legion of ex-supporters; the recent article by Hal Herring did it for me (“Hunter, Angler, Conservationist,” Autumn 2006, http://www.nature.org/magazine/autumn2006/features/art18601.html). Along with many environmentalists with strong feelings in favor of protecting — not exploiting — wildlife, I have no interest in conserving nature in order to provide playgrounds for those who take part in archaic ‘blood sports.’ Your organization would be far better off courting the progressive community of ecologically-minded activists, and I won’t be surprised to read that the dying and exhausted sport of hunting has turned out not to be a lucrative bedfellow for groups like yours after all. Mark Gross, Seattle, Washington.”

In that and the Spring 2007 issue are a series of letters addressing the same topic, mostly taking the position that since we are animals like other animals, therefore we can do whatever we want to.

In response, I wrote the following letter to the Editor:

February 21, 2007

Nature Conservancy

Re: “Divisive Issue” (Winter 2006 Issue, p.6)

To the Editor:

Times change. We learn new things, and old ideas become obsolete. It’s inevitable. For example, we can no longer safely assume that water from mountain streams is safe to drink. As Mark Gross stated so eloquently, exploiting wildlife and wildlife habitat, for pleasuring humans, is fast becoming obsolete (although dropping support for Nature Conservancy seems counter-productive to me). The rationalizations for such exploitation are transparently just that. Aldo Leopold is a good example of discarding obsolete notions (the killing of wolves) when they become clearly untenable.

This not to say that denigration of the “exploiters” is OK. I can’t really criticize 19th century Americans for not anticipating modern conservation biology. And I don’t think that difference of opinion necessarily means we can’t get along and work together. There will probably always be compromises “on the ground.”

But I don’t see any reason to compromise on telling the truth! Yes, we are animals somewhat like other animals, but we are not a natural part of any ecosystem. We are a species that is native to part of Africa, and everywhere else a very late newcomer, i.e. an exotic species. Like all exotic species, we have arguably no right to access, much less exploit, local ecosystems, especially when those activities threaten native species (except that, when it’s convenient, we claim that “might makes right”).

There is no honest way in today’s environment to rationalize hunting, fishing, and “collecting” of native species, or non-sustainable recreational activities like mountain biking.

Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande

Dr. Vandeman is a wildlife activist who has also dipped his hand in mathematics, computer programming, psychology, transportation activism, conservation biology, the impacts of mountain biking, theories of consciousness, and fraud in scientific research.

References:
Ehrlich, Paul R. and Ehrlich, Anne H., “Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearances of Species.” New York: Random House, 1981.

Errington, Paul L., “A Question of Values.” Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1987.

Flannery, Tim, “The Eternal Frontier — An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples.” New York: Grove Press, 2001.

Foreman, Dave, “Confessions of an Eco-Warrior.” New York: Harmony Books, 1991.

Knight, Richard L. and Kevin J. Gutzwiller, eds. “Wildlife and Recreationists.” Covelo, California: Island Press, 1995.

Louv, Richard, “Last Child in the Woods — Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005.

Noss, Reed F. and Allen Y. Cooperrider, “Saving Nature’s Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity.” Island Press, Covelo, California, 1994.

Stone, Christopher D., “Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects.” Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1973.

Vandeman, Michael J., http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande, especially http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/india3, http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/sc8, http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/scb4 and http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/scb7.

Ward, Peter Douglas, “The End of Evolution: On Mass Extinctions and the Preservation of Biodiversity.” New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

“The Wildlands Project,” Wild Earth. Richmond, Vermont: The Cenozoic Society, 1994.

Wilson, Edward O., ”The Future of Life.” New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

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