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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Savagery of Ignorance

The full depth of this story has yet to be revealed. When it is, we will all be astonished at the extent to which our ecological futures still depend upon the individual and collective actions of people who are unable or completely unwilling to see human beings as an integral part of the biotic community of the earth, rather than something alien and independent of all other biota.

The tale surfaces with the belated discovery of a white pelican rookery destroyed at a southern Minnesota lake. As investigators moved along the swath of destruction,
...they began finding smashed and dead chicks. They found a total 1,458 nests and 2,400 eggs and chicks had been destroyed. Only one chick was still alive.
The farmer who admitted committing this outrageous act, attempted to excuse his actions by claiming financial loss to his crops (including "potential earnings") over several years, and by stating that  "their droppings had ruined the soil."  

Here is a man, professing to be a "farmer", who imagines that pelican droppings did more to ruin the soil than his own practices on the land. What does he know of the effects of the drain tiles under his land, of ammonia injections into his soil, of the hardpan accreting beneath his equipment? How much marsh was destroyed to enable his plantings of corn and soybeans? Where is the nutrient processing occurring for the excess nitrogen and phosphorus deposited on his land by the pelicans and his own equipment, or that of his tenants? How does his imagined $20,000 loss compare to the loss of livelihoods among fishermen created by the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico?

Trout fishers will recognize the parallels between the practices and knowledge of environmental effects exhibited by one ignorant farmer in Faribault County, Minnesota, and others who plant corn and soybeans on the thinnest of topsoils in the karst region of the upper midwest. Who will accept responsibility for what humans do to the soil, water, atmosphere and biota of the earth?

If anyone in your presence expresses doubt about the possible global effects of human activity, as has been common during the past decade in regard to global warming, you have an opportunity to help him/her to abate their own ignorance. Simply send them to a well-researched article on "global dimming", or, point out the increase in seismic disturbance frequently recorded near recently filled reservoirs, or the desertification of the Aral Sea in mid-continental Asia.

Not all the barbarians are at the gate. Some are living amongst us.

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