Another paper written for my class:
We humans are very egocentric. We believe we know everything, can control anything, and it is our divine duty to conquer all. However, Mother Nature has the upper hand. From the space between electrons to beyond the outer reaches of Earth’s atmosphere, many connections exist in the ecological web that humans are unaware of. It is only through our actions do we learn of these connections and sometimes the actions are irreversible and negative in consequence.
Aldo Leopold is a typical human who made a bold statement towards the eradication of predators. The vicious furry buggers were in direct competition for resources that humans desired. By eliminating the competition, more deer and elk will be available for human consumption. This direct linear thinking of predator-prey dynamics is an example of human’s narrow vision and ignorance of the interconnected environment.
The article “Linking Wolves and Plants” exemplifies a terrestrial context of trophic cascades and tangent impacts to the environment. In my graduate study at UI, my research is focused on aquatic ecology; specifically a keystone zooplankton species and its role in nutrient cycling, water clarity, and trophic influence. I have read articles on ecology and trophic cascades by Pace, Paine, Carpenter, and many other important scientists. Even in the “isolated” context of a lake, the boundary between the biological and physical worlds is not defined. Every year, new knowledge is obtained and every year that knowledge is contested. Even in the scientific world, earth systems are not certain and humans continue to make mistakes.
As for management of a species or ecosystem, we strive to do our best with what little understanding we have. The most difficult part is determining the most direct holistic goal of any management activity. This includes natural systems and human interests, neither of which coincide.
Back to wolf reintroduction. In the mid 1990’s I was all for wolf reintroduction. Bring back the natural balance that our human fears destroyed! Screw the ranchers! Wolves were here first. This naïve view from an urban idealist has been challenged. What a better challenge than one that impacts personal ego. Two years ago, while working on the Payette National Forest, my dog and I encountered a wolf. 20 Linear feet above the road on the cut bank was a beautiful gray wolf staring down at my dog. I yelled, my dog returned to me, the wolf strolled up over the ridge.
I still today question how I fit in the wilderness with a four legged companion. However, it still boils down to my idealist view of preserving the natural wilds for what they provide to Mother Earth’s complex design. Let them (predators) come. Let us stop trying to interfere.