↓ Archives ↓

Posts Tagged → human

The Importance of Wilderness

Wilderness rarely makes it into the news.

It usually gets mentioned when a US president designates a new wilderness area, or adds existing federal land to an existing wilderness area. The acreage involved in those events is so large, usually so vast, that it must be newsworthy. It just has to be news. It is impossible to ignore it.

This makes the “very good” news.

Another way to get wilderness into the news is to raise the subject of natural resource management in a remote area that is not declared or designated wilderness, but which has a wild and untouched character. These reports are usually cast as a loss of innocence, a loss of wildness, a loss of something special.

This makes the “very bad” news.

Wilderness as a news topic usually involves one extreme or the other: Very good, or very bad.

The truth is that wilderness, those huge untouched areas with nothing but healthy flowing watersheds, breathing forests, and nearly unlimited wildlife habitat, are of mere flesh and blood. Wilderness gets such short shrift and limited coverage in the news media, because so few people know what it is. It is mythologized for better and worse. That it is nearly 100% public land can complicate things, politically, but the fact is, you will not find wilderness in any other state of being in a developed nation.

Most Americans do not have any real exposure to actual wilderness. Their hands-on exposure to it is either zero or merely driving through or around some wilderness area or region (like northern Maine), and admiring it from a car or picnic area. Few immerse themselves in it.

For me and for many people like me, wilderness is like oxygen. We just have to have it. We must have it coursing through our bodies, supporting our feet as we stand or hike or explore. There is nothing mystical about this experience. No transformative or spiritual worshipfulness. No beams of sunlight directed downward by heavenly forces. It is a purely physical connection that in the context of modern sedentary lifestyles becomes such a stark contrast and unusual experience.

Oh sure, we see the hand of God in Nature. Goes without saying. How can you not see Him there? The genius of life on Planet Earth is beyond magical, beyond scientific.

That I get an endorphine rush from every moment I am out in wilderness is an indication of my own “nature deficit disorder,” a topic worthy of a full discussion some other time and something most assuredly suffered by the vast number of Americans.

Why people do drugs of any sort is beyond me, because I can get a safe and natural high from watching a tree sway in a breeze, or a snowy hilltop dressed in silent snow, or a tiny junco flitting among the snowy branches of a small spruce tree. So much of what we call wilderness is really just the same things going on in your own back yard, except that actual wilderness has much less of some of that animal activity, and a lot more silence and serenity. In designated or de facto wilderness, we do see the more rare and cool “charismatic” animals, like moose, panthers, fishers, bobcats, marten.

As an experience, for wilderness lovers like me, wilderness excursion or immersion is just like eating, or breathing. Its quiet is a quantifiable value, like a gallon of gasoline has a price we pay to keep our vehicles going. People like me simply gotta have that wilderness experience to keep running. In modern American terms, it is like having a really big house. We feel like we belong and must be there, comfy and snug.

One of the challenges with wilderness designation is that most of it happens out West, where there are already hundreds of millions of acres of nationally-managed public lands. Already out there are big wilderness areas that a person could spend an entire summer exploring just one location.

Back East we have hardly anything resembling wilderness, and what we have is easily degraded. It is here in the East that the energy and money must be focused on setting aside wilderness while we still have some few opportunities remaining. Opportunities being those industrial lands no longer useful for commercial forestry or mining.

It is a lot more politically palatable to work on wilderness protections here, in the East, where the majority of the American population is concentrated. Many more people are excited about it here, and far fewer people feel like their livelihoods will be negatively impacted by public land and wilderness. Because we have so little of it.

Wilderness is important because it is in wilderness that our species evolved and lived happily for 99% of our time on Planet Earth.

Wilderness is our natural state of being, where we humans are most at home, most honestly, naturally ourselves. In modern times, it is where we are least distracted by “narischkeit,” meaningless chatter and buzz. In wilderness we can be honest, true, most mentally healthy, if only for a day or two.

This past Fall I killed the biggest bear I have ever seen in the woods, in a designated Adirondack wilderness area where I was on a solo hunt. It weighed close to 600 pounds, and its hide squared over six feet. Its hide is literally over twice the size of the 260-pound bear’s hide I sleep under in the winter. A true monster. The king of the mountain.

Know what’s neat about this hunting experience? This bear had probably never seen a human before, and he stalked and tried to eat me three times. The third and last time he tried was when I lost patience amidst growing fear that I was going to be eaten alive, and I shot him at thirty yards in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Just skinning him took almost two days, because his enormous carcass rolled under a log on a steep hillside.

It was predator versus predator, animal eating (or wearing) animal, the most basic natural law on Planet Earth.

Though I admit feeling remorse for having ended his kingly reign. I had been after a big buck, and only took my foe when he had willingly forfeited his nine lives over the course of two days with me on the mountain.

I have never felt so alive.

Wilderness, it’s in us. It is important to us, to be us.

To be human.

Being Human: What is Your Rite of Passage

A rite of passage is quintessentially human. It goes back to our very beginnings as a species.
Achieving some important goal that separates children from adults, dependents from the self-reliant is a critical step in being a whole, healthy human.
Few opportunities exist in today’s material West. Playing video games in a virtual reality is the opposite of achievement, the opposite of reality. Compare the virtual lifestyle to the refugee survivors in Iraq and Syria. The adults there who managed to get their families to safety. They are real people, survivors. They are due respect.
This coming Monday is the Pennsylvania deer season opener. For rifle hunters.
About 700,000 hunters will go afield here on Monday.
For the youngsters among them, killing a deer is an important rite of passage. Hunting skills are as old as our species, and to many these skills are sacred.
Just because Giant has cheap meat doesn’t mean humans should trade away the most important skill set we can have.
Never know when you’ll need it again.
What’s your family’s rite of passage?

Columbus Day: Just Another Human Migration Story

Humans have migrated all over the planet from the earliest days of our species-hood.

From Africa outward to the Near East, and then everywhere else in pretty rapid sequence, by foot, boat, and land bridge.

Extinct human populations have been found on remote islands, with no apparent descendants living on nearby islands. Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens did not intermix, as the DNA trail shows. What did happen is that humans wiped out their Neanderthal competitors

Or in the PC lingo of today’s anthropologists, humans “excluded” Neanderthals from the landscape where they found them, across Europe, the Russian and Asiatic steppe, the Near and Middle East, etc.

This natural human migration has never stopped, nor has the “exclusion” of competing humans occupying desirable hunting and farming lands.

Across the Americas, American Indian tribes savagely battled each other for hunting rights, with hideously drawn out, sadistic torture for survivors and captives not only commonplace, but highly enjoyed by the winners with the equivalent of popcorn. From the slavers and human sacrificing Aztecs and Mayans in South and Central America to the Creek, Blackfeet, Crow, and Pawnee of the Rocky Mountains and plains, to the Hurons and Seneca of the east. Every one of these tribes fought with neighboring tribes, and stole their land whenever possible.

Not to mention the fact that the “native” American Indians themselves migrated all the way from Asia, and there is archeological evidence that they out-competed some Caucasian inhabitants they encountered along the way, on both coasts.

Europe was no different up until modern times. Tribes battling tribes, empires built on tribal allegiances (think Alexander the Great) invading other tribal empires (Persia, the Assyrians, etc.). Think Prussia and German dutchies amalgamating around a common language.

Don’t even get started on Africa or Polynesia, where people literally ate each other until modern times. Africa alone has over 800 languages, with 800 tribal identities, all still competing with one another for natural resources. Think Hutus and Tutsis; think genocide. Think commonplace.

And really don’t get started on the modern Middle East, where one million Jews were forcefully ejected from their ancient homes by Muslims from Morocco to Iran, from 1929 to 1959. Their homes, farms, lands, businesses stolen, and occupied even today by squatters. And yet we are told repeatedly that it was the Jews who “stole” land from Muslims, when in fact they either bought it or won it in defensive wars. Muslims occupy Christian holy sites across the region, having killed and captured the former inhabitants.

So, according to the current narrative, Muslim aggression is OK, but Jewish and Christian survival among Islamic nations is not OK and is not expected.

These are obvious double standards without rhyme or reason, without justice.

Somehow, the idea that all of this migration was supposed to have stopped for Europeans alone is unique, and nowhere do we see this odd idea than with the war against Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day.

It is true that Columbus paved the way for slaving Spaniards, out-slaving the slaving Aztecs, and that his men took advantage of technologically inferior Caribbean natives, some of whom killed and then ate Italian for dinner.

But it is also true that Columbus was likely a Jew, fleeing the ethnic cleansing of his Spanish homeland, leaving ahead of the Catholic Inquisition (a great symbol of human frailty, as it was Catholicism that essentially built the Western Civilization that every human on Planet Earth enjoys in some way or another today) that tortured, murdered, robbed, stole and schemed its way from one end of Europe to the other, even landing in South America.

Aboard his ships were the names of many Jews fleeing for their lives, serving as carpenters, sailors, and so on.

So was Columbus wrong to have brought these refugees with him on his pre-migration scout around the Americas?

And why is it OK for SOME people today to invade, or “migrate” to Europe and America, but only Europeans and Americans must pay some heavy, even fatal price for their mere existence, much less distant alleged crimes? Why can’t Europeans migrate?

Human migrations are as natural and human as being a human as putting on your shoes in the morning. It is in our DNA to migrate, to fight, to test, to hunt. Biblical values put the brakes on our worst inclinations, but we still can move places.

Unless you are a Caucasian or American of European descent. Why then, you are a criminal.

If you ask me, something about this anti-Columbus Day business does not smell right.

In fact, it looks like genocide is being planned, in the guise of righting some fake historic wrong. But I guess that would just be one more story of how one group of humans out-competed another group.

Right?

 

It’s berry season!

For about 150,000 years we humans have been hunter-gatherers, living a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle that follows the migrating animals and the growth of plants our bodies can eat.

Edible plants were a huge component of hunter-gatherer food, easily dried and carried, many of them lasting well into October and November after plants have gone dormant in most places. Unlike meat, dried edible plants do not easily rot, or attract nibbling animals.

Among edible plants, fruits and wild berries reign supreme.

That is because fruits and berries contain an unusual mix of carbohydrates, sugars, minerals, and vitamins, all of which are necessary for survival. Especially vitamin C, a crucial ingredient in a healthy human body (think scurvy).

The fact that wild berries taste especially sweet and supplement other foods with extra flavor is a big draw.

Sweet-tasting foods rarely occur in Nature.

Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, huckleberries, wineberries, and many others grow abundantly here in Pennsylvania and across the Eastern US.

Plains Indians like the Lakota, Pawnee, and Comanche made a mix of red meat and berries called pemmican. Ripe berries were turned into a big mush and then worked into meat strips. Usually the mixture was dried on wooden racks in the open air and sunlight, and the dried slabs and sticks were then put under the horse saddle to be worked and broken down into what we would call jerky today.

“Jerky” gets its name from the gentle jerking motion of the horse saddle, as horses step forward. The motion slowly breaks down the meat fibers, making them easily chewed and digested.

So here we are, a bunch of sedentary Americans, mostly eating out of cans and bagged frozen foods.

One antidote to this somewhat unhealthy arrangement is to go outside and do stuff.

Hike, walk, sit and read or sit and chat with someone face to face, fish, canoe, grill out, etc., so many easy outdoor activities.

A really easy outdoor activity is berry picking. Sure there are some thorns, but so what. The benefits are fresh, delicious, healthy berries that are not sprayed with chemicals, or bagged in plastic bags, or frozen. The whole family can do it. Go find a field edge, and bring some hard containers, and start picking.

Humans have been berry picking in that Summertime window of opportunity for a really long time. So long that it can be measured in ice ages come and gone, ice sheets advancing and retreating. That is a lot of years.

If we have been doing that activity for that long, you know it is good and natural. That the whole family can do it, and then make pies together afterwards, makes it all the better.

Just watch out for poison ivy!

 

 

An outdoor lifestyle, halfway through the season (to hunt is human)

Most of the readers who visit this blog are not outdoors folk. Feats, exploits, and the inevitable tales of woe, cold, and misery from the field would naturally bore, or at best morbidly fascinate, the non-hunter.

Nevertheless, here we go, for the first time here, on a midway retrospective of a singular hunting season still unfolding.

Hunting for most hunters is a way of life literally built into our genes. We do what humans have done since the rise of Homo Sapiens upon Planet Earth: Hunt animals that we eat, wear, and admire. While the Pleistocene ended only 20,000 years ago, it is marked by the full arrival of adept hunter-gatherers who had spent tens of thousands of previous years perfecting their lifestyle.

Humans have been hunters and gatherers for 100,000 years, or 60,000 years, depending upon how long one believes Homo Sapiens has been human.

We have been agrarian for what…10,000 years at the most generous definition of the sedentary lifestyle, but closer to 5,000 years for most humans.

After that, the most modern, most technologically advanced, most “civilized” humans have lived through the Industrial Revolution (400 years), the Technological Revolution (150 years), the Information Revolution (50 years and ongoing). Combined, that’s a total of 600 years out of a total of 60,000 years.

At our core we are all hunter-gatherers. Scratch our civilized surface, and right underneath we are all spear-toting, skin-clad hunters.

To hunt is innately human. Hunting makes us human.

In other words, although many people today look at our current effete, energy-intensive Western lifestyle and think of it as being the peak of human civilization, some of us see this civilization as becoming complacent, detached from the reality of natural resource management necessary to support this modern lifestyle, hypocritical.

When someone believes it is morally superior to have an assassin kill their meat for them than to kill it themselves, you’ve got an unsustainable logical break. Similarly, people want “the government” to protect them, and they want to prevent citizens from protecting themselves, and those same citizens cannot hold the same government accountable when it fails.
Western civilization is full of this weak thinking. In my opinion, Western society is becoming hollow, a shell, full of contradictions.

The hunting lifestyle is a powerful antidote. It is a dose of reality inserted into a cloudy drugged up dream.

So far, this season has been marked by time afield in the most beautiful places in several states with long time friends, new friends, my young son, other kids, and by myself. Like our Pleistocene ancestors, the feeling of the pack on my back and the game-getter in my right hand is about the most natural and satisfying feeling possible.

A number of deer have fallen to various firearms, a Fall turkey, a colorful pheasant; there’s a bunch of photos commemorating the times for the results-oriented. My best moment was late at night, checking a trap with my boy, and finding a large bobcat. There for about four hours, it had really no taste for humans and represented the wilderness in all its wildness.

Catching a bobcat is a real achievement in the world of hunting and trapping, and I confess it was with great mixed emotions that we dispatched it and brought it to Butch at Blue Mountain Taxidermy. Even if a bobcat is again in one of our traps during the short bobcat season, we will release it. One is enough for a lifetime.

One bobcat trophy represents a lifetime of time afield, or 60,000 years.

Forget sexy issues like “climate change,” let’s solve real environmental threats

By Josh First

Pennsylvania’s forests are suffering from a one-two punch-out by both invasive bugs and pathogens that kill our native and very valuable trees, and then by a following host of invasive vines, shrubs, trees, and other plants that are filling the void left after the big natives are gone.

Today yet another bulletin arrived from PSU plant pathology / forestry researchers, noting that ‘sudden-oak-death disease’ was detected on a shipment of rhododendron from Oregon.

Oregon got it from Asia.

Pennsylvania’s forests are becoming full of non-native, invasive plants, bugs, and pathogens. Each of our valuable tree species now has its own specific attackers. God knows what our native forests will look like in ten years.

The Asian emerald ash borer is literally making ash trees go extinct as a species. I see whole stands of forest, hundreds of acres, where not one ash tree is healthy. Dutch Elm disease killed off most of our elms in the 1980s. An Asian fungus killed off the once incredible and mighty American chestnut tree. Forget pathogens and bugs, because lots of aggressive, fast-growing invasive plants are taking up room on the forest floor, pushing out and overwhelming needed native plants. Few if any animals eat the invasives, which are often toxic and low value.

Human-caused climate change?  It is a sexy political issue, and it is highly debatable. But forest destruction from non-native invasives is a real, tangible, non-debatable, non-politicized issue we need to address immediately. So many people and wild animals depend upon our native forests, that without them, our rural economies could dramatically fall and our wildlife could disappear.

Forester Scott Cary had this to say, tongue somewhat in cheek: “With the 1000 cankers disease in Walnut now in southeast Pennsylvania, that area is quarantined…maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on black birch and red maple [low-value native species long observed to be acting like aggressive, non-native invasives, and therefore harvested aggressively by responsible forest managers], that may be all we have left to choose from. Of course, Asian long-horned beetle may get the maple, so that leaves us black birch, the tree of the future.”

That is a sad place to be, folks.  And to think that so much money is wasted selling the phony issue of human-caused climate change, while real environmental disasters are actually happening…it shows you just how dedicated the environmental Left is to political dominance, not useful solutions to environmental problems.

Take a kid fishing

Tomorrow marks the beginning of trout season in Pennsylvania. It’s a big deal. Half the population is associated with it, either fishing, eating the fish, or cheering on the mighty hunters who bring home the bacon.

Our next generation needs a helping hand. Too many gadgets, electronics, virtual nothingness and digital pretend friends are separating kids from the beautiful reality surrounding them. They might grow up to think that water comes from the tap, heat from the wall thingy, and food from the grocery store. Fishing teaches crucial lessons about being a real human being, not the least of which is self reliance, a trait once quintessentially American and now considered quaint.

Fishing also teaches the importance of conserving natural resources for the future kids.

So take a kid fishing. You’ll be doing everyone a big favor, now and later.

 

Who is a “sportsman”?

Sportsmen were the nation’s first conservationists, advocating in the 1890s for sustainable harvests of previously unregulated birds, fish and animals like deer and bear. Acting against their own individual self-interests, they banded together to place limits on wildlife and habitat so that future generations would have opportunities to fish, hunt, camp, skinny dip, sight-see, wildlife watch, and help wildlife recover from 300 years of unregulated market hunting and industrial exploitation.

By the 1920s, a culture of stewardship and natural resource conservation was cemented into the sporting ranks by leaders like Gifford Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt, and Aldo Leopold. Hunting clubs across rural America incorporated stocking programs, tree planting, and facilitating public land purchases to improve and increase wildlife habitat.

Fast forward to today, where wildlife populations are largely stable, wildlife habitat is not in crisis mode, and hunters and anglers are experiencing the best opportunities to harvest trophy fish and game in many decades. We are living in a golden age of the outdoor lifestyle.

Riding on the successes of past generations, today there are some grumbling guys with guns, crabbing that they don’t have anything to hunt. The real shameful behavior is the recent abandonment by some of these men of the sportsman’s stewardship ethic and the conservation pledge that made the hunting community highly respected among the larger society. A group of disaffected users, takers, and malcontents calling themselves “sportsmen” recently endorsed HB 1576, a proposed Pennsylvania bill which would gut the very state agencies charged with protecting Pennsylvania’s natural resources, and remove from state protection those plants and animals necessary for healthy hunting habitat.

The question on the table is, Are these men sportsmen? Are they sportsmen like Aldo Leopold was a sportsman?

While I wait to hear back from others, my answer is No, these men are not sportsmen. They are simply men with guns, freeloaders, spoiled children living off the hard work of both past and present generations, while complaining it isn’t enough and they want more, now, dammit. Their behavior is short-sighted and embarrassing, nothing like the visionary selfless sacrifice of their forebears. They should be publicly shamed and drummed out of the ranks of sportsmen.

***************************
“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, “What good is it?” If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
― Aldo Leopold

Syria contrasts a world upside down

The sadistically brutal civil war in Syria has highlighted key foreign policy issues, both on the right and the left.

First, oddly but on second thought, unsurprisingly, the left’s International Human Shields group has waited until now to announce its intention to field live humans to block potential American bombs in Syria. These folks never interceded to block Assad’s conventional or gas missiles falling on hundreds of thousands of women, children, and elderly, nor did they stand in Israeli schools and homes as tens of thousands of missiles rained down for years from Gaza.

Somehow, in their twisted minds, American bombs on Syrian military targets are bad, Syrian bombs on civilians are not an issue. The left hates American freedom, loves dictators. It’s been this way since the left’s embrace of the Soviet Union because it opposed the US. That wasn’t so logical either, but at least these folks are consistent. But when they say they are anti war, know that it’s untrue. Russia’s invasion of Ossetia and Chechnya didn’t warrant a peep. America invades the country that harbored Osama Bin Laden, and they raise hell.

Second, conservatives are driven by both genuine anti war concerns and also a desire to put Obama in a box. Obama is incompetent, but conservatives should not make matters worse. Rather, it stands to reason that conservatives stand against dictators gassing their own citizens. America can and should do much militarily to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, without opening the door to Islamic kooks. If there’s one thing America stands for, it’s a strong opposition to dictators gassing civilians.