Rogue Species

“Nothing will regret us.  Nothing will remember us.  It will be a clean wipeout, and every single molecule that constitutes part of a human being today will be working somewhere else for something else.”

Farley Mowat, in The Green Interview

Author Farley Mowat has long considered human beings a rogue species.  According to Mowat, we’ve overrun the planet, decimating one species after another along the way for our own commercial gain, and in the process we’ve done lethal damage to the natural systems which sustain us.  We’re headed for collapse, disappearance, if Mowat is to be believed, and we won’t be missed.

Scott Schrantz photo
Scott Schrantz photo

In an oddly related bit of news, the people of the southeastern British Columbia District of Invermere voted last week in overwhelming support of a deer cull in their part of the planet.  Of the 994 people who voted, 749 approved the use of culls to reduce populations of “urban deer.”

Deer are one of those species, like Canada geese, raccoons and rats, which have learned to adapt to, and then thrive in a human-altered landscape.  Humans are adept at eliminating animals like wolves and cougars from their immediate environs, and so deer are able to happily move in and benefit from a total lack of predators and plenty of human-maintained greenery.

This is certainly the case on Galiano, where wolves and cougars have been completely eradicated from the island, and, as every Galiano gardener can tell you, deer populations are such that no bit of greenery can be safely cultivated except behind a high protective fence.  “Concentration camp gardening” I like to call it.

The island deer population seems to build up over the course of a number of years, until what are essentially ‘plague conditions’ arise, and a significant portion of the populace dies off from disease.  Then the cycle begins again.

Is Mr. Mowat correct?  Are we headed for the same fate, collapse if not disappearance?  Has the level of carbon pollution in the atmosphere already reached a level where civilization as we’ve known it is soon going to be thrown into chaos, with millions upon millions suffering?  Can technology save us?

The future is notoriously difficult to predict.  Just a few years ago, in 2008, the notion of ‘peak oil’ seemed to suggest that economic, if not ecological downfall was rushing pell mell toward us, as demand for oil fast outpaced supply and the price for a barrel of oil reached $145 U.S.  Today, with increasing efficiency in automobiles and the advent of ‘fracking’ technology, the price of oil is under $95 a barrel.  This week Encana Corp, an energy company with assets of more than $14 billion, announced layoffs for 20% of its workforce.  As the great sage Yogi Berra once observed, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

Whatever the future of the species, acting locally, and thinking globally would still seem to be the prudent thing to do.  There should be more than enough evidence out there of dire economic and ecological possibilities to convince even the most obdurate of us of at least that much.  Do what you can in your own backyard, and try to make decisions based upon the longer term, your grandchildren’s future, as opposed to your own.

Perhaps the best specific political reform that might be enacted (don’t get excited; it’s not on) would be to see politician’s elected to a single, five-year term.  Once in office said politician does what they believe is right, what they promised to do when running for office, without any concern whatsoever for the prospect of getting re-elected.  Long term thinking is enabled.

We live in precarious times.  And if collapse comes it will not necessarily be precipitous.  The fall of Rome, the advent of ‘the dark ages’ didn’t happen overnight.  Rather it was a slow decline, noticeable only over a longer term.

Do what you can.  Work hard, respect the earth, and your neighbours, and, whenever you can, try to act for the greater good, as opposed to your own particular, short term interests.  It’s pretty simple really, but it takes a clear head, calm nerves, and a check on our emotions, those emotions, born of our own stressful conditions, that cause us to resent, lash out, or otherwise act selfishly.

It isn’t easy.  But if we can consistently, calmly think the greater good, and act upon it, you never know, we might just make it.


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