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What's Wrong With Our Conservation Paradigm?

Posted: Mon Oct 14, 2019 8:34 am
by JHarkness
You wake up early one morning with the intent of climbing the highest mountain in your ecoregion, you set out from an early successional shrub thicket that was pasture-land several years earlier. Later, you ascend through an old growth montane oak forest and find yourself among vast alpine blueberry and huckleberry meadows, each plant loaded with newly ripened fruit. You intend to have your lunch of wild fruit atop this mountain summit, but remember that the park has declared these plants as "protected", and so you decide to eat the sandwich made from cultivated species that you packed along with you instead; you now feel alienated from this landscape and, though you had the intention of spreading these fruits in other suitable habitats nearby, you decide against this and choose to leave the plants entirely alone. Neither you nor the Vacciniums will benefit from this encounter, in fact, you will be less likely to return here in the future. This is our idea of conservation; and it is distancing humans from other species and minimizing positive interactions between the two groups. Can we really protect Nature when we believe that humans can have no positive impact on it?

Arthur Haines is a botanist, human ecologist and wild food specialist living in western Maine, his work includes educating people on human and landscape rewilding, aboriginal lifeways, plant taxonomy, and the health and ecological benefits of consuming food derived from wild plants, animals and fungi harvested from the local landscape.

Another way of looking at this; many people I know would think that a human harvesting trillium, ostrich fern, wild leek and basswood leaves is causing "impact", even if these plants are collected using non-fatal methods and consumption results in a greater interest in preserving these plants, but an extraordinarily high white-tailed deer population - the result of a decrease in predation - extirpating these species from the landscape is somehow seen as "natural". Furthermore, if the acorns of a mature oak tree are a large part of your diet, then you are more likely to protect that tree than think of it only as an economic resource, or worse as a decaying, "overmature" tree that is keeping you from making money.