On My Nightstand: ‘Nature Wars’
In the July 7 ‘Monitor,’ Bob Washburn notes that Concord is “blessed to have the wildlife that thrives around us” including moose, deer, wild turkeys and other wildlife that roams the area. He then discusses the possibility of black bears, lynx and –yes! – even cougars – being in the local area. Well, if you want to know why this is happening, you should read Nature Wars by Jim Sterba.
Sterba identifies the “changer” as urban sprawl, which can be defined as “to spread out awkwardly” or “leapfrog development.” The building of superhighways and the easy availability of automobiles and trucks has led to the acceptance of the lengthy commute from the country to jobs in the city giving up time to take advantage of cheaper housing in suburban towns and the countryside. Wildlife hasn’t been displaced; it has come to accommodation with the easy life of newly available space and tasty vegetation at their favorite browsing area – the forest edge. Of course, they bring with them Lyme disease, road collisions, Canada geese fouling problems and so on. Trapping of fur-bearing animals is no longer an “approved” occupation, and game hunting is held in disdain as youth would rather pursue indoor sports on the internet and adults prefer not to know how those good-looking packaged steaks, pork chops and chickens met their doom and ended up in a refrigerator case.
None of this is new. Henry David Thoreau lived in a town woodlot owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson while rusticating on Walden Pond. Think the forests are disappearing? Think again – the six New England states contain the nation’s most heavily forested region – 33 million of its 42 million acres are forested (79 percent). The 2010 census found 204 million people living on forest land, i.e. people living under or near trees. Barns, pastures, hayfields and orchards have reverted to forest. Some tourists traveling the heavily wooded interstates and state and local highways have actually complained that they couldn’t “see the views for the trees.” No mention of power or natural gas lines cleared rights-of-way (which hunters appreciate).
Automobile/animal collision damages cost $6 to $12 billion annually, not to mention human lives lost. Salt residues along highways are a great attractant. (Did you know New Hampshire, in 1938, was one of the first states to use road salt?)
And of course there are the songbirds, the base of a $3.5 billion per year birdseed industry and $801 million per year business of bird feeders, birdbaths, birdhouses and other supplies. Mr. Sterba even addresses the feral cat problem. (It is estimated that feral cats kill 500 million to
1 billion songbirds per year in the United States.)
Solutions? Mr. Sterba offers some. Read the book and see which ones you agree with.
PAUL A. ADAMS