Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Walking the Dog

The day broke clear and not quite as cold and it promised to be a good day to get myself and the pup out of the house for a good long walk. I bundled into my gear, grabbed a few odds and ends, and headed out the door. The morning was dead still and the temperature hovered at about 0F. The trail into the wood line was a nice walkable packed "float" left by the snowmachine traffic. As I walked along I looked for tracks- a marten here, a squirrel there, lynx over there, a fox following the treaded pattern left by the snowmachines as they're apt to do.

As we trudged along puffing great geysers of steam with the dog sticking his head in the snow to sniff out unseen things underneath, my mind began to wander and ruminate on thoughts that had been circling for a while.

How is it in this age of more environmental consciousness than ever before can we have so many people apparently unconscious of the actual environment? If you're confused about my last statement, rest assured I was too- but I'll explain my thought process. While the whole world economy trembles and shakes on its foundations built upon cheap energy and more emerging nations compete for that energy we've entered a point in which people who care about the environment are exploring alternative methods of energy and doing things like driving hybrids and buying fridges that have the energy star on the door and all that. Let me say up front I think those are some good things but I wonder if the trend is carried on because its, well, trendy or whether these folks actually care for the environment. Or, oddly enough, even know a thing about the environment. Nothing irks me more than someone without a clue rattling on about science they know little to nothing about or taking a social stance that will apparently have no effect on themselves at all.
As an example- Southern California celebrities prattling on about wearing fur. Rest assured if I resided in SoCal; fur wouldn't have a spot in my wardrobe. All it takes is a solid month of -40F and a borrowed beaver hat to change your mind about fur forever. I think beaver hides look good on beavers and I also think they make a rather good looking and warm hat. I also think my ears look good on my head where God put 'em so when the weather gets cold the beaver hat goes on my head.

While admittedly I live in a bit different setting than most folks, I do communicate outside of my frozen domain pretty regularly and I'm always amazed that folks simply don't know how the natural world works. I don't get too worked up when it's a barely adult urbanite who's driving a Prius and is yakking on about saving the environment without a clue as to what that might even mean. I'll cut the person some slack- their idea of my natural environment is something so alien to their everyday existence that they can't exactly be expected to know any better. Other folks, however, completely surprise me. People that you'd think would know better. But even here in this wilderness setting the disconnect between man and his environment is getting larger and among people you'd think would have some basic knowledge of things beyond the front door.

For example:

I ran into a man not long back out in the low land north of the house the other day, we stopped and chatted a few moments and he talked about trapping foxes there but was dismayed that there weren't any fox tracks around. Well, there were scads of fox tracks around and when I pointed them out he declared that they were just "little dogs" not foxes. I pointed out the nearly straight line of the feet at the trot and showed him a dog track for comparison as well. Alas, my new found companion still didn't think it a good place to trap foxes. At this point I gave up because I'm pretty sure he's never seen a fox and I don't have much hope he ever will. I'm not even sure he'd know what to do with one on the off hand chance he succeeds.

Or my caribou hunting companion- (a very successful hunter I'll add) with decades of experience- who was telling me ad nauseum that blueberry picking was over for the year and how he'd missed it and on and on. He had only been wading through loaded blueberry bushes up to his knees for well over an hour. I was in the lead and every so often I'd reach a hand down and strip off a handful of the plump purple orbs and gobble them down. I now really wonder what he thought I was eating up there? He finally broke down in a surprising fit of humility and asked what a blueberry bush looked like for future reference. I replied with a purple stained hand (and chin!)- "You're a standing on one..."

Or the group of hikers I met earlier this year on the backside of Rainbow Mountain looking like something of a mix between and REI catalog and an AARP advertisement excitedly showing me the mountain goat. Only issue is that Rainbow is three hundred miles from the nearest range of mountain goats. A perplexed Dall sheep ram sat there some several hundred yards above wondering when the party would break up and move on. When I explained the animal was a 1/2 curl Dall ram I was met with large stares of unbelief. I heard one of the hikers exclaim to another as they hiked away..."...stupid yokel."

So here I am reflecting on things again and wonder how so many of us, who have such a love of the outdoors, know so little about what we love? How many of us who love to hunt and fish and explore the habitat of the natural world get involved in the politics and science of land management? Because those decisions are being made by people who very likely know much less about it than you do. Its my opinion that the outdoorsman of old- that wizened creature (think George Sears or Charlie Ren) of the wilderness just isn't around much anymore and when they are around our current land managers just aren't talking to them very much. He's been replaced by weekend warriors who can quote the ballistic table of the entire Remington ammunition line and people with a wall of trophy heads who couldn't likely name a mere handful of trees or plants at rifle point.

For shame...


Unknown said...

Now that was a good walk! I agree with all your points. Well said!

Unknown said...

Great post. I've met many people like those you describe who are convinced they know, but to steal a line from Mark Twain, what they know ain't so.

Anonymous said...

I work ans an environmental educator in the Midwest and I am constantly frustrated by a lack of general outdoors knowledge among people that SHOULD know better. Hunters, scouts, and scout leaders being the worst offenders. Thanks for the great post (and for Tim for pointing it out!)