It’s Mother’s Day. Let’s take a moment to love and appreciate the ultimate mother of us all: Mother Earth. Just imagine what you’d do without her. That may seem preposterous, but humanity operates as if we can just hop over to a new planet after we use this one up.
People. Earth is it. There’s no Plan B or, rather, Planet B. If the planet dies, we die with her. Ironically, our own self-destruction may be Mother Earth’s only hope. We’re the virus she’d like to be cured of. We’re killing her. We are her ebola.
I recently mentioned a book, “Last Child in the Woods,” in which author Richard Louv articulates the feelings I’ve had about my own experiences with nature and my dismay at humanity’s increasing lack of connection to nature and diminishing concern for the environment. Louv’s book should be required reading for everyone. We need a collective epiphany: Humanity’s increasing separation from nature will be our undoing.
I discovered this book in the midst of an ongoing dispute here in Winters about a pocket of wild habitat along our Putah Creek Nature Park path that’s scheduled for destruction. The “restoration” plan caught many local creek lovers by surprise because this area is so lovely and, ironically, now quite visible because of the work that’s been done so far. People assumed that preserving this natural area was planned. Imagine the collective shock and horror to learn that the bulldozers are coming.
The wild patch has been an unnecessarily polarizing topic here in Winters, because once people began to object to its destruction, the “pro-park” folks circled the wagons and declared the “pro-wildlife” folks enemies. I suspect that the instantaneous vilification of the pro-wildlife group is due to the involvement of one very vocal, fearless person in the community (no, not me) who often spearheads efforts to bring things to the city council’s attention. Anyone who agrees with “Her” is an enemy by association.
How sad and tired is that. And, moreover, immature. Pathetic even.
At its most skeletal, it’s Park vs. Wildlife. Both groups are talking across each other. Their goals are different. However, unlike the park folks, the wildlife group is seeking compromise, and also acknowledges the successes so far, like the cleanup of Putah Creek, which was used as a garbage dump for decades. The removal of thick wild blackberry that kept everyone but the most intrepid souls away from the water also gets high marks.
We aren’t asking that the creek project be abandoned. We’re merely asking to pause for a moment and consider the new information that wasn’t there when the original creek plan was made: a pocket of wildlife habitat that’s a rare gem. We’re asking for a way to have the park and the wildlife habitat, too.
The park camp, however is stubbornly sticking to its original plan, come hell or high water — no changes, no slow-downs. Fire up those bulldozers, full speed ahead.
Imagine if this was a car trip: You’re driving somewhere and you’ve picked your route, and you discover new information, say, a bridge is out. Do you stop and find a detour that will still bring you to your destination, or do you refuse to budge and drive your car headlong into the ditch? That’s all the wildlife folks want: consideration for an alternate route, not abandoning the whole trip.
In the midst of this lovely little wild patch, there lives an extremely rare piebald beaver, along with its ordinary mate and kits. For me, this beaver is symbolic of humanity’s disregard for nature. Most of the Fish & Wildlife folks I’ve spoken with seem intrigued, but ultimately say, the white-striped animal is just a color variation, and beavers aren’t considered endangered, no matter what color they are. In other words, “meh.”
Crazy. Imagine if someone discovered a blue cat. Beautiful, bright cyan, from nose to tail. Would you protect it or would you just shrug and say, “Meh, it’s just another unwanted cat. Stick a needle in it and throw it in the dumpster.”
That beaver is a blue cat. Living right here in Winters. For now.
The pro-park folks glibly say the beaver will just move downstream when the bulldozers come, and then they’ll come back. That’s fallacy. I spoke with UC Davis wildlife professor Dirk Van Vuren recently, who explained beaver habitat to me. They need steep creekbanks for their dens because the den openings are underwater, and the dens are burrowed up into the banks. They can’t make dens on flat creekbeds — like the ones that have already been “restored.” The “restored” area of the creek is flat as a pancake on both sides. The beaver won’t be able to return.
Even worse, I’ve been told of someone living downstream of our nature park who brags about killing beavers. We’ll be driving our beavers right into this person’s hands. We’ll never see them again, and in particular, that piebald beaver.
You can see the beaver on the front page of this week’s Winters Express, along with the photographer’s story of how difficult it was to snap that photo. Check it out. It’s unlikely you’ll ever see a photo of another one. Between bulldozers and trappers, its days are numbered.
So. What does this have to do with Mother Earth? Plenty.
This park vs. wildlife standoff is a microcosm of how humans treat our planet — it’s there to be used and abused to suit our needs and whims. From rain forests to air to oceans, from wild orca to little old creek beavers, we exploit and destroy whatever we choose — and will end up destroying ourselves in the process. We are a selfish, stupid, suicidal species on a collision course with the results of our choices: Extinction.
And on that day, when the last human draws its last breath, Mother Earth and whatever species have managed to survive us will sigh in relief. And begin to heal.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at email@example.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com