23 October 2008


i'm up and out the door a few hours before the sun comes up. yesterday morning was the first time this season i had to scrape frost off my windows, as my vehicle warmed up. brrr.

my work takes me from midtown missoula to the city's periphery in all directions. there've been days when i drive up into the south hills when my ears have popped from the change in elevation. other days, especially in winter, the valley's riparian fog is so thick you can't see more than fifty feet, which, on icy roads, is a not-so-welcome thrill. and of course, whenever it rains or snows, drivers seem to lose their minds completely and behave like lunatics. city drivers, anyway. those of us raised in the country are more likely to take it all in stride.

this being the west, in a university town of modest population, there are still opportunities to see wildlife as one explores the edges. i've seen bald eagles and great blue herons and osprey, rocky mountain bighorn sheep and whitetail deer (the latter so numerous in some neighborhoods that they might as well be cockroaches), black bear and red fox and coyote. the sightings are always a thrill, and a reminder that it is possible to coexist with nature, given a willingness to share space and make allowances for the needs of these creatures who share our planet.

but if one insists on seeing nature as Other, in case of conflict, in my book nature takes priority, whether you live on a ranch or in a city. this world currently hosts about 6 billion humans, far too many to be sustainable, or compatible with the natural world. i would love to wave a magic wand and set the upper limit for humans at one tenth that number, maybe even one hundredth. most would gravitate to cities located on coastlines or waterways, as we did back in the day, leaving vast reaches of landscape and seascape available for recolonization by wildlife. it would be a far richer, more varied world for us, and for our descendants.

sadly, it may already be too late to reclaim such a dream world. we've already set in motion the engines of destruction and extinction. there are entire ecosystems which have vanished, just during my lifetime. humanity is a cancer. eventually we'll either have to move off world, transmitting our viral selves to other planets, or else we'll drive ourselves (fittingly) to the brink of extinction through war, famine and terminal, myopic stupidity. such is the nature of the beast.

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