nature wars – in review

Back when a representative from Random House Publishing contacted me to ask if I was interested in a review copy of Nature Wars, by Jim Sterba, I warned her that such a book would not be terribly up my alley – I am not a hunter, I am not a farmer, I generally keep my interactions with wild animals to a bare minimum, and I generally find the American "conservation" movement to be at or near the far end of the pendulum swing.

But, hey, free book, so I sent her my information, and she sent me a copy. Every man has his price – mine is just really low.

To be honest, before receiving the book, I was a little… concerned over what kind of tack Mr. Sterba might take; for most of my life, my ears and eyes have been assaulted by environmentalists, conservationists, save-the-X-ists, tree-huggers, and what-have-you about the excesses, abuses, and evils we Americans have supposedly wrought upon the natural world. There is, of course, a grain of truth in those proclamations of doom and gloom (at least some of the time), but, as Mr. Sterba proceeded to point out through his book, things are better than we think… depending on how you look at it.

The book starts off rather slow with a somewhat lengthy explanation that there is functionally no such thing as an "old growth forest" on the east coast of the United States. To be sure, there are some that look that way, and there are even a few forests (mostly inland around the mountains) that have remained mostly untouched by man since whenever their first sprouting was, but between a massive deforestation effort started by the colonists and running through the beginning of the 20th century and yearly weather patterns beating up those forests, they often go through periods of destruction and renewal. But it is that rapacious logging – both to clear space for farms and to fuel America’s growing shelter and fuel needs – that we are most interested in today, and, specifically, how we have allowed most of that cleared land to revert back to its previous state.

Mr. Sterba argues, and quite well at that, that the overwhelming majority of east coast residents live in one of the largest forests in the world. No, seriously, think about it for a second – "greenways" are becoming popular in just about every city and town, people go out of their way to sculpt and decorate their yards with trees and shrubberies, we like our space so we live in suburbs with woods and trees all around us… We may not think about it, and we certainly are not doing it intentionally, but we are crafting the very environment that some animals not only appreciate, but thrive in.

And that is where the problem starts. A great number of native and imported American animals are "edge" occupiers – they like the borders of forests and fields, and the wide variety of cover, food, and shelter available there. Until the past century or so, those edges were insulated from cities and most of Americans by way of farms – every major town, city, and so forth was ringed by miles and miles of farms, with the notion of "wild animals" being way out past those farms into the wilderness beyond.

Look out your back windows; do you see any farms separating you from a strand of trees? More and more, that is just not happening, so the suburbs and outurbs and whatever else are becoming the "edge" that those wild animals – like deer, turkeys, skunks, beavers, etc. – so very much love to inhabit. And, predictably, more and more people are being forced into interacting with those wild animals they think of being over the river and through the woods, but, really, are showing up in their own back yards.

naturewarsOf course, I am grossly oversimplifying how this came to happen – Mr. Sterba has multiple chapters dedicated to how our conservation efforts were even more wildly successful than we might have ever realized, even to the point of "repopulating" animals into states where they never naturally lived before (like turkeys in Hawaii… seriously) – but that is why you should read the book.

One such chapter that really hit home with me was regarding feral cats. Felis catus is not a native species in North America (or South America, for that matter), but farmers in Europe, familiar with their skills at keeping vermin down, brought them over when they started colonizing our continent. For centuries, the cats lived out in the barn, knocking down the population of rats and mice and other things that annoyed farmers, while larger predators knocked down the population of cats (or the farmers themselves tended to keeping the resident cats’ population in check). Then, with the advent of kitty litter (at least, according to Mr. Sterba, but it sounds right to me), cats suddenly became "indoor pets", and things radically shifted.

And once food, toy, kitty litter, and supplement marketers realized things had shifted, those things shifted even more – pets became part of the family; you did not "buy" a pet, you "adopted" it; you did not "own" a pet, you were its "guardian"; and so forth. None of this is, in and of itself, strictly bad – I happen to like cats myself – but it started creating a massive shift in public perception of feral cats. The unfortunate truth is that those converted-to-wild, technically-invasive house cats are a horrific scourge on the ecosystem around them, killing upwards of hundreds of millions of songbirds, small rodents, and other such animals a year. The response in past days was to simply kill colonies of feral cats when they were found to be annoying, but given the radical shift in public perception of cats, that is no longer socially acceptable.

So organizations like the one we adopted Blue and Pixel from sprouted up, claiming that they could make a difference in the problem by finding the colonies, removing kittens that had not gone fully feral yet for adoption, and then spaying or neutering the more-adult animals, releasing them back into the wild from whence they came to live out their days and propagate no more. Superficially, that sounds like a nice, friendly, socially-acceptable solution to the problem, right? Well, once you look past the small problem that the relatively short life of a wild cat is filled with illness, malnutrition, and injury, you run into the small problem that these catch-neuter-release programs are only hitting maybe 1% of the feral cat population a year. If you know anything about the way cats reproduce (two litters a year, four or more kittens a litter), you know that is going to amount to… well, nothing at all.

But if you so much as whisper anything even approximately relating to killing those feral cats, even in the name of protecting the existing, native ecosystem, hordes of animal "rights" advocacy groups (which, really, are often nothing more than a few people powered by a lot of internet know-how) descend on your municipality and raise a political relations nightmare that you almost cannot believe; Mr. Sterba actually examines one such incident. And so the situation keeps spiraling out of control.

That is just one example, but similar things are happening with other species all over the country.

The interesting thing of Nature Wars, though, is that Mr. Sterba offers no quick fix, probably because there is not one. In fact, his conclusion chapter is shockingly short, primarily because that conclusion is interlaced all throughout all of the previous chapters – we, as Americans, have allowed ourselves to become too insulated from the "wild", outside world, and no longer understand the normal, natural balance. The only way to fix that, in his eyes, is to get back out there and get back into the world outside our computers, televisions, and smartphones.

In the end, I am not sure I would quantify Nature Wars as a "fun" read (that descriptor needs something written more along the lines of MHI), but it was an impressively informative read, and I learned a great deal about those wild animals scurrying across my back yard than I knew before. I would recommend you read it and then pass it on to your family and friends if only because then we might start making a dent in all of the seemingly-incessant news stories of "[insert wild animal here] had to be put down due to attacking people"…

(Note: To that end, my copy of Nature Wars will be up for grabs in the impending Honored American Veterans Afield fundraiser I will be running in the near future.)

(Obligatory FTC Notice: This book was provided to me by Random House Publishing expressly for the purposes of writing a review about it. A positive review was not guaranteed, and I have, when a book deserved it, written negative reviews here. The above post is my honest opinion about this book, and anyone who would claim otherwise is respectfully invited to bugger off.)

why we win

CSGVBloodDancingIt really boils down to a difference in perceptions.

On the one hand, "gun control" fetishists gleefully dance in the blood of victims and exploit the murder of innocents to further their own, personal, unjust, totalitarian, anti-Constitutional dreams, as documented in the image to the right. (Highlights added to really bring out the crazy in those cultists’ eyes.)

On the other hand, we quite cheerfully and respectfully celebrate the lawful, peaceful defense of civil rights and the restoration of the same to an entire state of people for whom certain aspects of the United States Constitution might as well have never existed.

Now, tell me – to an outside observer, which group of people would appear to be the more rational, reasonable, well-adjusted, and positive? And which would be perceived as being destructive, irresponsible, and negative? Hm.

In other news, I am very thankful I am not the only person who considered the Portland, OR mall shooting yesterday to be remarkably… coincidental… what with it happening on the same day as the decision in Moore v. Madigan being passed down. Obviously I am not hypothesizing that "gun control" extremists keep spree shooters locked in a big pen until they are needed, and then release them into the wild to distract/detract from pro-rights victories; that would require more coordination and intelligence than those organizations are capable of. But I do think the media sees incidents like these transpire on the same day as something major like that court case, and think, "Oh, hey, this would make a great counterpoint; let’s blow this out of proportion!"

After all, more people were murdered in Chicago on the 30th than were murdered in the Clackamas Town Center on the 11th, but the former is the "gun control" capitol of the country, and we would not want to highlight the fact that such policies demonstrably do not work, now, would we?

(And for a dose of humor, that Michael Barkley character at the bottom, whinging about not being supported by his anti-rights cultist ilk? We have discussed him before, and apparently even his fellow fetishists think he is too far out in the weeds to really care about – he admits to coming in "a distant fourth" in his district. Poor baby.)

how not to be a dick

Now, see, this is a position I can respect:

I have open carried when I was not legally allowed to conceal but prefer to conceal when I can. I have found that it is just easier to go about your day and interact with people when they have no knowledge of you having a firearm. First impressions are important and cannot be erased. Many develop a poor perception of someone when they appear with an open carried firearm; just like they do when they see someone with a neck tattoo (or both). I’m not condoning this just acknowledging it.

No name-calling. No "You shouldn’t do that because I don’t like it". No "You’re hurting the cause". No tacit – or overt – support of people who engage in such idiotic tactics. Just a simple, straightforward, "I don’t open carry and here are my reasons why," with the reasons actually being based in the RTB’s experiences, rather than baseless hyperbole or hysteria. My only real gripe – though that word is too strong – is that I would have written, "Many can develop a…" but that is simply a difference of phrasing.

I have absolutely no problems with posts like this, both because I have always maintained that open carry is not for everyone (just like carrying a gun is not for everyone), and because there is the possibility of a useful discussion taking place in its wake. On the other hand, if you start the expression of your opinions with an approximation of, "You are an ‘ass-clown’ if you do not do what I say," I am going to categorize you as a self-absorbed idiot, ignore you, and go back about my life.

And speaking of discussions, I will not deny that there exists the possibility that people will view you very poorly for daring to exercise your Constitutionally-protected rights in a public and unashamed fashion, but I cannot say as though I have ever encountered such a person. To be certain, my sample size is not exactly scientific, and my anecdotes, in and of themselves, do not constitute hard data, but in my almost-two-years of openly carrying a sidearm, the absolute worst reaction I have ever received from an onlooker or fellow citizen is, "Is that legal?" My "yesterday, at…" series of posts documenting reactions to my openly carrying has only languished of late simply because, "I openly carried and nothing happened…" started getting really boring to write.

In fairness, I do live in the Patron State of Shooting Stuff, I do dress fairly reasonably every time I go out of the house, and I do go out of my way to be polite and at least moderately cheerful to people I meet in public, so maybe I am unfairly affecting the outcome of the situations I find myself in. Y’know, by not being the kind of dick who thinks open carrying is being an "ass-clown" but owning some camo-coated rolling billboard and baselessly lecturing people about what they should and should not do in front of it with a jackass who intentionally endangers other people’s lives is not being an "ass-clown"*. How mean of me.

When you get right down to it, I would prefer that as many law-abiding citizens as care to carry firearms peacefully and responsibly, but their precise method of carrying their firearms – so long as it is safe and secure – does not really matter to me any more than their particular method of practicing their religion or whatnot. If, however, you take it upon yourself to lecture me about how I should or should not lawfully exercise my Constitutionally-protected rights based on your own narrow-minded, bigoted viewpoints*, well… something tells me you will not appreciate my response any more than I appreciate someone with no authority ordering me around. At the very least, consider how much better your time – and now mine – could have been spent actively fighting "gun control" extremists‘ constant attacks against our rights rather than this petty in-fighting, and at the worst, consider the ammunition you have just gleefully handed over to those anti-rights cultists. Thanks for that, guys.

So, yes, I will be participating in the upcoming Open Carry Weekend on 02JUN-03JUN by doing the same thing I do every weekend, and if you have not tried openly carrying yourself, I would strongly encourage you to at least give it a shot (where it is legal to do so, of course). If your only input to this revelation, however, is to scream at me that I am just going to end up hurting the cause, you are respectfully invited to go sit in the back of the bus, where you apparently feel we all belong.

(* – These comments were directed at Rob Pincus and James Yeager, not RTB.)

perception is reality

Remember that admonition to “Do not be an asshole“?

Yeah, that is a two-edged sword, and it cuts just as deeply on the supposedly-pro-rights-but-anti-open-carry camp (if the anchor link fails, just find “Gunnutmegger”‘s first comment, and read through to the end of the thread) as it does on the pro-open-carry-and-obnoxious-about-it camp (scroll down to comment #110, and then up to see what he was talking about).

Whereas not being an asshole and simply going about your life while coincidentally openly carrying is beneficial to creating converts… go figure.

Yes, I have been, and will continue to be, an asshole to anti-rights cultists – they are actively attempting to undermine, abridge, infringe upon, abrogate, and limit my Constitutionally-protected, individual, human rights. But when it comes to folks ostensibly on the same side, there is scant little to be gained from personal attacks, logical fallacies, and other impolite behavior… unless, of course, you want to alienate folks.