We Are Billion Year Old Carbon
by And the White Lion Roars!
This post is slow going as I just had shoulder surgery a week ago, on my dominant (left) arm and typing with one finger is cumbersome. But on I slog. As you might expect I’m, very sadly, watching lots of TV. And there is a message going out daily from the idiot box that I’ve noticed for years without realizing just how prevalent the message is; that everything in nature is scary and icky. And it isn’t just females on TV squealing about how deadly and squidgy things outside the studio are. This past Thursday, March 31, I watched the Today Show and both Tamron Hall and Willie Geist did an entire segment of animal stories, carrying on and on about how gross and deadly it all is. Tamron Hall , Willie Geist I think it may have bothered me so much because Tamron Hall’s parents were educators and Willie Geist has small children who will carry that message with them on through their lives, and man will continue ignorantly hating nature, and mindlessly destroying it instead of embracing nature and our connection to it.
This is not new, and they are not the only guilty ones, I’ve seen this every day, somewhere or other for the last two weeks and on. In fact, all my life. It used to annoy me terribly when I was in school and a girl would see a worm or a snake, or even a bird, and would squeal like an idiot. (They were usually the ones with boyfriends, not me. Is that why?) I remember the first time I ever held a grass snake and let it crawl around between my fingers; I was enthralled! And I never believed that the squealing was anything but an affectation.
And it isn’t only television and silly adolescent girls who send out this message. Movies do the same thing to make us afraid of the non-human life around us. Movies about vicious wolves and bears and tigers. And bees, without which we lose our foods that need pollinators. Starvation is much more frightful to me than bees. I used to wait for a bus when I worked for the University of IL, and sometimes the trash cans near for the most part humans are not the prey of any large animals, or small ones for that matter. We usually have no reason to be afraid of squirrels, opossums, geckos, etc, but nearly everyone I know believes them to be terrifying. Trust me, we DAILY do more harm to them than they ever do to us. I read earlier this week that one opossum can eat 5,000 ticks in one season. Ticks are much more dangerous to humans than the animals that prey on the ticks. You may perk up here at the way to call BS on me for not loving something from the natural world, but I understand that wherever we live, everything that lives with us has a place within our ecosystem. Most of the small (and large, for that matter!) animals who live in our world just want to do their jobs in order to survive and reproduce-that’s it. They do not attack, harm, maim or kill us unless they are afraid or feel threatened. An opossum’s hiss is only meant to tell us to back off. And if they attacked us, how much harm could they do? Seriously, how much? Better to walk away and let them feed their babies, no harm done.
Yes, sometimes humans are harmed by the natural world. Sometimes we stray too deep into the territory of a tiger or bear. Sometimes a dog bites because it is afraid of us and has no other way to defend itself. Once in awhile these intercourses lead to a human death. In almost every one of these tragedies education or a responsible adult could have prevented the event from occurring. Ticks and mosquitoes spread disease? When walking in tall grasses or the woods, wear something to repel them. Ticks and mosquitoes bite dogs? Protect them! Dogs bite children? Teach your child how to approach strange dogs, and not to treat your Fido like a pony. Horribly, if your child is not taught, and Fido reaches the end of his rope at having his tail pulled, or being ridden, it will be Fido who pays with his life for your failure as a parent to teach your child how to interact with him.
Yes, there are snakes that are poisonous, and some are very aggressive. You can ask if I’m afraid of them and the answer is still no. I respect their place in our world, and the good they do us, I don’t walk in fields at night where I can’t see the ground and I don’t disturb them during the day. There are three major poisonous snakes in Texas, where I live; the rattle snake, the copperhead, and the cottonmouth water moccasin. Cottonmouths are aggressive and poisonous, don’t swim near the banks of rivers and ponds, especially if there are low-hanging trees near the water. Every story I’ve ever heard about people being attacked by copperhead during the day has involved digging up fence posts or mailboxes and such where the snakes live. Normally they don’t come out during the day, but if you mess with their nests be smart, steady and prepared. I won’t go into rattlesnakes here because, well, this is Texas, where idiots gather lots of the biggest ones they can find to play with and ultimately kill during our annual rattle snake roundup. Every snake bite that happens during that appalling travesty is deserved, just like every goring that occurs during every bull fight. There is no sport, or honor or nobility in torturing an animal with a sword then killing it with a final sword strike.
My biggest point is that all of these fellow carbon based life forms have a job, and as the top predator on earth, we should learn to rejoice in our luck that most of their jobs also benefit us. Snakes control field rats, which carry diseases into our homes. Opossums control ticks, which could otherwise bring diseases to our best friends and on to us. I could go on and on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that I am grateful to snakes and spiders for the bug killing work they do. And I am grateful for the diseases that these insects pass on in the wild to keep animal populations in check. No one wins when any one species overpopulates. It’s all a part of the “cycle of life,” and it is not scary, icky, it’s not deadly if you’re educated, and it is not gross. It is actually quite beautiful.