Go Manage Yourself

Whenever I hear people use words like “manage” or “control” in reference to wildlife,wolf in water my first thought is: go manage yourself. How arrogant of “game” departments, hunters or even so-called conservationists to pretend they know better than Mother Nature.
Wolves and elk have been managing themselves for eons. If elk were too numerous, wolves thrived; if elk populations dropped, wolf numbers were sure to follow. And whenever either of their populations got too far out of hand, Nature would step in with a few tricks up her sleeve to restore the balance.

By the time humans dreamed up notions like wildlife “management,” they’d so severely disrupted the natural order that nothing short of a reintroduction of elk or wolves could ever put it right. Of all the Earth’s invasive species, Homo sapiens is the one in dire need of controlling. Yet, we’ve been able to cleverly avoid or survive every effort Nature has so far come up with to regulate our numbers.

Know this, lowly human: Mom N still has a few tricks to throw at us if we aren’t willing to manage our own population.

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15 thoughts on “Go Manage Yourself

  1. Oh yes, “management.” You’ve hit upon one of my most hated words (although, as you said, if it were used to control our own population, it would mean something positive). I offer here some of my favorite quotations:

    “Foresters preside over the murder of forests. Hydrologists preside over the murder of lakes and rivers. Of course they do not call it this. They call it management”. –Derrick Jensen, Endgame Volume 2

    “Economists and scientists have conned us into speaking of trees as “resources,” wilderness as a “management unit,” and picas gathering grass for the winter because of “incentives.” In accepting their descriptions, we allow a set of experts to define our concerns in economic terms and predetermine the range of possible responses. Often we cannot even raise the issues important to us because the economic language of others excludes our issues from the discussion. To accept this con emasculates not only radical alternatives, but all alternatives. Every vocabulary shapes the world to fit a paradigm. If you don’t want nature reduced to economics, then refuse to use its language.” –Jack Turner, from his excellent essay, “Economic Nature”

    “Everyone must understand that wildlife management is an illusory concept created around 100 years ago. There is no such thing as wildlife management. Humans cannot manage nature. The only managing humans should be doing is managing to stay out of the animals’ space.” –http://www.adaptt.org/animalrights.html#

    And don’t forget another of your excellent blog entries, Jim–Nature Doesn’t Need a Manager

  2. I’ll agree that the authorities are trigger happy on management, too quick to assume that intervention is needed, often too aggressive in handling wildlife populations, etc. On the other hand, this argument you’ve given is naive beyond measure. I love Wilderness and I dream of more native ecosystems free of human meddling. At the same time, I am keenly aware that we live in 2013 on a globe that is vastly different than it was 500 years ago or even 100 years ago. There are 7 billion humans. They live on the landscape. They use resources. It would be wonderful to change the trajectory of change and to re-educate humanity on its environmental impact. We are working toward this end – each in our own way. But this takes time. In the meantime, it is ridiculous and absurd to envision a totally hands-off approach everywhere. Even the decision to not manage a specific population is in itself a management decision and requires knowledge, understanding, science, ethics, deliberation and a management process. If we were dealing with a pristine starting point, we could advocate for a hands-off approach and hope for the best. We are at a point where many ecological systems are way out of balance to begin with because of prior human decisions and actions. That in itself is not an argument for further intervention in all cases (piling error upon error is not wise), but the truth is that, depending upon the circumstances, intervention is sometimes the only responsible way to avoid further and worse reprecussions. Exotic species are in many cases already present. Some species are threatened or endangered. Would you advocate for a totally hands-off no-management approach in these cases too? Just let the species go extinct? If not, how do you justify your criticism of management in general? You like to pick and choose, don’t you? Your choices are management. Your claims also assume that humans are unnatural and should not meddle in nature, but we arose out of nature and will forever remain natural beings, no matter how alienated we become from our birthright. That’s not to say that everything we do is justified, natural etc. It just shows that this question is far less black-and-white than your impractical depiction or the problem. I may strongly disagree with current management protocol on wolves, but I think it is equally absurd to argue that wolf policy should be totally hands-off (whether now or in the future). “Hands-off” policies would likely eventually lead to results that you would find very disagreeable (e.g., a backlash from folks you would not very much like) – even more disagreeable than current management practices. We do not live in the “pre-settlement” era. Get real. Incidentally, I totally agree with your claim that Homo sapiens is in the most dire need of “management.” This does not, however, contradict anything I have said above.

  3. I’m not a big fan of the term “balance of nature”, as it often brings up a picture you described – “a” population of wolves keeping “a” population of elk in balance. I think we need to look at this at a broader time scale – populations blink out and eventually recover, forests burn to the ground and eventually recover, although it may never recover exactly like it was. When the climate changes, a new dynamic is reached.

    • Right, that’s why I try to avoid that term, ‘balance of nature,: but in this philosophical piece it seemed to fit. Ultimately the point I’m was trying to make with this post is, since anthropogenic climate change and mass extinction may eventually cause our own species to blip out, what’s the point of going around trying to manage other species (besides our own)? Is it just the busy-work of our self-important homonid, or a perpetual dominator’s last death-grip?

      • I vote for “busy-work of our self-important hominid”. Great discussion, although I think not managing because climate change and mass extinction may render any management useless is rather fatalistic. I like your other arguments that we simply don’t know enough to really manage anything.

  4. Didn’t finish that comment – I really liked your post, and I agree that “management” is just throwing a wrench into gears that do better when left alone.

  5. I get called crazy for finding 7 billion humans wanted to control everything else but themselves. Now I could go deeper into the social demographics that believe the can do this to others just because the can, and the can because they’re —–. So I try to just smile and wave.

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