Michael Crichton notes rightly that there are a lot of stupid beliefs about nature going around the urbanized American classes these days. Environmentalism, he says, is now a fundamentalist religion.
In short, the romantic view of the natural world as a blissful Eden is only held by people who have no actual experience of nature. People who live in nature are not romantic about it at all. They may hold spiritual beliefs about the world around them, they may have a sense of the unity of nature or the aliveness of all things, but they still kill the animals and uproot the plants in order to eat, to live. If they don’t, they will die.
And if you, even now, put yourself in nature even for a matter of days, you will quickly be disabused of all your romantic fantasies.
Which brings immediately to mind the experiences of some people of Boulder, Colo., related in the book, The Beast in the Garden, by David Baron. It has this story, which I am paraphrasing:
Lynda Walters, 28, had always had benign encounters with wild animals. So when mountain lions returned in number to the hills around Boulder, she wasn’t alarmed, even after the lions were seen in residential neighborhoods, even after lions had killed family pets.
Her parents saw a mountain lion dart in front of their pickup truck one day. They cried out, “Hey, isn’t that neat?” Lynda was envious. “I wish I could see one.”
She got her wish. As she was running through the hills one day in 1990, two mountain lions drove her up a tree; one followed and ripped open her leg. “This is it,” she thought, “I’m going to die.” She stomped her foot on the cat’s face, tumbling it to the ground. Eventually, the two lions lit out after a deer that appeared on a hillside, and Lynda escaped.
There were a couple of other close calls not long afterward. The Colorado Division of Wildlife hosted a public meeting on the problem. Some residents who had lost pets to a lion wanted the division to remove it. But the division refused, saying that if it took the one away, another would move in and take its place. District wildlife manager Kristi Coughlon said she shared the parents concern for the safety of their children playing outside, “but contended that the solution lay on changing the behavior of people, not cougars.”
It was clear, though, that the main concern of many people in the audience was not the safety of people, but of the lions. A couple who had had a close call with a lion said that they didn’t want open season on all mountain lions, they just wanted this one eliminated. A man stood and shot back that if they didn’t like it, they should move away. Nothing got resolved.
Then Scott Lancaster, 18, was killed and eaten by a mountain lion.
Scott’s friends and family consoled themselves that his death, sad and untimely though it was, had somehow been kind of fitting for him. As James Valdez put it, “He was a real outdoorsy guy.”
“It felt natural,” said Abby heller. “It felt like it was part of nature, and part of the way the cycle happens. It seemed kind of pure.”
Crichton’s case is hereby closed.
Posted 17th December 2003 by Unknown