A future for deer
by Stewart Waller
I was driving along Cole Mill Road the other day, thinking about deer.
When I was younger, I lived out in the country on a plot of forest largely
populated by deer. I felt connected to nature. I didn't allow hunting on my land
and would foolishly confront any hunter crossing my forest. When I saw dead deer
on the country roads, slaughtered from collisions with cars or trucks, I felt
sorry for the deer and wondered, naively, what could be done to protect them. In
short, in those days, I was squarely on the side of the deer.
These days, I'm much more practical. So. While heading for the I-85 east exit en
route to the LKQ junkyard on Route 70, to find a discontinued valve for my old
Villager van, I thought of deer as a hazard to cars and a nuisance to
homeowners. Like big squirrels, these refugees of habitat disruption had, to my
mind, become the problem.
But I'm not one to hold a simple thought for long. I merged onto I-85, flanked
by 18-wheel trucks spewing smoke and noise. My thoughts turned to the traffic
and where it all came from. I leapt backward in time to the Industrial
Revolution, when technological advances created an unprecedented boom in human
population. Then I jumped forward to the Green Revolution, whose crop scientists
manufactured the chemicals to grow the crops to feed the population, all of
which required a great deal of energy, but fueled the growth to what it is
Then it occurred to me that we humans had become the only species to thrive
outside the bounds of natural equilibrium, allowing us to grow unconstrained by
the scarcity of local resources. For the most part - in the developed world -
our populations no longer shrink, expand and migrate in response to local
environmental conditions. Today, human populations fluctuate in response to
political and economic conditions. We trespass arbitrary national borders at
great risk to secure a better income, or to flee the violence of political and
criminal tyranny. Just like deer, human refugees are also being displaced by
habitat disruption, of a different kind.
I shuddered at the immensity of the picture in my mind; at the sheer
unsustainable weight of it all. Then, I reconsidered natural equilibrium and
how, eventually, we will once again be culled into line with nature. In a moment
of clarity, I glimpsed the future. A future when one or two centuries of human
expansion will, inevitably, collapse into the geological record.
At the junkyard, the warm sun presented a post-apocalyptic snapshot of humans
scavenging the desolate graveyard of their own industrial progress. Just beneath
their feet, I imagined, a thick stratum will reveal evidence of an Atomic Age.
An age of consumption. An era when mankind, hamstrung by an economy of its own
design, never colonized space, nor cured cancer, nor traveled through time. An
age when humans, in a vain attempt to master the forces of nature, simply ran
out of time.
And in that graveyard I envisioned, the deer would no longer be a hazard to
Stewart Waller lives in Durham.
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