Living With Nature


Living with nature doesn't seem to be a strong suit for us humans. We used to do a better job of it eons ago than we have for the last dozen centuries, but these days we seem to be on some death march to human and animal extinction.

Realistically, we can't return to the old days without killing off 99% of humanity so our numbers will no longer overwhelm the Earth; and we probably don't want to entertain that scenario. But we have other options, and it involves using this marvelous brain we have evolved that has turned us into the environment-destroying menace we have become. Let's use elephants as an example.

Huh? Elephants, you say? Yes. Partly because their coexistence with humans in Botswana has become problematic, and the elephants are so damned clever. You can read an interesting story about the human-elephant experiment at:</p>  If you don't want to read all that, their problem in a peanut shell is that Botswana has protected the elephants because it's great for tourism, but there are so damned many of them, now (elephants and people), they are in conflict with farmers.

This clash of civilizations is a microcosm of a general problem all over our planet. Humans have invaded the territories of many species on land and sea, often nearly wiping them out in our rush to dominate the Earth and creating conflict with our fellow Earth passengers. Why elephants? Because (a) they're damn near as smart as us, and (b) we've studied the doo-doo out of them, and there's probably not too much we don't know about their lifestyle.

Like many animals, including us humans, survival is at the top of the elephant's list of things to do each day. They need to eat - a lot - and they need water, and I think exercise in the form of walking to and from their food and water supplies and back to where they will spend the night is good for them and perhaps something they enjoy doing together - they are, after all, like us, a clannish animal.

Like us humans, elephants will typically take the easiest route to their food/water supply, and if that happens to be a farmer's field across the road or the village water tank, well, they'll go for that before taking a half-day hike. The solution to this collision of civilizations seems clear, if not the implementation. Provide the elephants with easy access to their favorite foods and a plentiful water supply while also making access to what we humans rely on much more difficult.

Imagine an area of Botswana (I can't do that since I've never been there) where a herd of elephants makes their home in a stand of trees not too far from a human village. And let's assume there's a great little body of water they love a few miles away. Provide the elephants with a lovely alleyway between their "bedroom" and the water supply overrun with whatever foods they love to eat that they can graze on as they work their way to their bath each day, or however often they bathe. I envision this as a vast expanse of ground (a mile wide? I don't know) - elephants need expanses. This allows the pachyderms to wander freely along the prescribed path and back, eating all they want and drinking to their giant elephant heart desire.

In addition, you create barriers, natural ones if possible, making it difficult, no, almost impossible, for them to raid the neighboring farms. Being opportunists like us (aka, a little lazy and a lot voracious), they will almost certainly take the easy way to fulfillment. Will a few errant individuals try to outwit us and find a way to raid their human neighbors? Of course. Just like humans, a small percentage of our lumbering buddies will go rogue and try to beat the system, and you have to deal with them accordingly (no, I don't mean kill them, I'm not sure what that lesson looks like).

Naturally, the logistics of constructing this new habitat will be elephantine (I couldn't resist that). It will take money and time to develop and maintain as the elephants playfully screw with things, and they will, just like us. But in my mind, it's not only doable but a solution that benefits the farmers, tourists, and our friends, the elephants. Done correctly, it enhances the tourists' experiences, improving the region's economy.

The formula, if it works, and it usually does with children and pets, is to offer a fun, fabulous, and rewarding option over one that is exhausting, difficult, and perhaps even scary to pursue. This model can be used with other intelligent animals like wolves, whales, porpoises, primate cousins, and almost any animal with an instinct to survive, nearly everything on the planet. It can even be used on the supposed most intelligent species, humans, to address the issues of drugs and crime and a host of societal problems.

Let's use drug addiction as an example. Look first at the addiction side; why do people turn to drugs? What are the driving factors? Probably to escape what they see as an intolerable situation. Find out what drives addiction (there will be numerous answers, unemployment, PTSD, trauma, mental illness, hopelessness) and work to correct those problems. Another component of addiction is the ready supply of drugs. Work harder than we are to stem the supply from illegal dealers while providing legal and cheap/free drugs to users as part of a program to move away from addiction. Between busting dealers and producers and destroying the profits by providing drugs to addicts in a controlled situation, you might have a chance to reduce the problem drastically. Like our elephant friends, some will always go astray, but we're not looking for 100%, but a 70 or 80 percent reduction would be fantastic.

Maybe, just maybe, we humans can harness the power of our intelligence that we spend so much time bragging about and so little time applying to solve some of the world's problems proactively and save our planet, our animal friends, and ourselves.