Common Sense Nature Conservation

There are so many different ideas and paradigms which come to mind when I think about nature conservation.  It is such a complex topic, that I have hesitated for years to even write about it.  Finally, I decided that today, I would approach this topic in my usual common sense manner.  

Note, that this is not the unequivocal last word in conservation, and by no means do I discount another's opinion on the matter.  I am neither a biologist nor a philosopher, but I intent to speak on both.  I am going to speak as an amateur ornithologist, a concerned citizen, a Christian, and a wildlife photographer of many years.  I hope that you can have an open and objective mind while reading this, because I do sincerely care for the animals and my natural surroundings.  I want my children and the generations to come, to experience God's beautiful creation as I do.

I intend to layout my points into an outline of sorts and approach "hot button" topics as I do.  So grab a cup of coffee, and sit back for a ride into the mind of Matt Cuda.  

What is Convservation?
I do not think we can have a series look at this topic without first defining it.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary conservation is:
 "a careful preservation and protection of something; especially planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect"
It is the second half of the definition where this article will focus its efforts.  "The planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction or neglect."  

I don't think anyone of balanced intelligence would actually argue with this definition of natural resource conservation.  Whether, you tend to be on the far left or the far right, this definition is one which cannot effectively be disputed.  However, the question is not whether this definition can be disputed, but rather, how do we as a society go about handling this management as defined here.

To me there are several positions or paradigms currently taken on conservation, and I will approach each of these and describe why I think they are effect or ineffective.

The Eco Zealot
I think we should start off with the most militant of the conservationist.  I have given them the label Eco Zealot, which I think suites them well.  I could describe this person as uncompromising, head strong, and a person who will stop at nothing to get his point across.  

Sometimes these folks are militant and will actually harm people in order to save an element of nature.  I think, however, most in this category would probably not go to this extreme.  Essentially, this type of person believes that man and animal are in essence equal and should be treated exactly the same.

Although these folks mean well, often times the results are anger and negative press to push their agenda.  Maybe I am just a wimpy guy, but I would much rather win the fight through positive interactions and maintaining my cool.  I also probably relate the least to the Eco Zealot.  The ones I have met (again just my experience) tend to be hot headed, uncompromising and down right hostile.  That is no way to live your life.  That anger will eat you up inside!  The old adage holds true.  You catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar. 

The Hunter

I was born in a very rural area of northern Pennsylvania along the Allegheny Mountains.  I would actually say that this area is the most dense and mountainous area of Pennsylvania.  As you can imagine, most of the people in this area were hunters and fisherman. It was simply the way they are brought up and the way they lived.

My grandfather was an avid hunter and fisherman, but he was also a conservationist.  What, how can a hunter be a conservationist?  Well, it's actually a natural process of hunting, if you have a head on your shoulders.  How would a hunter be guaranteed to always have animals to hunt and provide  him with food?  The answer is to be concerned about their population numbers.

My grandfather had an almost a Native American view of his quarry.  If you hunted it, you ate it and used whatever you could practically use from the animal.  In our family there was no option to shoot something and leave it.  That was not acceptable!

Today, I still enjoy fishing, but I am not a hunter.  I am much too tender hearted to kill wild animals, and I 'll bet many of you reading this are as well.   So as you can imagine, I am not opposed to law abiding hunters who use the animals that they kill for food supplements, but I do not hunt.

I am, however, angered by wasteful hunting, where deer are left in the forest with a missing head for trophy purposes.  I am angered by a bear being shot for no reason other than it was "fun."  I am angered when I see a beautiful elephant hunted for it's tusks and left to rot in the hot sun.  What good can come of this type of hunting other than the loss of a species for a children to enjoy.  This is evil and frankly I believe it is a sin.

I am also equally angered by wasteful and illegal fishing.  I have been fishing where I have seen people fish a lake so heavily that they leave nothing behind.  That my friends is not conservation!  That is pure greed.

The Lobbyist
Lobbyist groups abound.  Groups like the NRA, The Audubon Society and various conservancies exist across the US and the world.  Without politically charged organizations it would be difficult for the people to voice their concerns to their governments.  Money gets things moving and the world runs on the stuff.  Money can make politicians support the cause in which you most want pushed to the forefront. 

However, I think there is room for caution when it comes to supporting these organizations.  You may find they do not line up with your way of thinking.  Remember they are politically charged.  One case where I saw this with the Audubon Society is in its handling of wind mills.

Let me just say that categorically I am opposed to wind mills.  I'll never forget the first time I saw them dotting the mountains of Pennsylvania.  Each one represented a scar on the mountain top.  No longer did I have this beautiful view of the mountains in the fall.  They were ruined by these huge steel propellers.  It was as if someone had cut my heart.

Fast forward years later and we discovered that not only were these monstrous eye sores, but they were killing birds at an alarming rate (including our national treasure, the bald eagle)!  Yet, the headlines at the times within the Audubon's publications gave this very little coverage.  Once in a while to placate the masses, they would run an article, but there was no big drive to see them removed.  But why was this?

Ah, now we see the politics.  You see, the same people who are involved in Audubon also "rub shoulders" with the people who instituted the wind mills as a means of alternative energy. Perhaps some of these folks are even big donors to the Audubon Society (speculation). 

 Now, I get it, they are in a tough spot, right?  And that, in my opinion, is the entire problem.  Political organizations are always put in tough spots where they cannot maneuver very well or have to go down a path they don't fully agree with.  It's a compromise if you will.  I am not saying that Audubon does a terrible job, I am just saying that for some of you, the compromise may be too great to support an organization like this.  That is a personal decision we all must make.

The Wildlife Photographer/Conservationist
I decided to make another category here called "The Wildlife Photographer" because, let's face it, things are a bit different for us.  We all want to make beautiful photographs of animals, but the shot cannot be the only concern for us.  Do you think we should do whatever it takes to get the shot?  If you do, I would ask you to reconsider to a point.

The wildlife photographer is probably the least understood and sometimes the most persecuted of the conservationists.  Sometimes I think hunters get a better wrap!  Most of us just want to make great images of animals and show them to the world.  We want the animals to forever be seen in our images.  We strive for image perfection. 

Recently groups like the Audubon have started waging "war" if you will, against wildlife photographers for getting too close to animals.  There is no doubt, there are a few of us out there who push the animals too much, but I can honestly say that I don't, and all the other photographers I know are always keeping the animal's welfare in mind. Ironically, the same people who complain the loudest are the ones who buy our images.  These images are not taken from 100 yards as you well know, but more like 30 yards at most.  Kind of breaks some laws doesn't it?  But, being close to animal doesn't necessarily cause him to behave differently.  This is why I oppose laws which put some arbitrary number of feet we must be from a species.  

There are many ways we can approach animals in a non-threatening way.  Just think of blinds, for example.  Biologists actually recommend blinds for photographing and observing birds, but you don't hear them championed.  I can approach shore birds slowly on my belly and half the flock is asleep and I am only 10 feet away.

Honestly, I have only been in a few situations where I thought the animals were too nervous and we had affected its ability to move naturally. Once I realized this, I moved away and the animal is better off because of it.   Birds in Florida, for example are incredibly tame, yet in these areas we hear the battle cry the loudest against wildlife photography.  I see this whole thing as misplaced aggression.   I could go on and on with this topic, but I will leave it here before I go off on a huge rant.

The Christian 
Probably the least known and definitely the least understood is the Christian Conservationist, but we are out there in some large numbers.  What does this conservationist believe?

  1. We believe that God created the world and all the animals in it.  Not a popular notion these days (Gen Chapter 1).
  2. We believe that God loves his creation and because of that so should we.  (Luke 12:6, "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.")
  3. We believe that all life is precious whether it be man or animal and God has provisions in nature to take care of them. (Matthew 6, "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?"
  4. We believe that God told us to take care of his creation and be good stewards of it. (Gen 1“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”)
  5. We believe that man was originally designed to eat seeds and fruit, but after the fall of man, meat was introduced to our fallen bodies. (Genesis 1:29, "Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.")
  6. We believe that it is wrong to make fun of another for being a vegetarian. There are also several key references to vegetarianism (Adam, Eve and Daniel).  
  7. We believe that sin entered the world and death by sin.  We are condemned to death, but by accepting Christ as our savior we choose to overcome death.  Death was never supposed to be part of the equation.  Humans and animals were to live in perfect harmony from the beginning!

Now, as you can imagine, many Christian Conservationists also tend to be conservatives politically and some of the principles above come in conflict with the beliefs of fiscal conservatives.  Moral conservatives, which I consider myself to be, do not believe in murdering humans.  We equate the abortion of a human as murder.  So because liberals tend to not vote against abortion, we tend to vote conservative.  It's really that simple and that is something some people cannot accept.

Many of you who are reading this just became angry.  I am sorry that you feel this way because I probably have more in common with you than you think, but I cannot condone murder on any level. 

We also may not like other aspects such as fracking in areas which damage the environment.  We also believe in the conservation of birds and mammals of all kinds. We do not like waste, period!  Life is precious, period!  

Finally, Pure Subjective Opinion and the Wrap Up

When I view an animal, it is much different than most of society.  When I view it, I see an amazing creation, created by God.  I view, marvel and respect his creation, but I also see myself as a potential predator.  

Much as a hawk will kill a rabbit if he needs it for food, so would I (if I had to, to survive).  This always has to be balanced against the population and conservation of the species. God has given me a sharp mind and I have the ability to conserve his creation.  I choose to not hunt because I do not need to.  I would rather let the creature go about his life and let me document his behavior than shed its blood. I long for the days of The Garden, where man and animal could live in perfect harmony.   

As far as eating animals, If I had to choose a diet for pure health reasons, it would be fish, seeds, fruits and vegetables.  I feel like this offers the human body the best sources of protein, sugar, minerals and vitamins.  I do not condemn those who are vegetarians or those who eat meat.

The key difference between the human and the animal is the ability to use our minds to affect the outcome of diverse situations and the fact that we have a spirit.  We were created to worship and take care of God's creation.  We have within us the power to take care of God's creation just as he intended us to and the capacity for eternal life. We were created higher than the animal.  That is why we must take them under our wing.

I do not want to argue with you on any of this.  This is just a stated opinion and I do not want to debate this.  Life is too short to argue at length on this topic.  Just consider the opinion, adapt it or agree to disagree and move along.


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