Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Bear Hunter

THE BEAR HUNTER

by Ken Fischman

Just north of Boise Randy Wayne’s red Maserati wound its way down from between the sear grass-covered hills that resemble monstrous brown dumplings. The road straightened out when it reached the city and he sped down the arrow-straight avenue leading past the state legislature. It was a dark early December Sunday morning so there was little traffic on the streets of the Idaho capital that could slow it down, and the driver, taking advantage of the situation, sped up, going through a just-turned-red traffic light and headed for the downtown section of the city. The driver began a conversation with himself.

‘Confound that woman I really will never understand why she always wants to hike into the forest.’

          ‘I enjoy experiencing nature first hand she whines.

Several times she had actually tried to entice him to go with her! No way. He did not want all that effort and discomfort. He found it disgusting the way she had to bundle up with boots, gloves, down coat, and that silly red wool beret of hers.

Now she’s off again this morning. I bet that she’ll be late to dinner – with Governor Crapo for Christ’s sake!” Hmnn, whenever we arrive though, she’ll look great in that shoulderless gown she’s going to half wear.’ He smirked.

‘Jeeze, that’s why I married her. She looks so hot in those things, I get a boner just thinking of it. I saw his honor givin her the eye last time we were at the mansion.’

By the time Randy arrived at the main entrance of a green glass-enclosed high rise office building, wind-driven snow was beginning to swirl about its foundation walls and also around the cars parked at the adjacent curb. The winter’s first layer of sparkling crystals was also parking itself on the sidewalk.

The middle-aged overweight man, wearing a felt cowboy hat, striped scarf wound his neck, and lamb’s wool lined leather jacket stumbled his way out of the car. As his embossed high-heeled cowboy boots started to slip in the new snow, he grabbed the side mirror and regained his balance. He threw his keys to the doorman and scuttled manfully up the few steps to where the huge automatic revolving door opened wide for him. He quickly walked past the row of elevators on his left and headed for another, narrower elevator door on the back wall. It was labeled in red “PRIVATE.” It too opened for him, with a whoosh sound when the camera above it recognized his visage. Then it took him quickly up to the eighteenth floor.

The lavish, but peopleless, dimly lit office had only one light on, a huge brass contraption hanging over a monster Scandinavian teak wood desk which rested on the far end of a plush dark blue throw rug. Somewhere in the room a phone started to ring. It quickly cut off and he heard an English-accented woman’s voice.

“This is Emily. It is now 0900 hours on the ninth of December, year 2026. Your Super Remote Teletronic Animal Harvesting Device has made a bear-kill at 0700 hours on this day in sector B345 of the Payette National Forest. Please refer to your electronic map for the best route to this location and contact me for further directions.”

‘Huh. I was going to go over those papers on the ski resort this morning that they better have on my desk right now! I’ll make a mint on that bankruptcy, but it’ll wait one more day. This will be good.

He knew his priorities.

‘This season I am going to get my head for damn sure! It cost me enough. I’ll show those snooty Safari Club types what a griz looks like when I mount that trophy over my fireplace at the family ranch.’

He smiled when he thought about how he had outfoxed those guys and gotten the first grizzly hunting permit in Idaho since the Idaho and Wyoming senators had gotten the bears knocked off the Endangered Species list, by slipping a rider onto a must-pass congressional spending bill.

‘There’s only 200 of them and that’ll make it even sweeter for me. That ticket cost me thirty thousand in the Idaho Predator Hunting Lottery, but it’ll be worth it to see their green-with-envy faces.”

He canceled his appointments for the rest of day and headed back up to his home at the very top of the “dumplings,” the one with the huge American flag waving from the pole next to it. In the cavernous garage he exchanged the vintage sports car for a $155,000 Hummer Special, which was carrying a John Deer Spectral remote-control all-terrain vehicle in its bed. He hastily loaded it with a see-through sealed package containing, among other things, a canvas bag, orange plastic rope, a Bowie autographed hunter’s knife with embossed ivory handle, and a small Husqvarna Diamond chain saw. As he drove the vehicle out, the garage door hissed open automatically and after a few turns, he headed north on Rt. 55, under increasingly lowering, darkling clouds.

During the two hour and a half hour ride he reminisced about the vicissitudes of the old days of bear hunting, when he had to use bait and dogs, and the failed campaign by those ‘lunatic animal lovers’ to infringe on the constitutional rights of hunters to kill wolves and bears in the most efficient manner possible.

‘Its too bad about the wolves though’ he thought. ‘They went too far with those open seasons and helicopter hunts and they probably wiped them out.” Despite Idaho Fish & Game’s insistence that there were a few of them still up on the Lolo, he knew there had been no hunter reports of wolf sightings in the past two years.

‘I never did get a chance to nail one, but a griz will make a better trophy any day” he grinned. ’Its bigger’!

He chuckled ‘You can’t stop progress.’ He mused further on how cave men used to hunt huge cave bears with only stone spears and pit traps, and how physically exhausting and dangerous it must have been for them.

‘None of that for me. These new high tech methods are a big improvement over ‘90s hunting. Now the odds are more on our side, and there is no need to get up at 5:30 AM, bundle up, trudge into the mountains, and get cold, wet, dirty, like Becky is going to be today, and then likely not even get a bear.” He chuckles.

He thought with building excitement about how he would use the new high tech hunting devices he had just purchased, such as a remote sensing device, laser-aimed, computer-controlled semi-automatic weapons (The Feds had pushed through a ban on machine guns and rocket launchers after that Seattle stadium massacre during the COPA soccer matches, ‘Damn them.’). And a satellite tracking game locator that can be set for any kind of animal.  Then he remembered with chagrin that the previous John Deer he had, sometimes misidentified the game animal. One time he took off a whole day to go up the Middle Fork of the Boise River, expecting to harvest an elk, and instead found a cow!

“Holy cow”

he laughed out loud. But then he remembered that he didn’t find it funny at the time.

‘When I gave that dealer a piece of my mind, the guy gave me a real good deal on the new equipment along with a long-term warrantee. That obsequious shit head assured me that the glitch in the harvesting software had been corrected in the new model.’

“It had better be. I paid a mint for it!”

Just then he arrived at the trail head, and still in his cowboy get-up he unloaded the Plexiglas covered, climate-controlled ATV, placed the package in it. Then, he climbed in. He turned on the computer, touched a keypad, and away he went, automatically being driven to his “kill”.

Emily’s silky voice cut in again.

“Now that you have put your ATV in “kill” mode and have become all comfy Sir, I need to remind you that there are a few things that you should be aware of. We cannot control the weather, and have found …te da te da te da ” she droned on amidst a burst of static. Finding the noise annoying, he switched Emily off.

‘Convenient. I wish I could switch Becky off like that’

he chuckled to himself.

With the ATV unloaded at a trail head, its computer ascertained the shortest way to the kill and maneuvered expertly through the heavily wooded area, despite the increasing snow, using its universally jointed, air-oil, independently suspended wheels to get over or around all obstacles, including fallen trees and mud holes. Billy Joe sat back, mixed himself a drink, and turned on the TV. Not finding anything interesting on the Terrorism or Game channels, he switched it off and his mind turned to how he and his wife had argued about this new hunting device.

 ‘We seem to argue about a lot of things lately,’ he grimaced.

“Excuse me honey lamb but it doesn’t sound too sportsmanlike. Is it honey?” He whined in imitation of her.

‘Hey, I told her what for.” “it’s the bottom line that counts” I said.  “Them what has, gets. Nature don’t have no mercy and neither do I.”

He smugly recalled that she had no retort, but that he rubbed it in anyway. “Look at what my ways have gotten you. Hey, how d’ya like that new Givenchy gown I gotcha in Paris?”

That sure shut her up.

The ATV arrived at a shallow but steep ravine and abruptly stopped. It could neither negotiate it nor find a good route around the chasm due to the heavy alder thickets surrounding it and steep hillsides above it. Randy impatiently turned Emily on again and she informed him of this situation.

“I already know that” he snarled.

She went on sweetly to say that the kill was located only thirty feet away.

‘Damn’, he thought, ‘I should have spent the extra money and gotten that model with tree-cutter capacity.’

He cursed again, because it had become more obviously windy and colder. He got out, unzipped the packet, pulled out and put on Mylar coveralls. He started to carry the canvas bag and chainsaw down into the ravine. His boots slipped on the snow-covered scree and he tumbled to the bottom, twisting his knee and striking his head sharply on a protruding rock, which knocked off his Stetson.

He regained consciousness minutes, or perhaps hours later, finding himself at the bottom of the ravine and in a full-scale blizzard. His head hurt something awful and he could not see more than a few feet ahead. As soon as he tried to get up he realized that his knee was hurt badly enough so that he could not walk, and he began to feel panicky. He tried to calm himself but soon began to shiver and drop into hypothermia.

He thought ‘I’ve got to get back to the ATV. Order it to drive me to the trailhead. I can radio for assistance. Satellite tracker will guide the Medevac copter to me.’

As he dragged himself laboriously up over the lip of the ravine, he lifted his head and saw a beautiful red fox standing in the snow, looking at him. He felt a strange kinship with it, but the fox just flicked its tail and calmly trotted into the storm.

“Wait, don’t go,” the bear hunter mumbled.

He looked ahead and dimly perceived an elongated snow-covered form lying on the ground ahead of him.

‘Damn’ he thought. ‘It’s the bear. I climbed up the wrong side of the ravine!’ ” Shit!” He reached out to the form and grasped something that came away in his hand. He looked at it. It was a red beret.

He lapsed into unconsciousness again.

The storm grew in intensity. It would be very cold that coming night on the mountain, just as it has been during the winter for millennia.

The Pleistocene Massacres

The Pleistocene Massacres

by Ken Fischman, Ph.D.

History and pre-history are often best told in stories or narratives. There  are two alternative stories to explain the extinction of North American megafauna around 10,000 years ago.
In one story, it was the advent of a land bridge from Siberia to North America, created by the waning of the last ice age, that enabled Siberian hunters to enter and people the Americas. These selfsame hunters hunted the megafauna into extinction.(Martin, 1967).
In the other story, climate changes, transitioning from the last Ice Age, set in place complex ecological forces, which were responsible for the disappearance of mammoths, giant sloths, megabison, dire wolves, and other large mammals (Allen, 2010).
I believe that it matters greatly which of these stories you believe because they enter our cultural consciousness and are responsible, at least in part, in how we see the world. Our understanding of how the world has come to be, in turn influences how we react to and treat the Earth.
Therefore, it is my intention to examine each of these narratives, stating the evidence for them as fairly as I can, while recognizing that I, though a scientist, cannot be perfectly objective, and then to come to some conclusions about them.
In the interest of transparency, I want to state from the beginning that I have a bias toward the climate change theory, but I will endeavor to present both arguments as best I can. I cannot promise though, to present them with the same tone.
So, let us begin. In the first story, which I call the “Pleistocene Massacre” theory, there are two kinds of evidence, one chronological and the other material.
The end of the last ice age, the formation of a land bridge, called Beringia, between Siberia and North America, the movement of human beings into this continent, and the disappearance of megafauna all seem to have taken place at around the same time. This evidence forms the chief argument of the proponents of the massacre theory. This is impressive evidence, but is it sufficient to make definitive conclusions about what happened?
Let us examine this evidence, piece by piece. First, there is the statement that the migration of Siberian hunters to North America and the extinction  of large animals occurred simultaneously. When events occur concurrently, there are at least two possible explanations:
In one, there is cause and effect at work. For instance, if a blizzard were to hit your town and a number of automobile accidents ensued, you might fairly assume that the icy conditions made it more difficult to control vehicles, thus causing more accidents.
Sometimes two events occur at the same time and/or change at the same rate, but it is mere coincidence. For example, a recent scientific paper concluded that people who take large doses of vitamins have a greater mortality, thus showing cause and effect. However, another possibility remains. Did the vitamins cause these deaths or is it possible that people in poor health take more vitamins” How we distinguish between the two in our case is the challenge.
In the so-called hard sciences, like physics and chemistry, the way to distinguish between two such possibilities, is to search for a plausible, and hopefully testable, statistically significant mechanism. Alas, in anthropology and paleontology we usually have less evidence to go by and the opportunity to test these theories is much more limited.
My father used to tell me about the routine of a pair of old-time vaudeville comics. The first one would often recite an improbable story, a whopper, and the other would challenge him. The first would reply “Vas you dere Charley”? Well, we were not there 10, 000 years ago and under most circumstances cannot reproduce the conditions to test them.
I actually do know of one case however, in which a long ago occurrence was tested. Coincidently, it involved one of the animals whose disappearance we are examining here, so I may permit myself a slight divergence to tell you about it, both because of its relevance and because it illustrates the astounding potential of molecular biology to uncover long lost information.

Painting of a Woolly Mammoth

An Artistic Representation of a Wooly Mammoth

The animal in question was the woolly mammoth (Elaphas primigenius) . As most readers know, some of these animals have been recovered intact from Siberian ice, and carefully examined. One of things noted about them was the intense network of capillary beds in their feet. Scientists reasoned that oxygen, carried in blood, was released in their feet to protect the animals from frostbite at temperatures that sometimes dropped as low as – 60 degrees F. However, how could this occur when hemoglobin (Hb), the blood molecule that carries oxygen, releases it only grudgingly at low temperatures?
The scientists speculated that mammoth Hb was different from Hb of contemporary mammals. But, how could they prove this? First they tried the comparison method. They looked at Hb in the Indian elephant (Elaphus maximus indicus), a modern relative of mammoths. No luck. Elephants have the same Hb that we have. Then they had an outlandish idea. Why not attempt to reconstruct mammoth Hb, using DNA, which they obtained from mammoth tissue, samples? The DNA would contain the gene for constructing mammoth Hb.
They grew the Hb gene in bacterial plasmids, gave it the appropriate precursors of Hb and wondrously produced mammoth Hb. They then proceeded to test the oxygen-carrying capacity of mammoth Hb at low temperatures. They discovered that the mammoth version of Hb gave up its oxygen at much lower temperatures than ours does, and thus would have protected mammoths from frostbite. (Yuan et al., 2011). What shall we call this amazing feat? Molecular Paleontology, or the Lazarus method?
In the absence of an analogous method by which to reconstruct the post-Pleistocene environment, and thus prove or disprove the massacre theory, we are left to sift the evidence, little and conflicting as it is, and to speculate, a lot.

More Evidence for the Massacre Theory:

In addition to the chronological situation, the most convincing evidence for the massacre theory seems to be that there have been finds of enormous numbers of mammoth bones along Siberian rivers and on Arctic islands like Kotelnoi and Liakoff, off the north coast of Siberia. However, there are little or no signs of human activity associated with these bones. Nevertheless, these troves of mammoth bones are often cited as evidence of the destructive tendencies of Paleolithic man. It would seem more likely that some cataclysmic natural event, such as a flood or storm can better account for these phenomena (Vereshchagin, 1967).
As stated previously, the main evidence is the assumption that when man first came to North America, the megafauna disappeared. In order to bolster their case, the proponents of this theory also declare that the Aborigines accomplished the same kind of faunal exterminations in Australia shortly after they arrived there, some 30,000 years ago.
In addition, according to Jared Diamond in his book, “Collapse,” the Polynesians wiped out many native animal species when they colonized South Pacific islands between 400 – 1100 A.D. (Diamond, 2005).
One of the consequences of this line of evidence is that ideologically oriented scholars and media have used it to argue that mankind is inherently predisposed to damaging its environment and exterminating many animals.
With regard to the times that various animals went extinct in North America, there is actually a great difference. For example, Martin cites the demise of the giant short-faced bear (Arctodus sp.) in both North and South America at 20,000 BP (Before the Present). However, among several others, he also lists the American mastodon (6-8,00 BP). He also cites the horse (Equus sp.) as the most common bones associated with man, but states that it became extinct at 18,000 BP (Martin ,1967). Therefore, there is a spread of 14,000 years during which these extinctions may have occurred and some of them happened long before the 11,000 BP Clovis Horizon that supposedly marks the entrance of Siberian hunters on the North American continent.
There is yet another line of evidence, derived from eyewitness accounts of native behavior that appears to strengthen this line of reasoning.
There have been historic accounts from European explorers, traders, and travelers, recounting that they saw Indians set fire to prairies and drive bison off cliffs. According to many massacre proponents, these acts establish that Native Americans were bloodthirsty, wasted thousands of animals, were clearly capable of wiping out North America’s megafauna, and are therefore no better people than we are today. As this story goes, the only reason that they did not totally destroy this continent was that they had not perfected the sophisticated technology with which our society has quickly accomplished that sort of destruction, both in North America and elsewhere. This is what I call evidence by analogy.

Evidence Against the Massacre Theory:

Eiseley’s Rebuttal
Loren Eiseley, was a respected anthropologist and author of many popular science books, like “The Immense Journey” and “The Star Thrower.” At the time when he was the Chairman of the University of Pennsylvania Anthropology Department, he issued a rebuttal to the massacre proponents. (Eiseley, 1943). Here are some of his most persuasive points:
(1)  Not only megafauna died in these extinctions. Many smaller fauna, such as birds, mollusks, and frogs also perished. It is hard to conceive that fires, drives, spears, and atlatls could have killed off such animals. Eiseley emphasized, in particular, the 12-13 species of woodland songbirds that perished (cf.). That extinction certainly cannot be accounted for by the work of big-game hunters.

(2)      Eiseley also points out that many grazing animals survived, such as regular bison, antelopes, deer, elk, and moose.

(3)  Most tellingly, Eiseley states that that there is no evidence of any contemporary hunter gatherers, or even tribal people, using traditional means, significantly decreasing or extinguishing any species.

(4)  Predators and their prey almost always adjust to each other’s numbers, with one increasing while the other decreases and vice versa.  [Classic examples of this dynamic equilibrium are that of snowy owls and arctic hares, and also wolves and moose on Ile Royale National Park, isolated on Lake Superior. To this I  would add the population swings of wolves and elk in Yellowstone National Park which have been intensively studied by Mark Hebblewhite and Doug Smith head of the Yellowstone Wolf Project (Hebblewhite & Smith, 2010).] It is hard to understand why the Paleolithic hunters and their megafaunal prey would not also obey the age-old natural law that no predator can manage to kill off its prey because it depends on the prey for its own existence.

(5)  According to the Bering Straits land bridge story, the Siberian hunter gatherers migrated over it to the New World. Yet, there is no evidence that these Siberian hunters eliminated many of these same beasts where they came from, in Siberia. The same is true for the European Stone Age hunters, Why would they have been able to do so in North America, using the same technology as their Old World cousins?

(6)      It is hard to imagine how small bands of hunter gatherers, estimated at the present time to be less than 2,000 individuals at one point, could have accomplished this task. We know that these small groups existed because molecular biologists have detected bottlenecks in our own DNA (Amos & Hoffman, 2009).  It does not seem likely that the migrating hunters, using traditional weapons and methods, could have even made a dent in these extensive animal populations. It is hard to imagine that they would even attempt to tackle them as long as more vulnerable animals also abounded.)

(7)  When European explorers arrived in the North American continent, they described the land as teaming with game, and the rivers literally overflowing with fish. Just to read the Journals of Lewis & Clark is eye-opening and thrilling. [One explorer in the 17th century walked through what was later named Pennsylvania and described trees throughout his journey so huge that they shut out the sunlight and reduced the understory, making it easy to traverse the entire state. What he was describing was basically a temperate rain forest.]

(8)  The Bartram brothers were naturalists who travelled throughout the southeast of what was to become the United States. One particular episode struck Eiseley in such a fashion that he never forgot it. William Bartram in 1774 was crossing the Saint Johns River in Florida and described it as being so filled bank to bank with alligators that he could practically step on them (Van Doran, 1928).

(9)  In the West, explorers and mountain men found the prairies, forests and mountains were in great shape. Were they exaggerating, as they often did in their stories? The amazing amounts of furs, which they often brought back, testifies to the truthfulness of these statements. [How can this abundance of wildlife be accounted for? Did these Indians lose the skill and blood thirstiness of their predecessors?]

(10)     Large predators, such as saber toothed tigers, dire wolves, and spectacled bears (Tremarctos ornatos) also died during these extinctions. It is hard to imagine that the Pleistocene peoples would have hunted them down for sport, as some massacre advocates have speculated. For example, Steadman (PNAS, 2005), cites evidence on Caribbean islands that sloths went extinct at about the same time, around 11,000 years ago, that Pleistocene hunters entered the Americas as indicative that humans killed them off. Once again, was this cause and effect or association?

(11)     He also failed to take into account that animals are more prone to go extinct on islands because there is little chance that their numbers could be reinforced by in-migrations from other areas as would be the case in mainland North America (c f Quammen, 1996).

(12)     Martin, in a fanciful tale, even went so far as to suggest that little Indian boys shot giant ground sloths, 8 -9 feet tall, for fun(Deloria, 1997). [This does not fit with the eyewitness descriptions I have read about contemporary hunter gatherers. For example, the children of South African Bushman were given toy bows and arrows (without arrowheads) and proceeded to use them on rabbits and other small game, with surprising accuracy] (Fischman, 2012). Needless to say, rabbits and squirrels make more likely game than giant ground sloths for eight year olds.

As stated previously, it is not even certain that man’s first appearance in North America and the disappearance of its megafauna were concurrent  events. It is quite possible that these two events occurred as much as several thousand years apart (cf.). Scholars argue over the dates incessantly and it is clear after examining the literature that methods for dating long-ago events are neither standardized nor agreed upon. We shall see however, that some dates can be established with more reliability than others and that the sequences of some occurrences can be accepted as true with some degree of certainty.
For example, the age of the first North American human migrations continues to be pushed further back into the past than the so-called “Clovis Horizon” hunters, indicted by massacre proponents, at 11,000 years ago. Signs of a pre-Clovis culture, at the Aucila River in North Florida at 14,000 years BP showed well-dated animal bones, and butcher marks. At Paisley Five Mile Park Caves in Oregon there are feces and seeds, demonstrating the existence of a foraging economy at 14,400 BP (Jenkins 2012). The Buttermilk Creek Complex in Texas contains pre-Clovis tools dated 15,500 years BP (Waters et al., 2011). The site at Monte Verde in Chile, (8,000 miles south of the Bering Straight), is now authoritatively dated at about 14,400 – 16,000 years BP (Wikipedia, 2012). There may be even older sites at Meadowcroft, PA, Saltville Valley, VA, etc., but their dates are still in dispute.
The significance of these earlier dates of human occupation is that it raises an important question of why these pre-Clovis hunters were unable to eradicate the megafauna, given their at least twenty five hundred year head start. On the other hand, it could be argued that their cruder lithics (blades, scrapers, and choppers) indicated that their culture was not as technologically (and perhaps strategically) as advanced as that of the Clovis people, and that this made them less proficient at hunting.

Hunting Large Animals:

To my knowledge, no one who claims that Siberian migrants killed off North American megafauna has ever attempted to kill a large and powerful animal, in the open, armed with nothing more than a stone-tipped wooden spear, stone clubs and stone knives.
It is important to realize that these Pleistocene hunters did not have bows and arrows or atlatls (spear throwers), and were not mounted on horses. On the contrary, according to the hypothesis, they were supposed to have also killed off these fleet stallions 18,000 years ago (Martin, 1967) while hunting them on foot.
As I previously pointed out, no contemporary observers were there while these events were supposedly taking place, so how do we know if this sort of hunting is possible, and if so, how efficient it is? Here we are on firmer ground because: (1) some hard evidence of ancient hunting methods does exist, and (2) we can also turn to present day surviving hunter gatherer and tribal cultures to see how they go about their hunting tasks.

A Bushman Hunting Grazing Animals with a Throwing Spear

Bushman, throwing a spear

Bushman Hunting With A Throwing SpeaThere are many eyewitness accounts in the one continent where large herds of grazing ungulates still exist, and smaller relatives of mastodons, woolly mammoths, and rhinoceroses still roam free. I am speaking of the savannas and rain forests of Africa.

There are many eyewitness accounts in the one continent where large herds of grazing ungulates still exist and smaller relatives of mastodons, woolly mammoths and rhinoceroses still roam free. I am speaking of the savannas and rain forests of Africa.Famous European explorers of Africa in the eighteenth century, like Burton and Speke, gave many accounts of the hunting of these animals by African natives, armed with much better weapons than Pleistocene man had at his disposal.
Africans used metallurgy as early as 2,000 B.C.E., and produced iron-tipped spears and knives by 500 B.C.E. They had invented bows and arrows long before European observers arrived on the scene. They coordinated their hunts, using hunting techniques, some of which were borrowed from their observations of jackals, hyenas, and other predators.
North American Pleistocene hunters probably borrowed techniques from wolf packs. Later on, Native Americans admired and definitely copied wolf tactics. For instance, the Pawnee Nation’s scouts were called the “wolf scouts” by other admiring tribes, due to their uncanny proficiency.
By all accounts, hunting large animals on the African plains was dangerous, frustrating, time consuming, and energy depleting. The majority of attempts met with failure. By the way, this is true for most predators, no matter who or where they are.
We have accounts of iKung (African Bushmen from  Botswana) hunters tracking prey wounded by their poisoned arrows for over a day until they literally ran them down (Van der Post and Taylor, 1984).
People who observe predators closely, whether wolves in Yellowstone or lions on the Serengeti, have noted that nine out of ten attacks on prey on the average meet with failure. That is an enormous expenditure of energy and time for rather poor results.
Stone age man might have been more successful than animal predators, due to his strategic abilities and weapons, but he too undoubtedly met with more failures than successes in such difficult undertakings.

 

An ABO had to be a jack-of-all-trades

Only a few animals were likely to be killed in such hunts, certainly not enough to even put a dent in large ungulate herds, which sometimes numbered in the tens of thousands. Such animals, in Africa, even when poached with rifles these days, restricted in territory by the fences and other obstructions of agriculture, and challenged by periodic droughts, have obviously managed to survive in large numbers.
This brings us to the subject of buffalo jumps. Some massacre proponents have cited these as examples of “primitive” people’s ability to employ systematic and efficient methods of killing large numbers of prey animals. These jumps were usually cliffs over which American Indians would attempt to stampede bison herds, in order to drive them to their deaths. Apparently, there were a good many such places in the American West, and we know of some of their locations. Using these tactics, hunters were able to kill large numbers of bison with less effort than hunting them from horseback, with bows and arrows, a method, which was at any rate, not available to Paleolithic hunters.
Some scholars also point out the waste of such a method, often leaving many more dead animals than the hunters could butcher and use for food. In this way, these critics get to make two anti-Pleistocene hunter criticisms at once, one, that these hunters were indeed capable of killing large numbers of animals and two, that they wasted resources.
An amusing story, derived from a Blackfoot legend by Joseph Campbell, illustrates both the difficulty of such endeavors and the reverence and respect in which the Native Americans held Bison, who are accused by some of indiscriminately slaughtering them. (J. Campbell, 1988).
The trouble with these accusations is that they do not appear to stand up to scrutiny. The critics state that these methods were widespread. If so, how successful were the Indians in wiping out the bison? By all accounts, enormous herds of bison, from a population which some have estimated at 50 million animals,(Nowak, 1983) still roamed the American West, even in the 1800s. Obviously, the Indians’ methods were insufficient at the least to eliminate the bison.
In addition, why should we assume that the Siberian Neolithic migrants to North America, who were the predecessors of American Indians, and who had a much smaller population than the Indians, perhaps as little as 2,000 at one point (cf.) , had been more successful in exterminating much larger, and presumably more dangerous, bison (Bison antiquus ) when their ancestors had been unable to do so in Siberia?
And, how did these Neolithic hunters accomplish the permanent demise of dozens of other megafauna? There is no evidence that other animals, such as wooly mammoths  and giant sloths, were susceptible to these stampede methods. How did the paleohunters, for instance, wipe out the large ungulates, such as Bison antiquus, when horse-mounted Indians were unable to do so with their smaller descendents, Bison bison ? Were their Pleistocene predecessors cleverer than they? Hardly likely. In fact, some scholars have argued that ancient Hunter Gatherers were intellectually inferior to us and lived in a sort of preconscious state ( James, 1976), although there exists considerable evidence to the contrary (Fischman & Johnson, 2010)
As for the charge of wasting the meat from animals killed at buffalo jumps, none of the critics have explained how the Indians could have limited the numbers of animals killed, using this crude but effective strategy. Needless to say, our European/American ancestors, shooting bison for sport from moving trains, could have easily limited the numbers killed by that method, but they did not. In fact, they left the corpses of thousands of bison to rot on the western plains as their trains moved on.
( Nature, 2011).

A Pile of Bison Skulls, Almost Twenty Feet High

This Pile Contains Probably Thousands of Bison Skulls

In addition to these senseless killings, it is well known that the wanton killing of American bison was a deliberate and overt tactic employed by our government to remove an animal absolutely essential to the lifestyle (and spiritual well being) of Plains Indians (IUCN, 2010). The loss of the bison forced them onto reservations and opened up the plains states to private property, ranching and agriculture. (Gates et al., 2010). No such motivation can be attributed to the paleohunters, who were just looking for meat.
Observations of native African hunters affords us another opportunity to evaluate these methods, this one of comparison: How did these hunters fare?
Prior to the advent of Bantu agriculturalists and white European explorers and colonists in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Bushmen inhabited the entire region of South Africa. There is recent genetic and archaeological evidence that the Bushmen are descended from the oldest line of human evolution (Gibbons, 2009; Henn et al., 2011). Therefore they have hunting experience in this region for tens of thousands of years.
As previously mentioned, Bushmen hunted large ungulates on foot and employed bows with poison-tipped arrows as early as 24,000 years ago (Zorich, 2012). (The poison used then was the deadly ricin, derived from castor beans). That would seem like a neat, efficient way to dispatch large ungulates, but as they say, the devil is in the details.
Bushmen first had to stalk near enough to edgy herds in order to use their weapons with any kind of accuracy. The poison, now usually made from toxic beetle grubs, worked slowly. The hunters, therefore had to follow or track the wounded animal for hours and sometimes even days before the animal died. I have seen a film of bushman actually running after these animals all day until they exhausted and cornered them (Foster. C. & Foster D.,2000) The stamina of Iron Man competitors and ultra marathoners pales in comparison to that of these hunters. They were then faced with the task of killing and butchering the animal on the spot, and thus heavily laden, had to carry the meat back to their extended families at their temporary encampments.
Keep in mind that the Bushmen are little fellows, most of them barely over five feet tall. Any elk hunter, who has ever shot an elk on top of the mountain or far off the road, can testify as to what a challenging task this is.
Congolese forest pygmies still hunt in their own unique traditional style. The Babenzele pygmies (Mbouti) of Zaire’s northeastern rainforests, have perfected a neat way to hunt in heavily forested areas. It is a cooperative hunt, using nets, made from nicusa vine (Manniophyton) cordage.  The entire group, which is actually an extended family, participates (Sarno, 1995). Each nuclear family is responsible for one section of net, about as high as a volleyball net, but much longer, which they must keep in good repair.
     They put the nets together end to end, the entire apparatus in the form of a horseshoe-shaped trap, covering several acres, by tying it to trees and bushes.

Ituri Forest Pygmy with a Hunting Net

Pygmy with NeThe rest of their families then drive the animals into the open end of the trap, shouting, pounding trees with sticks and altogether making as much noise as possible. In this manner they can trap and kill small animals, such as pygmy deer and duikers, in an efficient manner (Sarno,1995). You could consider this method as a rain forest equivalent of a buffalo jump, but it is certainly no way to wipe out the entire forest fauna, and obviously, hunting in this way for millennia  if not longer, they have not done so.

Pygmies are genetically related to Bushmen, and like them, are  also descendants of the longest human lineage in the world (Wade, 2012).
It should be mentioned in this regard, that Anthropologists had long suspected pygmy ethnic antiquity from examining their language and culture. In addition, DNA studies have lately confirmed the ancient lineage and racial interrelationships of the various pygmy groups, such as the Baka and Mbouti, even though these aforementioned groups are separated by more than a thousand miles of forest. (Verdu et al., 2009). This is a testimony to the cohesiveness and relative exclusivity of their cultures and lineage.
Pygmies are also reputed to be efficient and courageous hunters of forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclodis ), which they hunt with spears. These animals are a smaller version of those in large herds ( Loxodonta africana ), which roam the African Savannah.
Australia: Massacre proponents recite virtually the same scenario for the continent of Australia as they do for North America. That is, when humans arrived in Australia, they wiped out the widespread and varied marsupial megafauna. They cite the demise of animals such as the giant wombat, Diprotodon, the largest marsupial to ever exist (Martin, 1967).
However, there is a good deal of evidence accumulating that these two events, the marsupial extinctions and the arrival of Australian aborigines, did not even come close to occurring simultaneously. These megafauna became extinct around 46 – 51,000 BP. However, by some accounts, man has inhabited Australia as far back as 61,000 BP (Brook, 2002,). That would make 10-15,000 years of overlap before these animals went extinct.  It is hard to understand why the Aborigines were able to coexist with the megafauna for such a long time and then suddenly developed methods and desire to wipe them out in a relatively short time. There is no evidence of a change in aboriginal technology.
It is important to note, that like the Bushmen and Pygmies, the Australian Aborigines were hunter-gatherers, who wandered on foot, in small groups of related people, over a landscape, which is mostly a desert, with a fragile ecology. Note, for example, how a recent and continuing drought (Chancellor, 2012) has wrecked havoc with the agricultural and herding economies of that land, despite the availability of modern technology. Australia is almost the size of the USA.
No one knows for sure what the Aboriginal population was before the arrival of Europeans on that continent. The best estimate at the time of first contact was 318,000. (Wikipedia, 2012)
The area of Australia is 2,967,892 square miles. This would have averaged out to one Aborigine/9.3 square miles. For comparison purposes, the least populous state in the US is Wyoming, which has 13 persons/square mile. In other words, it would have taken 121 Aboriginal Australias to match Wyoming’s present population density.
Even assuming that Australia’s population near the coast was much greater than in its desert interior, it is hard to believe that such a tiny population, using Middle Paleolithic technology, could have killed off all of these large animals.
Polynesia: Here the massacre proponents, at first glance, appear to be on firmer ground. The accounts of Polynesian islanders wiping out many species on the islands they colonized are probably true. Nevertheless, this situation may not be relevant to the North American and Australian experiences. It is necessary to put these events in context by examining the special circumstances in which they occurred.
Perhaps the difference that most distinguishes the Polynesian experience, is that these people were agriculturalists, not hunter-gatherers. Their ancestors had migrated down into the Pacific islands from mainland South East Asia (Kumar et al., in press, Kayser, 2008).
They produced large amounts of food and stored it, thus enabling their populations to become much more dense than those of hunter-gatherers. They were prone to population explosions, which put a strain on the carrying capacities of the islands they colonized (Diamond, 2005). It was indeed, their propensity to outgrow their islands’ biological carrying capacities that impelled their long voyages of discovery.
The unique circumstance effecting the Polynesians were their finite resources. They lived on islands, many of them quite small, and when they had used up the local resources, they could not just pick up a few belongings and move to a more promising region as do contemporary hunter-gatherers, like the Hadza in Tanzania and the iKung of the Kalahari Desert. In fact, most of Polynesia was probably colonized from other overcrowded, over-taxed islands. Thus, the impressive, long Polynesian voyages of discovery were probably voyages of necessity.
For example, Easter Island is 3,000 miles from most Polynesian-populated archipelagoes, and despite the romantic notion that these were voyages of exploration and adventure, it is not likely that such arduous and potentially dangerous voyages would be undertaken except in a desperate search for new territory to exploit.
In fact, these overcrowded conditions leading to heavy exploitation of their natural resources were among the primary factors in stimulating new voyages of discovery, as groups of marginalized or land-poor islanders searched for new islands to exploit. Islands have finite resources.
One of the main reasons that many extinctions occur on islands is that once a faunal or floral population drops below a certain level, there is not much likelihood that they will be “rescued” by in-migration. In fact, there is a well-known phenomenon of island dwarfism, by which many species, isolated on islands have a tendency to become much smaller than their mainland relatives (Quammen, 1996). This may be due, in part to the evolutionary pressures brought on by limited resources. Obviously, a smaller version of a rhinoceros or deer would have an advantage in needing less energy. This would be especially true of those living on islands in which their natural predators were never present or had been eliminated, so that their need to grow to a size large enough to defend themselves or flee predators was eliminated.
An extreme example of this principle is the development of flightless birds on many islands., like the Dodo (Raphus cuculatus) of Mauritius Island and the Guam rail (Rallus owstoni). Both of these birds are now extinct due to human activities.
On the other hand, the island of Guam is literally crawling with an introduced predator, the brown tree snake. These snakes originated in New Guinea, and probably got to Guam as non-paying passengers in freighters. The lack of natural enemies allowed this snake population to explode, much the same way as did Yellowstone’s elks after the last member of its original wolf population was killed in 1926.
Human population pressures resulted in a kind of hopscotch invasion of more islands as the Polynesians pressed ever onward towards the Eastern Pacific, until they reached  islands like Easter and Mangareva, which were distant from most of the other islands. The Polynesian’s profligate ways led to starvation and sometimes their extinction when they continued them on such isolated, hard-to-get-to islands (Diamond, 2005).
It is important to compare the Polynesian’s ever-increasing populations with those of Hunter Gatherers, Although we cannot be certain about the life styles of North America’s Pleistocene hunters, we know from geographical, archaeological, and DNA studies that their numbers were relatively small and sometimes led to population bottlenecks of only a few thousand souls. (Amos and Hoffman, 2010). For example, the “Out of Africa “ migration of Homo sapiens to the Near East and Eurasia was calculated to contain only about 2,000 persons.
In fact, Hellenthal et al. (2008), found genetic evidence of at least two migrations, both small, from Siberia to America, the earlier one eventually reaching South America and the later, larger one, arriving in the northwest corner of the continent.
We can also examine the populations and reproductive behavior of these North American migrants’ present day equivalents. Although they are scattered all over the world, and usually have been forced into challenging and impoverished environments by tribal and western technological cultures, hunter-gatherer cultures are remarkably similar in many respects. Their populations, in contrast to those of agriculturalists, like the African Bantus, horticulturists, such as the New Guinea highlanders, and migratory herders like Mosaic and Fulani in Africa, are remarkably stable, both between areas and down through the centuries during the time in which they have been studied.
Their groups usually consist of basically extended families of 10 – 30 persons, who move from one area to another and back again, depending on season and availability of resources such as water, edible plants, and game.
Their numbers are self-limiting, due to biological constraints and their use of a variety of birth control techniques. For example, in ways similar to the game they hunt, they reproduce more abundantly under ideal conditions, and much less so under conditions of stress, such as lack of food and water resources. They also practice late marriage. For instance, among the iKung (Namibian Bushmen), girls do not usually reach menarche and marry until their late teens, while those of tribal agriculturists often do so even prior to puberty.
Pygmies and Bushmen also breast feed their children up to the ages of four or even later. Breast-feeding liberates hormones, such as oxytocin, which block ovulation. This is a natural method of birth control, which has the effect of spacing children so widely that few hunter-gatherer mothers have more than three or four offspring. Contrast this with the families of agriculturalists, who often have as many as ten children. The more the merrier. It takes lots of hands to run a farm, or at least it did until the advent of modern technology. This trend toward large families has persisted even in our culture, into the twentieth century. Witness all the older, large Victorian houses you see, with four, five, even six bedrooms, in rural towns as well as farms.
Hunter-gatherers use other techniques to limit families, which are less savory to our western moralities. They use particular plants for their abortifacent qualities, and have been known to leave newborns to die of exposure, when conditions are particularly desperate for them, choosing to try to save their other children and not add to the stress on them.
So many other, non-game animals disappeared at the end of the Pleistocene that it is hard to argue that the Siberian migrants wiped them out. The extinction of many predators, like the dire wolf and the Miracinonyx, a cheetah-like animal, which relied on its speed to run down its prey, is hard to understand, especially with many herds of smaller ungulates still extant at the time.

The Climate Hypothesis:

The alternative explanation for the disappearance of these large and small animals, interestingly enough, is one that many people today still have difficulty in wrapping their minds around – climate change. In the present case, the reasons for denying the realty of these changes are clear enough. They are first, that these have been mostly predictions of things to come and secondly, accounts of some things that are happening now, but to other people.
In an infamous remark, while he was talking to the chief climate scientist in the world, James Hansen, the renowned TV interviewer, Larry King, asked Hansen when some of these changes would occur. When Hansen told him that some would happen as soon as fifty years from then, King snorted “No one gives a damn about what will happen fifty years from now.” Lamentably, he was undoubtedly right. Humans have apparently evolved to react to present dangers, such as an attack from a saber-toothed tiger, or an algebra test tomorrow morning, and not from future dangers that they may not be around to encounter.

In the case of the Pleistocene, at least no one challenges the reality of these past climate changes, but frustratingly enough, the power of their effects are downgraded in the estimation of the massacre proponents.

Are the Beliefs of Earth-Based Peoples a Valid Guide to Their Behavior?

When we study past cultures, we usually take only so-called hard evidence, such as bones, implements, and ruins seriously. We even define whether a people had something called a “civilization” in such a way as to discount any people unless they had monumental ruins, a written (and decipherable) language, hierarchical social orders with separable skills and duties, and whether or not they made war.
Nevertheless there is additional evidence, which indicates that North American hunters did not exterminate the megafauna. This might be considered “soft” evidence, but I am impressed by it. It takes the form of the spiritual beliefs and lifestyles of contemporary hunter gatherers all around the world, about which we have collected considerable knowledge. As previously stated, I do not think that we attach sufficient significance to the beliefs and observed behavior of Earth-based peoples.
Laurens Van Der Post wrote several books, such as “The Lost World of the Kalahari “and “The Heart of the Hunter,” describing his interactions with the San Bushmen in the Kalahari desert in the 1960s. (Van Der Post; 1958, 1961). Anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas wrote of her early adventures with these people in “The Harmless People,” and her recollections of her life with them in “The Old Way.”(Thomas, 1958, 2006).
David Abram has written “The Spell of the Sensuous” about the traditional Balinese people (Abram. 1997). James Cowen spoke of the lives and beliefs of Australian Aborigines in “Letters From A Wild State” and “Messengers of the Gods” (Cowen, 1991, 1993), as did Bruce Chatwin(1987) in “Songlines.”
Anthropologist Colin Turnbull turned his attention to the Congo Pygmies in “The Forest People,”and Robert Wolff (2001) wrote movingly of his experiences with the Sng’oi of Malaysia and other aboriginal hunter gatherers in that part of the world, in “Original Wisdom.”
This is only a partial list, and I only have space to summarize a few stories and legends to give you an idea about people who found a way to tread softly upon the Earth and  to live in communion with the world.
I will begin with an Australian aboriginal legend called “The Kadimakara,”as retold by Cowen (1991)
“According to the Aborigines, the desert they must cross to reach the oasis at Cullymurra water hole was once a vast region of fertile plains and forests. traversed by rivers flowing into lakes. The bones of ancient animals which we call Diprotodons scattered en route  were the surest proof that conditions had changed since that primordial moment …
The present clear sky above had once been filled with dense clouds of dust, which perpetrated tropical downpours at regular intervals. Great Gum trees reached high into the sky, supporting a complex interlace of green life which shut out all sunlight.  From this arboreal vault a group of monsters known as the Kadimakara descended in order to feed on the fruits below. Once these creatures had tasted the fruits of the Earth their appetites became insatiable.  In time they had eaten all the shrubs, trampled the Earth hard, and finally had resorted to eating the giant trees down which they had come. In an ironic twist of fate they had destroyed their one escape route to the heavens!
As a result, the Kadimakara were forced to remain on Earth.  They wallowed in the lakes, drinking up the water.  They ate everything before them.  Soon the canopy of trees overhead had been destroyed, revealing one continuous hole of blue sky.  The tribesmen named it Pura Walpinina, or the great hole. Meanwhile, the Kadimakara began to die of starvation  now that they had eaten every shrub and bush.  In the heaving marshlands of putrefying earth which had once been rivers and lakes the monsters lay down to die.  One by one they expired, their bodies slowly petrifying in the relentless sun, which their destruction of the natural environment had released upon the Earth.  Their bones, the bones of the Kadimakara, littered the dry earth as somber reminders to the surviving tribesmen of what can happen when the natural environment is treated as an inexhaustible larder The Kadimakaras’ insatiable appetites had been the direct cause of their own extinction.
Perhaps the aborigines were warning themselves that if they exceeded the carrying capacity of this fragile, barely livable area, they would suffer the fate of the Kadimakara.
On the other hand, perhaps this cautionary tale is meant for ears other than those of aborigines who have lived in harmony with the Earth for so long.  Perhaps this myth is of more recent origin, say since the days of first contact with Europeans and observation of their peculiar appetites.”
Here is another story, from a very different place. This legend was told to James Cowen by an islander, living in the Torres Strait, between New Guinea and Australia. His family was reputed by other natives to “own” the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) constellation (Cowen, 1993). How can one own a constellation? Read on and find out.
“Tagai was a man.  He owned a canoe, along with his friend, Kareg.  One day they were out fishing with a crew made up of Usiam and Seg people.  To you these people are the Seven Sisters and the stars in the belt of Orion.  Anyway, while Tagai and Kareg were paddling along, the Usiam and Seg people decided to eat all the food and drink all the water on board.  Kareg saw this happening and called out to Tagai, who was in the bow of the boat.  So Tagai strung the Usiam together and tossed them in the sea.  He did the same to the Seg people.  Only Tareg, his friend, remained with him in the boat,”
“Yeah, the story of the stars belongs to me. I must interpret it for others, to remind them that all of us must take care not to act like the Usiam and Seg people.  By drinking too much, by eating too much, we forget to leave some over for others.  The food and water on Tagai’s boat represents nature. If we use it up without thinking, we run the risk of exhausting our food supplies on the voyage.”
I have trouble with people who tell me that the only reason that Native Americans and other indigenous peoples did not destroy their environments just as thoroughly as we seem on our way to doing, is that they lacked bulldozers and insecticides.
I find it hard to believe that people who regarded the rivers as their sisters, would have raped them by pouring toxic waste into them, or their forests as brothers, would have clear-cut them. Explain to me how people who looked at wolves as older brothers and whose scouts emulated them, like the Pawnee and Cheyenne did, would have turned around and shot them from helicopters if only they had they possessed such equipment
Every one of these sources, without exception, tell the same story. These hunter gatherers are remarkably like ourselves. In fact, they are us. Biologically, we are still living in the Pleistocene. They are not Rousseau’s “noble savages”. They were capable of anger, envy, voraciousness, and all the other dark emotions  that people of our society exhibit. However, by both happenstance and planning, they created a lifestyle that discouraged those darker behaviors and valued the best human qualities, like cooperation, egalitarianism, and community.  These qualities enabled them to tread lightly upon the Earth and to live lives of integrety. We have much to learn from them.

The Tale of The Blind Men and the Mammoth:

Some respected researchers, like William Ripple of Oregon State University, who first opened our eyes to the dynamics of wolf/elk interaction in Yellowstone, believe that human predators may have been involved in the extinction of the wooly mammoth. Ripple and Van Valkenburgh (2010), presented evidence that mammoths may have fallen victim to trophic cascades some 10,000 years ago.

Trophic cascades are ever-widening, usually top-down effects brought about by interactions between living organisms in ecosystems, particularly originating with predator/prey relationships. Interestingly, we are at present witnessing damaging cascades which are caused by a world-wide loss of predators. This, in turn, is mostly due to human disruption of ecosystems, such as the effects of shark slaughter on fisheries.
Ripple and his co-workers examined wear and fracture rates of fossil carnivore teeth and from growth rates of their prey, Heavily worn and fractured teeth are an indication of bone consumption, which predators avoid except when there is prey scarcity. There was little indication of such wear. Their evidence suggests that there were no serious food shortages in northern America 10-15,000 years ago.
They believe that a range of predators, such as the dire wolf, lions, and saber toothed cats (Smilodon sp.) reduced the number of fauna. This system was balanced but dominated by the predators. When humans arrived however, they provided increased competition for these predators.         Giving an example of a modern equivalent of this situation, these authors state that in contemporary Alaska, human hunting of moose caused wolves to switch to sheep, which in turn, resulted in a precipitous decline, not only of sheep, but eventually of wolves and moose. [Ripple et al. make it clear that this trophic cascade started with that apex predator, man].
The Pleistocene predators, now desperate for food, may have finally driven their prey to extinction. This conclusion, however, goes against one of the primary dicta of wildlife biologists, which is that predators never cause extinction of their prey.  Before that could happen, the predators themselves would decrease in number from lack of sufficient prey to sustain themselves (cf.).
The authors argue by analogy that human whale hunts have resulted in Orcas switching to seals and sea otters. This, in turn has led to an explosion in sea urchin populations and a decline in kelp forest ecosystems, in another contemporary trophic cascade.

Dwindling green Pastures:

Allen and his colleagues, however, recently reported that a massive reduction in grasslands and the spread of northern forests may have been the cause of the Pleistocene decline in mammals. This occurred during  and after the height of the Ice Age, 21,000 years ago, and dramatically reduced available food.
It resulted in the reduction of large mammals across northern Eurasia and North America by 11,400 years ago, although some held on for several thousand years longer in limited localities, termed “refugias,” in which both climate and food supplies were more amenable to their survival. Migratory hunters were also restricted to these areas by availability of these mammals for their own food supply. Several refugias have been identified, strung along the coast of what is now called Alaska and British Columbia.
These researchers have reconstructed the environment from ancient pollen records and noted which major megafauna became extinct and which survived. The wooly mammoth, cave lion, giant deer, wooly rhino and cave bear went extinct. The brown bear, elk, moose, reindeer, saiga antelope, and musk ox survived (Allen et al., 2010).

We are all connected:

Another group of scientists, (Nogues-Bravo et al.,2008) have accomplished what amounts to a synthesis of the last two views. They used climate models and examined fossil distribution, concluding that change in global climate was exacerbated by human pressures to drive the mammoths and other megafauna to extinction.
These researchers used a number of climate models, ranging from 6,000 to 126,000 years ago. Clearly, the environment was much worse for mammoths 126,000 years ago, yet the animals survived. They showed though that there was a catastrophic loss of habitat 6,000 years ago so that only 10% of the former habitat remained.
They also considered the effects of temperature changes and rainfall. They then compared these parameters with age and distribution of fossils.
Nogues-Bravo and his colleagues say that mammoths faced rising temperatures and increased hunting pressure at the same time. They argue that that these animals had faced previous temperature increases without going extinct and that the only difference was that this time there was human influence.
They came to the conclusion that  it was a combination of climate change and human hunting that was responsible for these megafaunal extinctions.

Conclusions:

Well, I have come to the place where I need to sum up the evidence and tell you of my conclusions. However, it is not as easy to do as I first thought. I started out on this journey pretty sure of myself. I was on the side of the angels – at least they were my angels. I was pretty sure that the massacre proponents had at best exaggerated their case and at worst had become prisoners of their ideological propensities. .
The last few papers I have cited impressed me, both with their approach and their reasoned arguments. I was most impressed with the work of with Ripple and his co-workers because they had a novel approach to this difficult subject, and due to my respect for Ripple’s past work.
Perhaps you will be surprised that when I evaluated  the worth of these publications, I took into account who wrote it. At first sight that does not seem to be objective, so I will let you into a little secret of science. It matters who did the investigation. In over 30 years of scientific research I found out that not all the facts are published and that the devil is often in the details. I that learned that I could trust the intelligence, thoroughness, and integrety of some researchers more than others.
Ripple is one of these. As I mentioned previously, his salient work was accomplished by tracing trophic cascades in Yellowstone National Park from wolves to elk and to their widespread and important effects on the rest of the ecosystem. Ripple showed that the elk population explosion, that occurred after the last wolves were exterminated in 1927, had deleterious effects that ranged from the disappearance of riparian flora to decreases in bird, fish, and scavenger populations, and that the wolves, reintroduced in 1996, have been an important factor in restoring balance to the entire system.
Nogues-Bravo and his colleagues seem to have nicely combined the ideas of Ripple with those of Allen et al., who emphasized the important role of climate change.
Nevertheless, despite Ripple’s analysis, I think that the preponderant evidence supports the idea that humans were not responsible, or played only a small roll in the demise of these animals.

The following points sum up the basis for my conclusion:

• Human signs were usually not associated with the massive troves of mammoth bones found on Siberian islands.
• The extinctions took place over a very long period, some of that including times when man was apparently not present on the continents of North and South America.
• It was not only the charismatic megafauna that became extinct during this period, but so were other animals, that were unlikely to have been eliminated by hunters. One example of this is the dozen or so species of woodland song birds that went extinct.
• The direct ancestors of these hunters did not eliminate many of the same animals in Siberia.
• It is hard to believe that such a small number of people, around 2,000 at one point caused by genetic bottlenecks, could have killed off so many animals.
• Later on, Native Americans, with much more advanced technology available to them, put hardly a dent in the populations of megafauna, especially the immense herds of bison, whose numbers may have reached as high as fifty million animals.
• North America was occupied by these Siberian migrants over a much longer time than previously thought, at least 14,000 years, and so the question arises over why it took them such a long time to eliminate the megafauna.
• African megafauna have survived native hunters, who had much more advanced technologies than the North American migrants did.
• Australian aborigines were also few in numbers. They entered that continent much earlier than massacre proponents thought, and coexisted with the marsupial megafauna there for 15 – 20,000 years.
• The Polynesians, who exterminated many native fauna, were islanders and agriculturalists, two factors that make extinctions much more possible.
• Hunter gatherer beliefs and spirituality make it improbable that they would treat their environment in as ruthless a fashion as our culture does.

In conclusion, I do not think that that the last word has been said in this controversy by any means, but the idea that the demise of the megafauna was due, not to one, but to a combination of factors, including climate change and perhaps anthropogenic action, seems like a more likely answer to this vexing question.

Are the Beliefs of Earth-Based Peoples a Valid Guide to Their Behavior?

Are the Beliefs of Earth-Based Peoples a Valid Guide to Their Behavior?

Ken Fischman, Ph.D

Jon Young with Bushmen in Botswana

Jon Young with Bushmen in Botswana

Is there any validity to the oral histories of indigenous peoples? Typically, the avatars of western culture do not put much stock in the legends, stories, and myths of indigenous peoples. Being people of technology and the written word, we especially look down on those who have no written language, regarding them as “primitive,” and therefore not worthy of being taken seriously if we bother to study them at all.

When we study another culture, we usually take only so-called hard evidence seriously. Evidence such as bones, implements, hieroglyphics, and ruins can be touched, photographed, categorized, and put in the form of graphs and tables. We even define whether a people had something called a “civilization” in such a way as to downgrade the importance of  any people unless they had monumental ruins, a written (and decipherable) language, hierarchical social orders with division of labor, and whether or not they made war.(Guess which one counted highest.)

My point here is that I do not think that we attach sufficient significance to the beliefs of Earth-based peoples. Imagine if you can, that a future historian dismissed the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution as not having any bearing on the way people lived in North America during the past 200 years. I think that you would agree that such an attitude was ludicrous and showed sloppy scholarship indeed.

Yet, in a very real sense, this is what many scholars do when it comes to the beliefs and behavior of people whose traditions are oral. I believe that we should take these beliefs more seriously and give them more weight when we attempt to reconstruct events in pre-history. I came across the following story some years ago and found it a good example of this principal.

 

The Legend of Mount Mazama

 (As told by a Klamath elder to a soldier in 1865. Retold by Ella E. Clark In: Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1952.)

The story begins when the spirit of the Below-World fell in love with the chief’s daughter and demanded that she marry him. This overture was denied and the rejection did not sit well with the spirit, who threatened to destroy the people. “Raging and thundering, he rushed up through the opening and stood on top of the mountain.”

The spirit of another great mountain now intervened and the two mountains began some sort of combat. “Red hot rocks, as large as the hills hurtled through the skies. Burning ashes fell like rain. The chief of the Below-World spewed fire from his mouth. Like an ocean of flame it devoured the forests on the mountain and in the valleys. On and on the curse of the fire swept, until it reached the homes of the people. Fleeing in terror before it, the people found refuge in the waters of Klamath Lake.”

The Klamaths decided that someone should sacrifice him- or herself to appease the spirit. Two medicine men climbed the mountain and jumped into the opening [Caldera?}

“Once more the mountains shook. This time the chief of the Below-World was driven into his home and the top of the mountain fell on him. When the morning sun arose, the high mountain was gone.” Then, according to the Klamaths, rain fell. For many years rain fell in torrents and filled the great hole that was made when the mountain fell …”

Note: This legend appears to be describing the simultaneous eruptions of two volcanoes. The very language seems to be evocative of volcanic eruptions. The Klamath’s legend appears to be about Mt. Mazama in Oregon, and its twin, Mt. Shasta in northern California, as having spirits who lived in them, and openings [vents?] which led to a lower world through which the spirits passed. The Klamaths apparently knew when the mountain was active because when he [the spirit] came up from his lodge below, his tall form towered above the snow-capped peaks [smoke, steam?].

volcano erupting

 

After all, how would the Klamaths know about such things unless they had actually witnessed them? The only trouble with believing that this legend was a kind of transposition of an eyewitness account is that there have been no volcanic eruptions in the Pacific Northwest since Mt. Mazama blew its top three thousand years ago. Could the story have been passed down from generation to generation for such a long time period?

Before you dismiss such an idea as fanciful, consider the part about the rain filling the great hole made when the mountain fell. It seems to be describing Crater Lake, which was formed in exactly that fashion when Mt. Mazama collapsed.

Our culture, which depends on the written word and now also on electronic bytes, can hardly conceive of such prodigious feats of memory. However, many other cultures, which depend on oral history to keep accounts of their people’s stories, developed this capacity over millennia.

Crater Lake, Oregon

One startling example of this capacity is cited by anthropologist Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty in her delightful book, Other People’s Myths. O’Flaherty states “ India has two sorts of Sanskrit classics, typified by two great texts, the Rig Veda and the Mahabbarata.  The Rig Veda is a massive collection of hymns, a text of over 350,000 words (as long as the Iliad and the Odyssey combined); it was preserved orally for over three thousand years. The Mahabbarata is one of the two great Sanskrit epics (the other being the Ramayana), a text of over 100,000 verses, or three million words (almost ten times as long as the Rig Veda, and fifteen times the combined length of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament); it was preserved both orally and in manuscript form for over two thousand years. “

These texts were recited flawlessly in villages from one end of the Indian subcontinent, to the other without a single mistake. Doniger tells the perhaps apocryphal story that it was only when these classics were translated by an English Consul into print that mistakes began to appear.

Navaho “singers” are capable of memorizing three-day ceremonies so flawlessly that no mistake creeps in. In fact, these ceremonies are never written down, but are passed from one singer to another down the generations. Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist, tells the amusing story of one such singer, Jeff King, who, in 1966, recited his ceremony and made a sand painting for a distinguished audience at the New York Museum of Natural History. When he had appeared to finish, he was confronted by one very knowledgeable woman, who insisted that he had left something out. “No” he said. “Yes” she said, and insisted that he put it in. “I cannot, he said, if I did so, every woman in Manhattan would become pregnant.” As Campbell put it, “Those Navaho ceremonies had power!”

(Jeff King Sand painting below)

In sum, I believe that western scientists and anthropologists are mistaken to dismiss the oral histories of these people. In doing so, they are losing a lot of valuable knowledge, that may have at least as much validity as Carbon 14 isotope studies.

The reason why I emphasize that oral histories should be taken more seriously is that I have trouble with people who tell me that the only reason that Native Americans and other indigenous peoples did not destroy their environments just as thoroughly as we seem to be doing, is that they lacked bulldozers and insecticides.

On my side, I find it hard to believe that people who regarded the rivers as their sisters, would have raped them by pouring toxic waste into them, or thought of their forests as brothers, would have clear-cut them. Explain to me how people who looked at wolves as older brothers and whose scouts emulated them, like the Cheyenne did, would have turned around and shot them from Cessnas if only they had they possessed such equipment.

Wildlife Services airplane displays killed wolf decals on engine cowling

 

How Our Cultural Beliefs Effect The Way We Treat The earth

 

 

 

How Our Cultural Beliefs Affect the Way We Treat the Earth

Lanie Johnson, M.A. and Ken Fischman, Ph.D.

March 25, 2007(rev. 10/3/11)

Our cultural values, customs and beliefs affect the way we treat the Earth, and they have led to the twin crises of Peak Oil and Climate Change

                                                          1.  The Man Who Hated Bees

                                                                     by Lanie Johnson

         Ten years ago Ken and I left New York City in a truck camper and headed out West. We‘d intended to take about a year to look over a few towns and decide in which one we wanted to settle.

Seven years later we were still wandering in that truck camper. We had many adventures before we came to Sandpoint, some of them even good. But our most important adventure was our change of perspective.

We were able to see our culture with fresh eyes because for the first time, we were living outside it, wandering over the landscape but not being part of it.

For example, I remember the day we met the man who hated bees.

It was an early spring day, and we decided to ride our bikes in a marvelous park, along the Platt River right in the middle of the Denver.  There they had planted what seemed like millions of colorful wild flowers.

It was heavenly, and as we rode along we fell in with another biker. He told us that he was a retired engineer, living in the Denver suburbs and that he often rode his bike through that park.

Now, we were passing through the fields of magnificent and variously colored wild flowers that gently waved in the breeze.

But without warning, that man’s demeanor suddenly changed. He waved his arms around desperately as he rode.  “Those damn bees! Those damn bees,” he shouted. “They might sting me!”

As we passed out of range of the bees, he calmed down somewhat, but still agitated, he turned toward us and said angrily, “It’s those damn flowers! They’re attracting the bees. I wish they would cut them all down. That would get rid of the bees!”

b. How Our Culture Treats Others

The memory of that man still haunts me.  He had seemed like such a nice person, and probably was, under other circumstances.  Still, I’m grateful to the man who hated bees because I learned a lot about our culture from his behavior.

Never mind the question of whether or not bees and wild flowers are useful to us; that’s not the point. Do they have a right to be here on their own? Many people seem to believe that only man has a right to be here  – because he is special and clearly superior to everyone and everything else. If something is in your way – if it merely inconveniences you, get rid of it. Move it, destroy it, annihilate it if you see fit. From self-centered beliefs like these has come enormous environmental destruction.

Ken and I have read extensively about the lives of Hunter-Gatherers, both contemporary and ancient. I could not imagine a Hunter-Gatherer demanding that we annihilate all the wild flowers so that he could be bee-free.

We have come to another conclusion, too: attitudes like those of the man who hated bees are not necessarily due to inherent human nature. We believe that they come right out of our culture. And, that is what I want to address next.

2. Cultural Beliefs

a. Power, Role, & Invisibility

Culture can be extremely powerful in forming our ideas about how to live in this world. Every culture instills deep-seated beliefs that act as beacons, showing people the way they should organize their lives.

A society that has beliefs that do not work for them because they do not conform to the way the world really works, is in deep trouble.

Most of the time we are not even consciously aware that we have such beliefs. There is an old saying that if you want to know the nature of water, do not ask a fish.  Our culture is all around us, but because we are immersed in it, we do not feel or sense it. “Mother Culture is always whispering in your ear.” (Daniel Quinn, in Ishmael)

b. How Beliefs Arise

How do cultural beliefs arise?  They usually come out of the lifestyles of people.  Let’s look at a few examples:

Hunter-Gatherers place a great deal of importance on the natural cycles of Nature that they see all around them, as well as of their own bodies. They undoubtedly came to these ideas from their keen observation of the monthly waxing and waning of the moon, from the seasonal cycles, and from women’s menstrual cycles.

 

[ Image - Venus of Laussels ]

These HG beliefs go back a long way. The Venus of Laussels is a 22 – 30,000 year old image of a woman sculpted on a rock ledge in Western France. Her sexual features are exaggerated. Her left hand is on her belly.  Is she pregnant?  Perhaps. In her right hand she holds what appears to be a Bison’s horn, but which may also represent the moon in its fourth quarter.  It has fourteen parallel lines incised on it.  Fourteen is of course the midpoint of both the menstrual cycle and the monthly lunar cycle. So, we suspect that even back then Hunter-Gatherer cultures were thinking and organizing their lives in terms of these cycles.

Our own linear culture and its thirst for progress is very different from the ancient H-G traditions which are cyclical – reflecting and celebrating the cycles of Nature.

Ojibway Story

There is a story attributed to the Ojibway Indians of the Great Lakes region.  A young son of the tribe has the responsibility of hunting for game to keep his aged and weak parents alive.  One particularly severe winter, he has trouble finding sufficient game and becomes quite desperate.

One snowy morning, a handsome young chief walks into the young brave’s hunting camp, and challenges him to a wrestling match, promising a special reward if the boy wins.

The boy does win, and the chief instructs him to cut off his head, bury it, and periodically water it.  The boy does so reluctantly, and the next spring, a corn plant grows from that very spot.  The boy is overjoyed.  From now on, he will plant corn and will be able to feed his parents.

This story illustrates how that Indian tribe dealt mythically with their transition from a Hunter Gatherer society to an agricultural

Nature/Nurture Controversy

Let’s consider how we can distinguish between Inherent and Cultural Behavior.  Ken and I used to discuss the more destructive aspects of human behavior with some friends in the field of psychology. One, a psychotherapist, would simply shrug and say, “well, that’s just human nature.” We’d argue instead that it was our culture, “whispering in our ears.” Two other friends, a Developmental Psychologist and an Experimental Psychologist, both had the opposite view: they insisted that human beings are a “tabula rasa” – or a blank slate upon which culture writes behavioral instructions. Here was the old ‘Nature/Nurture controversy’ in living color.

A classical way of distinguishing environmental from inherited factors in human traits is to study these traits in identical twins, who have been reared apart.  Because their biology is the same, any differences can be attributed to their environments. These types of study have consistently shown that behavioral traits in humans are only 60-65% inherited.  This is not surprising.  We have long known that learning plays a large part in our development.

Well, why should all this matter to us?  It matters, because if a behavior is considered “just human nature,” that is, if it is inherent, then there is nothing we can do to change it.  However, if the behavior is produced by a combination of biology and cultural belief, it can be changed.

Recently, Psychologists set up a study in which participants played a game during which they could from time to time decide to be either competitive or cooperative with each other.  The brain activity of the players was monitored with an MRI.  The pleasure centers of their brains consistently lit up whenever they chose to cooperate, but not when they chose to compete.  Is it possible then that mankind is hard-wired to derive pleasure from cooperation?

Then, what are the consequences of our having created a society that emphasizes competition instead?   Just look at the front page of your daily newspaper or listen to the eleven O’clock news. This is something for all of us to think about.

 How Circumstances Changed the Lives of the Kalahari Bushmen

        I have a sad tale to tell.  Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, an Anthropologist, lived with some South African Bushmen in the Kalahari desert for several years and wrote a book about her adventures, called “The Harmless People. ”  In it, she describes their idyllic lives as Hunter-Gatherers in a physically challenging environment.

 

(Image child offering grub) Here’s a photo of Thomas, being offered a special treat by a Bushman child. Can anyone tell what it is?

 

She got to know and like them on an individual basis. But, I must warn you that if you read the last chapter, it will break your hearts.

Ten years later she revisited them. White South African farmers had penetrated into the Kalahari in their perpetual search for more land, and had taken over and fenced off the few water holes that the Bushmen had depended on for their very existence.  This forced the Bushmen to come in from the desert and become virtual serfs to the farmers.  The social fabric of these sweet, gentle people had been almost totally destroyed.  People whom Thomas had known previously had now become wracked with alcoholism, drugs, wife beating, and all the rest of the antisocial behaviors that plague our own society.

Does Our Culture Have Myths?

Does our contemporary, world-wide culture have unexamined beliefs?  Jared Diamond has written a terrific book, entitled ‘Collapse.’ In it,  he examines several civilizations around the world to see which have vanished and which have endured. He concludes that the answer lies in the ways in which each civilization has reacted to environmental challenges.

For example, Diamond tells of the Europeans who settled in Greenland around 1000 A.D. Greenland‘s rivers and surrounding ocean teemed with seals and fish, and the Inuit who lived there were experts at hunting and fishing.

However, the European Greenlanders, when faced with a change to a much colder climate during the Little Ice Age (1300 – 1800 AD) refused to learn how to fish and hunt for seals from their Inuit neighbors, whom they called “Skraelings” Translation – “dirty pagan wretches.”

Instead, the Europeans persisted in continuing to farm and raise cattle despite Greenland’s poor soil and short growing season, and most of them eventually starved to death.

The settlers were in the grips of a cultural belief that we call “there is only one right way, and it is ours.”

(Enter Culture Fairy.  He is a hairy guy, dressed in a tutu & he talks like Gus, the truck driver)

C.F.  “Hey, watcha gettin so upset about?  Nothins wrong with da Woild.  I’ve come to tell ya dat everythings gonna be O.K.”

LJ – “Who are you?  Are you one of those ridiculous fairies?  Look, I resent your breaking in on us like this. We reserved this room for a discussion of the serious situation that mankind faces from the decline in cheap energy and …

C.F.  – “Dat’s exactly what I mean.  Now, don’t getcha knickers all in a twist Girly, will ya!  I’m da Culture Fairy, see.  Ya know, dis is da best of all possible woilds, and we’re gonna come out fine.  Ya know why?  Because da woild was made for Man. Humans are da pinnacle of evolution, see?

LJ  “No, I do not see!  We are using up the finite resources of the Earth, killing off other life forms, and eventually we are going to cause our own extinction if we continue to believe nonsense like that”!

C.F. – “Hey, no problema.  Don’t ya know us humans are exempt from da rules a Nature? We can do stuff that would get any other creature in deep doo doo.  And besides, everybody knows da resources of da Universe are inexhaustible, and if we use up this planet, hey, we can go to Mars.

L.J.  “Now, that is a great idea.   I hear there’s a rocket leaving for Mars shortly.  Why don’t you take it, and establish a colony there?

C.F.  Hey, not a bad idea!  After all, Man was born to rule da Universe, wasn’t he? And in order to do it , he’s gotta conquer Nature, right?   So, Mars, here I come! (he dashes out the door)

The Importance of Cultures’ Alignment with the Earth

As I see it, the main problem is that our culture is not in accord with the way the World is organized.  In fact, it has put us on a collision course with these principles.

If instead, we were to become more grounded in the Earth (if you will excuse the pun), we would gain a deeper understanding of the laws of nature, and the fact that Mankind is not exempt from them.

How Do Myths Come About?

A recent poll showed that 60% of Americans believe that the Sun rotates around the Earth. If you asked these same people whether the Earth is flat or spherical, what do you suppose they would say?  Would they tell you that if you were to drive to New Jersey, you would fall off the end of the Earth?  I don’t think so.

However, if people believe that the World was made for man, and he was made to rule it, then it follows that we are the most important thing in the Universe.  It is possible then that so many Americans believe that the Sun rotates around the Earth because they believe mythologically that we are the center of the Universe and therefore the Earth is also at the center.

Looking at it this way, it seems clear to me that this human-centered view comes right out of the deepest beliefs of our culture.  Regarding another belief, my psychotherapist friend told me some time ago that all humans are competitive, and that is just human nature.

Well, try explaining this idea of competition to a South African Bushman or a Congolese Pygmy.  One of my favorite stories is of some Australian Aborigines who were being taught the rudiments of soccer by European missionaries.  After each side had scored a goal, they all walked off the field together, thinking they had achieved the object of the game.

We’ve just looked at some different cultural beliefs-Now, let’s look at an example of how cultural beliefs can be changed. 

                                              Can We Consciously Change our Beliefs?

 

Some scholars believe that a society cannot consciously change its beliefs – that such beliefs come out of some sort of collective unconscious interacting with millions of bits of information and experiences.

If I believed this, I would not be addressing you right now.  How else do you explain how a hitherto obscure southern black preacher, named Martin Luther King, Jr., changed the face of America back in the 1960s?

Now, instead of extreme racial inequality, we face the end of cheap oil and a changing climate. Both situations have come about because we have extracted and used so much oil However, the end of oil offers a ray of hope. If we can learn to limit CO2 emissions, as well as limit ourselves, that is. How? We think we can do so by not only changing our lifestyle but changing its underlying beliefs as well – such as the cornucopia of endless natural resources and the human right to do whatever we please with the Earth.

Well, so how do we go about changing the beliefs of our culture?

We do not have all the answers but, here’s one thought. We don’t have to throw out our birth religions in order to change our cultural beliefs.

The most holy day of the Jewish calendar is the Day of Atonement.  It is called Yom Kippur.  On that day, you are supposed to fast and to think about the offenses you have committed against others and their offenses against you.  You try to forgive them, and also yourself for your own failures.  Every year, for most of my adult life, I, Ken, would mark that day by fasting and sitting in a Synagogue all day long, chanting prayers in a language with which I was barely acquainted.  Most of the time, quite frankly, I was not spiritually uplifted. I was bored to death.

One Yum Kippur, I could not stand the thought of another dreary day like that, and instead went kayaking all by myself in a lovely little stream.

That turned out to be one of the most unforgettable days of my life.  As I floated down the stream, gazing at the ripples and waves, with the breeze in my face and the sun shining out of a clear blue sky, I never felt more spiritual and in tune with the Universe.

Ever since then, I have gone off by myself on that special day, to fast, and to be alone with my thoughts in some beautiful and sacred natural spot.

One December, Ken and I celebrated the Solstice with some friends.  Two of them, Phil and Sandy Deutchman, suggested that we celebrate it in different way this time, the way Sandy’s Finnish ancestors did over 10,000 years ago. In Finland, people still make candle lanterns of ice to provide light and hope for the return of light in the Spring. During this season, an ancient pagan tradition has it that a goat (the “Joulupukki”) comes out of the woods and gives people presents – if they’ve been good, that is. If they’ve been bad, he gives them a butt!

images

• ice candles

• here are Sandy with a flashlight (the Sun) and physicist Phil – dressed as the Joulupukki – with an orange (the Earth) showing the modern Astronomy behind the ancient Solstice celebration.

 

Other people around the little town in which we live, Sandpoint, Idaho, have adopted various Native American practices, the purpose of which is to re-connect people to the Earth.

Tim Corcoran and Jeannine Tidwell, founders of the Twin Eagles Wilderness School in Sandpoint, have studied with native teachers across the country, including elders from the Lakota tribe. Their school is a center for learning nature awareness and wilderness skills, in order to reconnect children with the Earth. They have also started a local Lakota Inipi, or sweat lodge group.

Randy Russell, who has Choctaw heritage, and is an adopted Lakota, has started a monthly Waneeshpa, or Gathering of Elders.  Randy runs the Soul Lore program, designed to bring back ritual, rights of passage, and other paths to true adulthood for young people.

 Mother Culture Meets Mother Nature

by Lanie Johnson(Rev 3/1/07, 3/6/07

MC         My son, the Culture Fairy had it completely right and you are a lot of hysterics, carrying on with a lot of pointless worry about the world coming to an end.  And, what’s more, you’re wallowing in guilt about the silly idea that humans are responsible for what you think a mess.

LJ         Who are you? I’ve never seen you around Sandpoint.

MC         I don’t ordinarily identify myself with a name, but rather by my wonderful contributions to the world. Some choose to call me “Mother Culture.” I am in charge of designing human society, and if I do say so myself, I have done a splendid job of it.

LJ         I’ve never heard of you. Is there anyone here who can answer her objections?

MN         I can.

LJ         And who are you?

MN         I am Mother Nature. I’m sure you’ve heard of me. I am painfully familiar with Mother Culture’s ideas. Her objections basically target me and my laws.

MC         Of course I object to you. And for many 1000’s of years I have been teaching humans to overcome you. They have learned well, if I do say so myself. Little by little they have come to understand that they are exempt from your annoying and inconvenient laws, and that there is no limit to what they can achieve.

MN         Really? How interesting! You call it progress, but at what price?  Your cleverness has caused a lot of damage to the Earth, and Mankind needs the Earth in order to live. Why don’t you teach them instead to use their cleverness to save the Earth?   They’ve used up most of the Earth’s oil and now the climate is changing –

MC   Now, there you go again, exaggerating a little change in temperature.  My goodness, the culture that brought you leaf blowers, SUVs, and YouTube will easily be able to conquer the Universe and make it ours!

MN  The Universe is a mystery to be celebrated, not solved.  Humans lived in harmony with the Universe for hundreds of thousands of years, and they can learn to do so again, and have more time to experience life.

MC  Ugh!  If they just enjoy life and let everything go, they will never make any progress.  The Culture that brought you Chicken McNuggets, Botox, and American Idol will really get them somewhere even more wonderful.

MN  Well, the way I see it, they are already somewhere.  They are here.  They are surrounded by life in all its many forms.  You could teach them that all other beings are their brothers and sisters, who are to be respected and treasured instead of exploited in your never-ending search for more stuff.

MC  Lower forms of life are not my relatives!  The world was made for Man, and no other life forms have any rights.  It’s pointless to talk to you, Mother Nature.  You are hopelessly old-fashioned.

MN  The Earth is dying, Mother Culture, and I will not let that happen to it.

MC  You couldn’t be more wrong.  Mother Culture will fool you yet.

MN  In that case, I have only one more thing to say to you.

MC  And what is that?

MN  Its not nice to fool Mother Nature (Thunder & exit)

]

 

                                    10. Finale (de Nile) and Bows

The Bear Hunter

THE BEAR HUNTER

by Ken Fischman

Just north of Boise Randy Wayne’s red Maserati wound its way down from between the sear grass-covered hills that resemble monstrous brown dumplings. The road straightened out when it reached the city and he sped down the arrow-straight avenue leading past the state legislature. It was a dark early December Sunday morning so there was little traffic on the streets of the Idaho capital that could slow it down, and the driver, taking advantage of the situation, sped up, going through a just-turned-red traffic light and headed for the downtown section of the city. The driver began a conversation with himself.

‘Confound that woman I really will never understand why she always wants to hike into the forest.’

          ‘I enjoy experiencing nature first hand she whines.

Several times she had actually tried to entice him to go with her! No way. He did not want all that effort and discomfort. He found it disgusting the way she had to bundle up with boots, gloves, down coat, and that silly red wool beret of hers.

Now she’s off again this morning. I bet that she’ll be late to dinner – with Governor Crapo for Christ’s sake!” Hmnn, whenever we arrive though, she’ll look great in that shoulderless gown she’s going to half wear.’ He smirked.

‘Jeeze, that’s why I married her. She looks so hot in those things, I get a boner just thinking of it. I saw his honor givin her the eye last time we were at the mansion.’

By the time Randy arrived at the main entrance of a green glass-enclosed high rise office building, wind-driven snow was beginning to swirl about its foundation walls and also around the cars parked at the adjacent curb. The winter’s first layer of sparkling crystals was also parking itself on the sidewalk.

The middle-aged overweight man, wearing a felt cowboy hat, striped scarf wound his neck, and lamb’s wool lined leather jacket stumbled his way out of the car. As his embossed high-heeled cowboy boots started to slip in the new snow, he grabbed the side mirror and regained his balance. He threw his keys to the doorman and scuttled manfully up the few steps to where the huge automatic revolving door opened wide for him. He quickly walked past the row of elevators on his left and headed for another, narrower elevator door on the back wall. It was labeled in red “PRIVATE.” It too opened for him, with a whoosh sound when the camera above it recognized his visage. Then it took him quickly up to the eighteenth floor.

The lavish, but peopleless, dimly lit office had only one light on, a huge brass contraption hanging over a monster Scandinavian teak wood desk which rested on the far end of a plush dark blue throw rug. Somewhere in the room a phone started to ring. It quickly cut off and he heard an English-accented woman’s voice.

“This is Emily. It is now 0900 hours on the ninth of December, year 2026. Your Super Remote Teletronic Animal Harvesting Device has made a bear-kill at 0700 hours on this day in sector B345 of the Payette National Forest. Please refer to your electronic map for the best route to this location and contact me for further directions.”

‘Huh. I was going to go over those papers on the ski resort this morning that they better have on my desk right now! I’ll make a mint on that bankruptcy, but it’ll wait one more day. This will be good.

He knew his priorities.

‘This season I am going to get my head for damn sure! It cost me enough. I’ll show those snooty Safari Club types what a griz looks like when I mount that trophy over my fireplace at the family ranch.’

He smiled when he thought about how he had outfoxed those guys and gotten the first grizzly hunting permit in Idaho since the Idaho and Wyoming senators had gotten the bears knocked off the Endangered Species list, by slipping a rider onto a must-pass congressional spending bill.

‘There’s only 200 of them and that’ll make it even sweeter for me. That ticket cost me thirty thousand in the Idaho Predator Hunting Lottery, but it’ll be worth it to see their green-with-envy faces.”

He canceled his appointments for the rest of day and headed back up to his home at the very top of the “dumplings,” the one with the huge American flag waving from the pole next to it. In the cavernous garage he exchanged the vintage sports car for a $155,000 Hummer Special, which was carrying a John Deer Spectral remote-control all-terrain vehicle in its bed. He hastily loaded it with a see-through sealed package containing, among other things, a canvas bag, orange plastic rope, a Bowie autographed hunter’s knife with embossed ivory handle, and a small Husqvarna Diamond chain saw. As he drove the vehicle out, the garage door hissed open automatically and after a few turns, he headed north on Rt. 55, under increasingly lowering, darkling clouds.

During the two hour and a half hour ride he reminisced about the vicissitudes of the old days of bear hunting, when he had to use bait and dogs, and the failed campaign by those ‘lunatic animal lovers’ to infringe on the constitutional rights of hunters to kill wolves and bears in the most efficient manner possible.

‘Its too bad about the wolves though’ he thought. ‘They went too far with those open seasons and helicopter hunts and they probably wiped them out.” Despite Idaho Fish & Game’s insistence that there were a few of them still up on the Lolo, he knew there had been no hunter reports of wolf sightings in the past two years.

‘I never did get a chance to nail one, but a griz will make a better trophy any day” he grinned. ’Its bigger’!

He chuckled ‘You can’t stop progress.’ He mused further on how cave men used to hunt huge cave bears with only stone spears and pit traps, and how physically exhausting and dangerous it must have been for them.

‘None of that for me. These new high tech methods are a big improvement over ‘90s hunting. Now the odds are more on our side, and there is no need to get up at 5:30 AM, bundle up, trudge into the mountains, and get cold, wet, dirty, like Becky is going to be today, and then likely not even get a bear.” He chuckles.

He thought with building excitement about how he would use the new high tech hunting devices he had just purchased, such as a remote sensing device, laser-aimed, computer-controlled semi-automatic weapons (The Feds had pushed through a ban on machine guns and rocket launchers after that Seattle stadium massacre during the COPA soccer matches, ‘Damn them.’). And a satellite tracking game locator that can be set for any kind of animal.  Then he remembered with chagrin that the previous John Deer he had, sometimes misidentified the game animal. One time he took off a whole day to go up the Middle Fork of the Boise River, expecting to harvest an elk, and instead found a cow!

“Holy cow”

he laughed out loud. But then he remembered that he didn’t find it funny at the time.

‘When I gave that dealer a piece of my mind, the guy gave me a real good deal on the new equipment along with a long-term warrantee. That obsequious shit head assured me that the glitch in the harvesting software had been corrected in the new model.’

“It had better be. I paid a mint for it!”

Just then he arrived at the trail head, and still in his cowboy get-up he unloaded the Plexiglas covered, climate-controlled ATV, placed the package in it. Then, he climbed in. He turned on the computer, touched a keypad, and away he went, automatically being driven to his “kill”.

Emily’s silky voice cut in again.

“Now that you have put your ATV in “kill” mode and have become all comfy Sir, I need to remind you that there are a few things that you should be aware of. We cannot control the weather, and have found …te da te da te da ” she droned on amidst a burst of static. Finding the noise annoying, he switched Emily off.

‘Convenient. I wish I could switch Becky off like that’

he chuckled to himself.

With the ATV unloaded at a trail head, its computer ascertained the shortest way to the kill and maneuvered expertly through the heavily wooded area, despite the increasing snow, using its universally jointed, air-oil, independently suspended wheels to get over or around all obstacles, including fallen trees and mud holes. Billy Joe sat back, mixed himself a drink, and turned on the TV. Not finding anything interesting on the Terrorism or Game channels, he switched it off and his mind turned to how he and his wife had argued about this new hunting device.

 ‘We seem to argue about a lot of things lately,’ he grimaced.

“Excuse me honey lamb but it doesn’t sound too sportsmanlike. Is it honey?” He whined in imitation of her.

‘Hey, I told her what for.” “it’s the bottom line that counts” I said.  “Them what has, gets. Nature don’t have no mercy and neither do I.”

He smugly recalled that she had no retort, but that he rubbed it in anyway. “Look at what my ways have gotten you. Hey, how d’ya like that new Givenchy gown I gotcha in Paris?”

That sure shut her up.

The ATV arrived at a shallow but steep ravine and abruptly stopped. It could neither negotiate it nor find a good route around the chasm due to the heavy alder thickets surrounding it and steep hillsides above it. Randy impatiently turned Emily on again and she informed him of this situation.

“I already know that” he snarled.

She went on sweetly to say that the kill was located only thirty feet away.

‘Damn’, he thought, ‘I should have spent the extra money and gotten that model with tree-cutter capacity.’

He cursed again, because it had become more obviously windy and colder. He got out, unzipped the packet, pulled out and put on Mylar coveralls. He started to carry the canvas bag and chainsaw down into the ravine. His boots slipped on the snow-covered scree and he tumbled to the bottom, twisting his knee and striking his head sharply on a protruding rock, which knocked off his Stetson.

He regained consciousness minutes, or perhaps hours later, finding himself at the bottom of the ravine and in a full-scale blizzard. His head hurt something awful and he could not see more than a few feet ahead. As soon as he tried to get up he realized that his knee was hurt badly enough so that he could not walk, and he began to feel panicky. He tried to calm himself but soon began to shiver and drop into hypothermia.

He thought ‘I’ve got to get back to the ATV. Order it to drive me to the trailhead. I can radio for assistance. Satellite tracker will guide the Medevac copter to me.’

As he dragged himself laboriously up over the lip of the ravine, he lifted his head and saw a beautiful red fox standing in the snow, looking at him. He felt a strange kinship with it, but the fox just flicked its tail and calmly trotted into the storm.

“Wait, don’t go,” the bear hunter mumbled.

He looked ahead and dimly perceived an elongated snow-covered form lying on the ground ahead of him.

‘Damn’ he thought. ‘It’s the bear. I climbed up the wrong side of the ravine!’ ” Shit!” He reached out to the form and grasped something that came away in his hand. He looked at it. It was a red beret.

He lapsed into unconsciousness again.

The storm grew in intensity. It would be very cold that coming night on the mountain, just as it has been during the winter for millennia.

THE END OF OIL, AND THE RISE OF DENIAL

 

                  THE END OF OIL, AND THE RISE OF DENIAL       

Climbing Hubbert’s Peak        

         Good evening everyone.  We are here tonight to give you some facts, and some surprises.  We hope that you will like what we call our entertainment.

          I am going to start with a bit of history, about a man with a peculiar name.  Back in 1956, an oil geologist, by the name of L. King Hubbert, published an article in which he predicted that oil production in the United States would reach its peak between 1970 and 1972, and from then on would decrease every year.

         Despite the fact that Hubbert was a respected scientist and that he presented solid evidence for his conclusions, he was derided, laughed at, or ignored by almost everyone in the oil industry.

         Then came 1972.  In that year, oil production in the U.S. peaked, and since then it has declined every year. That, and not oil industry greed, China’s new energy appetite, or rebellions in Nigeria, is the main reason why you paid over $3.00/gallon for gasoline last summer, and our country is dependent on foreign oil.

          By the way, whose bill for heating and cooking with Propane went up this winter? ___________  Mine increased 50%.

         Other scientists have improved Hubbert’s calculations, and have extended the methodology he successfully used to predict Peak Oil in the U.S., to Peak World oil production. They have concluded that world oil production will peak within a few years from now, or has already peaked.

         It is in the nature of the oil industry that the figures given out by oil companies and OPEC countries cannot be trusted.  We only learn about such events sometime after they have happened.

         Kenneth Deffeyes of Princeton University, Colin Campbell, who is a geophysicist, energy investment banker Matthew Simmons, and a Republican Congressman from Maryland, Roscoe Bartlett, have been sounding the alarm. They have been derided, laughed at, or just plain ignored. It is only now, after the price of energy sky-rocketed last summer, that they are getting any public attention at all.    

The End of Cheap Oil

         The impending loss of cheap oil is going to profoundly affect the way we and our children lead our lives.

(enter stage L — a fairy, dressed in pink tutu, with a diamond tiara, and a wand with a star at its end – “she” is flippant and bubbly, and speaks in falsetto, kind of like Glenda the Good, from Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz)

[TF]         “Hi, I’m the Tooth Fairy (TF) and I’ve come to tell you that there’s nothing to worry about. There’s plenty of oil left. All you have to do is look for it under your pillow!”

[KF]         Hey, wait a minute! You’re interrupting a serious discussion. And you look ridiculous in that tutu. These people are here to learn important things that will affect their lives. Please do not interrupt us.  (TF glares at K, petulantly, hands on hips)

         Now, where was I?  Oh yes, even the phrase “oil production,” is misleading. Human beings have never produced even one drop of oil. It was all produced by Nature some 600 million years ago. More properly, we ought to call it “oil extraction.” The amount of oil available is, for all intents and purposes, finite (unless you want to wait around another 600 million years.) When it’s gone, it’s gone, and all the wishful thinking in the world won’t bring back a drop of it.

         Our contemporary, technological civilization is organized around and totally dependant on cheap oil. This situation is being compounded because every year America’s appetite for oil is increasing. China and India’s economies are growing at 10%/year and they are running around the world, trying to lock up all the existing and potential oil and natural gas sources they can get their hands on. When demand increases and supply goes down, the law of economics tells us that the price will increase.         

[TF]         Oh, yoo–hoo! I have an easy solution. You know, when children lose a tooth, all they have to do is put it under the pillow, and the tooth fairy (that’s me!) will come in the middle of the night and replace it with a dollar bill. Now, all you have to do is place your empty gas tank under your pillow and the Tooth Fairy will fill it up with oil made from Canadian tar sands, or Pennsylvania coal, or Ethanol from corn

[KF] Now look here, you demented elf! You are interrupting a serious discourse and making a farce out of this. Leave this room right now, or I’ll Canadian tar-sand and feather you! (TF exits in a huff, stage Rt.)

Say Goodbye To Cheap Oil

         Thank goodness were rid of that ridiculous person.  Magical thinking will not help us. Only a few years ago, the price of oil was 35$ per barrel. Last summer it shot up over $70. 

         Do not allow yourself to be fooled by the short-term ups and downs of the market.  When oil pipelines get blown up in Nigeria, or Putin threatens to cut off Russia’s oil supply to Belarus, the price spikes.  When the Northeastern United States experiences a tropical winter, oil prices dip down. Notice what happened recently to prices at your local gas station when old man winter finally hit New England.

          I am going to go out on a limb and predict that the price of oil next summer will jump over $70 per barrel again (sotto voce – may be even $80) and that the price will go up every year from now on. 

         The high price of energy will profoundly change our lifestyles.  The Global Economy, which is based on the ability to cheaply transport goods from one part of the world to another, will inevitably collapse.  Economies will, of necessity, become localized, and we will have to depend on local food supplies.

         Everyone knows. . .

[OF]   Hi there. I’m the Oil Fairy and I’ve come to tell you that there’s plenty of oil around the Caspian Sea. And, we know there’s lots of oil under the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge without having even drilled test wells there, or ……

[KF]   Great! Another idiot! Look here!  If they started exploring ANWAR tomorrow and found oil, which is not certain, it would take at least 10 years to locate, drill, and build a pipeline to carry the oil down to us. But, it sure would make a lot of money for Exxon, BP, etc. And maybe they can even get Halliburton to build the pipeline.

[OF]           Oh, but what about that oil they just found in the Gulf of Mexico?

[KF]   First, they have to go down 3,000 feet from the surface to the sea floor, and then drill another 5,000 feet to reach oil that may or may not be there.  You see, that oil is going to be very expensive to get, and that is just my point. 

[OF] But all I have to do is wave my magic wand and. . .

[KF] There is no such thing as magic!  You can’t make something from nothing. Why don’t you go away and stop bothering us with your wishful thinking?  (TF stands petulantly, hands on hips, & glares at KF)

         They have looked everywhere, and there are no hidden sources of oil. There is no adequate substitute for oil. You can’t stick a nuclear energy plant in your car and make it run. Too heavy. You can convert coal to gas, but the more coal you dig, the more expensive it will be to get to.  And up and up will go the costs.

         As for corn-derived Ethanol, it is the latest fad of the technofixers. Corn is a very energy- demanding crop.  At least two scientific studies have shown that more energy has to be put into the process than can be gotten out of it.  That’s a heck of a way to free yourself from foreign oil.

         Not only that, but every acre put into production of corn for Ethanol, is an acre taken out of the production of food in a country where the number of food-producing farms is shrinking every year. If our government is so worried about our dependency on foreign oil, how vulnerable will we feel when we become dependant on foreign-grown food?

         This is not theoretical.  The price of tortillas in Mexico has risen 50% in the last few months because a large portion of the US corn crop that used to be sent there has been diverted into ethanol.  And that’s no joke to the average Mexican family, who use tortillas for almost all their meals. 

         If you think that this situation is a concern only for poor Mexicans, think again.  The Associated Press reported only a few weeks ago that “strong demand for corn from ethanol plants is driving up the cost of livestock, and will raise the prices for beef, pork and chicken.” 

         What we now have is what amounts to a competition for shrinking agricultural land between automobile owners and families, who need to put food on the table for their children.  If you will excuse the expression, there is no free lunch, and that is for sure.

What Is Oil Good For?

         The first thing people think about when you mention oil is fuel – energy – energy to drive your car to work, to fly by plane to the West Coast, energy to push that diesel truck up the Interstate bringing cheap stuff to Home Depot and Wall Mart.

         But energy needs are just the tip of the iceberg. Where do you think your anti-allergy pills come from? Your antibiotics?   Most medications are synthesized from oil.  What do you think will happen to your medical bills when oil hits $100/barrel? $200/barrel?

         Does anyone here know what the Asphalt that our highways are built with is made from?  ________________ 

         Did you notice that last summer, Bonner County cut back on paving local roads  by 50%?  And, a few weeks ago, the Idaho Transportation Department announced that they were delaying 2 out of 4 widening projects for highway 95.  Both situations occurred because the price of asphalt has doubled in less than a year. That is just a little taste of what is to come.   Will Idaho be able to build more highways?  We will be lucky if they have enough money to fill in this winter’s pot holes.

                  What do you think plastic is made from? Take a wild guess. ( _________ )

[KF]  Hey, Oil Fairy, do you know how much plastic there is in your refrigerator? your iPod?  your automobile?  I’ll bet even your magic wand is plastic

         Another question for you fairy! Do you like bananas in your cereal for breakfast? Now, don’t tell me you just wave your wand and make them  appear!  Do you know where that banana came from?

[OF] (Timorously) – Ecuador? 

{KF} How many bananas are you going to eat when the cost of transporting them from Ecuador doubles, triples?  Food distribution patterns are going to have to change or we will not be able to feed over 300 million Americans. 

Bioregionalism anyone?

[OF}  I think I’ll leave. The batteries in my magic wand seem to have run down.  I wonder what batteries are made of?  Goodbye.

[KF] Good riddance! Whew! We are finally rid of her! Now, where was I?  

         Oh yes. Let’s talk more about food.  After all, it is your ultimate energy supply.  What is the fertilizer that makes that food grow, made from?  Anyone?  _________

         How about the pesticides and herbicides that they use on farms? What are they made from?  _______________ How much oil did they expend to manufacture the combines, tractors, and the other mechanized equipment found on most farms today?  And, how much energy is used to run them?  How much fuel was expended to transport food from Imperial Valley, California to your dining room table last night?

The Technofixers

         And that’s just the beginning. What about – - – - – - – - – - – (Big rumpus –Technology Fairy enters – stage L)

[TF]  Hi – I’m the Technology Fairy, and I’ve come to save you! Not to worry! I’ve got a technological fix for everything! Just look under your pillow!

(someone in audience shouts – “Hey “Techy,” you’re cute”)

[TF]   I’m not only cute, I’m clever. Hey, do you know what we can do to squeeze more out of an oil field? I can drill on a slant to get oil from under nearby mountains or drill down a mile with offshore drilling rigs.

[KF] (exasperatedly) It’s already been done.

[TF] Oh – well, I can pump water or steam into the wells to push up more oil.

[KF]   Been there – done that. It adds to the cost, and eventually it messes up the entire oil field.

[TF]    Oh – well, I can explore other parts of the world, using high-tech equipment, 3-D computer imaging, and find loads of oil.

[KF]   (addressing audience)  They have almost certainly already found all the great oil fields on Earth.  There is no other place to look for large amounts of oil except the Arctic Ocean and the South China Sea.  That’s why China, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam have recently been threatening each other over that area. I don’t think that superpowers fighting an oil war is going to help lower the cost of oil.

[TF, getting surly]  Yeah, well how about all those hydrogen-driven cars? -  clean, no pollution, free energy. yippee!

[KF]    You know, it’s a funny thing.  Nobody talks about where they’re going to get all those H2 atoms. You see, they’re going to pull them off of – guess what?  _____________ oil and natural gas. That’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul. You see, H2 cars are not energy sources. They are really just big batteries, and where is all that infrastructure to transport the H2 atoms to where they can be pumped into cars? It’s non-existent.  And, are they going to store the H2 in tanks.  I do not think I would want to live near one of them.

(ImageHindenburg exploding)

[TF]   Well, what about all the energy you can get from that Liquefied Natural Gas from Africa?

[KF] Listen, speaking of energy, you’re wasting ours. What’s next? Are you going to invent a perpetual-motion machine?  First, they must transport the LNG at -260° F in tankers.  Then, what do you do with it?  They will need to build special ports to receive LNG, and special facilities to store and transport it throughout the United States.

          Do me a favor Technology Fairy. Get lost!  Put an egg in your shoe and beat it!                                         

[TF]    Well, if that’s the way you feel about it, go drown in your misery. What a grouch! I have a million ideas of how to get more oil. Maybe there’s some on Mars. There’ll always be a technological fix right around the corner. Off I go to find one. Don’t worry – be happy. La De Dah De Dah – - – - – - – -  [exit stage R]

[KF]   Well, I sure hope we’ve seen the last Fairy.

(voice from audience –“Don’t you bet on it”!)

         One of things that most concerns me about Peak Oil is that in our efforts to find substitutes, the world will turn to even more highly polluting fuels, like coal, that emit high amounts of CO2.  This will only exacerbate and speed up Climate Change.

          The end of cheap oil will obviously have profound effects on our lives, both upon our economy and our social structure.  Lanie will talk more about that when she speaks to you about the role of cultural beliefs in the way we treat the Earth.

The Role of Psychological Denial

         If you accept the seriousness of what I have just been telling you, you must be thinking ‘How on Earth have we gotten ourselves into such a predicament?’  After all, there are very smart people in governments, business, and academia all over the world.  How could they have overlooked this situation?  Why did they not start planning for these contingencies long ago?

         I would like to take a few moments to explore these questions because I think that they are important in understanding what we are up against when we try to change people’s attitudes.

         Three weeks ago (3/7/07), there was a public meeting in New Orleans, called by city officials to discuss plans for the reconstruction of the city after the devastation of Katrina.

         After discussing such critical matters as where a new baseball stadium would be constructed and the repair of an historical fort, a woman stood up and demanded to know why strengthening New Orleans’ levies was not included in the plans.  A city official replied that, “It was an oversight, and would be corrected in the revised plan.”

         How would you account for such an “oversight” as forgetting the levies?  There is an explanation for this.  It is called Denial.

         Psychological Denial is a defense mechanism, often put into use when a person is faced with a fact that is too painful to accept, and rejects it instead, despite what may be overwhelming evidence.

 I believe that not only individuals but, entire cultures can go into a state of denial when faced with a situation, which, if taken seriously, would force them to reevaluate their entire lifestyle and change it.

         I believe that is the situation our culture is facing right now with respect to the end of Oil and Climate Change.

          Polls show that it is only recently that a majority of the American people has accepted the reality of Global Climate Change.  This has happened only after: a lot of strange weather, many showings of “An Inconvenient Truth,” and the recent well-publicized report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that states unequivocally that climate change is a reality and that Man has had a central role in bringing it about.

         In order to convince the Doubting Thomases, we need to just keep chipping away, and not get discouraged.  Eventually, their defenses will break down, and they will admit reality.  Of course that long delay may put our entire society in a position from which it cannot extricate itself.

( Joshua Walters comes in, plays “Swimming in D’ Nile” on his guitar, & leads the audience in the refrain)

         The good news is that, we in Sandpoint do not have to wait for our government and most of the country to catch up with our understanding of this situation.  We can start planning right now.  With the help of local groups like ClimateCAN, we can work to assess what needs to be done to make our region more self sufficient in the basics, like food, fuel, and transportation, and to persuade our public officials to start planning for the inevitable.

         Yes, we can come together and start to form a true community like the ones that prevailed in small town America little more than a century ago.  A lot of the changes we have to make will be inconvenient and even painful. But Sandpoint at least will have a head start, and we may find some of the changes even to be good, with a renewed emphasis on family, friends, and community.

 

 

 

                                                   

        

        

         

Ancestors of African Pygmies Separated 60,000 Years Ago

 

ScienceDaily (Apr. 11, 2009) — All African Pygmies, inhabiting a large territory extending west-to-east along Central Africa, descend from a unique population who lived around 20,000 years ago, according to an international study led by researchers at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. The research concludes that the ancestors of present-day African Pygmies and farmers separated ~60,000 years ago.

Pygmies are characterized by a forest-dwelling hunter-gathering lifestyle and distinctive cultural practices and physical traits (e.g., low stature). Two groups of Pygmy populations live in the African rainforests: the "Western Pygmies" and the "Eastern Pygmies". The common origins of the two groups of Pygmies, separated by thousands of kilometers, have been long debated, and their relationships with neighboring farmers remained obscure.

The researchers, led by Lluis Quintana-Murci, studied the genetic profile of twelve populations of Pygmies and neighboring farmers dispersed over the African continent, using sequence data from non-coding regions of their genomes. Using simulation-based procedures, they determined that the ancestors of Pygmy hunter-gatherers and farming populations started to diverge ~60,000 years ago, coinciding with a period of important human migration both within and outside Africa. Much later, ~20,000 years ago, Western and Eastern Pygmies separated, concurrently with a period of climate change leading to large retreats of the equatorial rainforest into refugia.

The common origin of all Pygmies unmasked in this study led Etienne Patin, one of the leading authors, to conclude that "they have probably inherited their distinctive shared physical traits, such as low height, from a common ancestor, rather than by convergent adaptation to the rainforest". However, complete genome-wide profiles of these populations are now needed, both to characterize more precisely their demographic history and to identify genes involved in the adaptation of these populations with different lifestyles to their specific ecological habitats.

 

Journal Reference:

  1. Patin et al. Inferring the Demographic History of African Farmers and Pygmy Hunter-Gatherers Using a Multilocus Resequencing Data SetPLoS Genetics, 2009; 5 (4): e1000448 DOI:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000448
 
 

Newsletters, 2011

Our Newsletters will begin in July, 2011.

With respect to our wild lands,  it will cover topics, such as Hunter Gatherers, Wilderness Survival, and Predator Prey Relationships, with emphasis on the role of wolves in healthy ecosystems. 

The environment takes in an even wider swath, so the Newsletter will also cover Cancer, Climate Change, Peak Oil, and Molecular Genetics, especially Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Anything that effects the health of the Earth is grist for our mill, and hopefully of interest to you. We will therefore upon occasion, wander farther afield if it seems relevant to your interests, to such topics as primitive skills, wilderness awareness, the evolution of man, and so on.

 

 

Please check the News category for the latest topics of interest

Animist Beliefs Compared With Those of Our Culture

Comparison of Taker & Leaver Beliefs

 by Ken Fischman, Ph.D.

(1)  Taker beliefs lead from one to another; they’re linear or sequential. (they do have some side branches – look like an amino acid)

Leaver beliefs seem more or less equal, or mutually dependant; they relate to each other in a non-linear fashion. what worked better: radial symmetry*, as in a medicine wheel or a Radiolarian (primitive protozoan which lives in the ocean)

* resembles a coral or a Hydra (phylum Coelenterata) or an orange

(2) Thinking of religion & mythology – J Campbell says that one of the functions of mythology is an attempt to put human behavior in harmony with the way the Universe as they know it functions. e.g., Venus of Laussel and the lunar cycle. and the first agricultural cities in the Near East (hieratic) which were laid out according to the paths of the sun, planets, and stars. Stonehenge is another example of this principle. These religions, their behavior, and even their city plans, were organized in accord with the way people of that time thought the Universe was ordered.

The problem with Taker mythology/beliefs: not in accord with what we presently understand how science & the Universe are organized. In fact, it puts us on a collision course with these principles. That is why we are on the way to destroying ourselves and the rest of the Earth.

The reason Animist beliefs prevailed for 100’s of 1000’s, perhaps millions of years, and that they did not destroy the Earth & each other – is not because they did not possess chainsaws & rockets, but because their belief systems put them in accord with the physical and biological laws that govern all living organisms on Earth.

The radial/spherical symmetry way of looking at Animist beliefs is analogous to the way the Universe is organized. it ain’t sequential.

I am not sure whether the Earth is radial, spherical or neither. An orange (radial) has 2 poles (flower & stem end): if cut in ½, between poles, you will not get 2 identical pieces. – You can cut it in an infinite # of ways & always get 2 identical halves as long as you include both of the poles. This is the pizza pie principle – an orange = inflated pizza pie. The difference between radial & spherical symmetry: In a spherically symmetrical object,  it doesn’t matter how you cut, because as long as you include the center, you’ll get identical halves.

If the Earth has radial or spherical symmetry: This would be yet another example of Animist beliefs being in accord with the way the Universe is organized.

J Campbell quotes the 15th century  philosopher, Nicolas Cusanus, who said “God is an intelligible sphere, whose center is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere.”

Recommended Books on Earth-Based Peoples and Animism

RECOMMENDED BOOKS ON ANIMISM

COMING HOME TO THE PLEISTOCENE. Paul Shepard.

            Do hunter-gatherers have something to tell modern culture? A brilliant analysis by the most respected scholar on the subject.

DANCING WITH THE WHEEL. The Medicine Wheel Workbook.

            Sun Bear is of Chippewa descent. He founded the Bear Tribe, which welcomes natives and non-natives, and is located near Spokane, WA. His book shows how to apply the Medicine Wheel, based on natural cycles, to your life. Includes the 4 directions.

LETTERS FROM A WILD STATE. Rediscovering Our True Relationship to Nature. James G. Cowan

            Cowen is an Australian, who has spent much time with Australian aborigines as well as with several other indigenous peoples. He brings the lyrical mind of a poet to penetrate deeply into the mythical minds of these people.

MESSENGER OF THE GODS.  Tribal Elders Reveal the Ancient Wisdom of the Earth. James G. Cowan.

            Cowen gains much wisdom and insight from his contacts with the few remaining animists living on islands between Australia and New Guinea. They tell him their personal stories, myths, and legends.

NATURE AND MADNESS. Paul Shepard.

            Shepard’s most profound work. Here he shows how the life cycle of an individual is intimately tied to natural cycles, and what happens when a culture  disconnects it.

ORIGINAL WISDOM: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing. Robert Wolff.

            A psychologist lives with the most remote people of Malaysia, the Sng’oi., and discovers remarkable things about these people’s abilities.

ISHMAEL. Daniel Quinn

             The transformative, award winning novel, depicting the contradictions between the animist and contemporary cultures. 

PROVIDENCE. The Story of a Fifty-Year Vision Quest. Daniel Quinn

            The autobiography of the prize winning author of Ishmael, Quinn’s dream as a seven year old and his vision in a Trappist monastery prefigure his inexorable path to his culminating work.

THE FOREST PEOPLE. A Study of the Pygmies of the Congo. Colin M. Turnbull.

            An anthropologist lives with Congo Pygmies. He admires their lifestyle and social organization, which they manage to retain despite the incursions of Bantu agriculturalists.

THE HARMLESS PEOPLE. Elizabeth Marshal Thomas.

            An anthropologist, as a teenager with her parents lived with South African Bushmen and describes a society that works – wonderfully. She returns 20 years later to see what effect our culture has had on theirs.

THE OLD WAY. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

            The author, who lived with the Bushmen for several years, uses the perspective of her mature years to examine their  culture in depth. It is interwoven with personal experiences and insights, as well as with comparisons to our culture.

THE LOST WORLD OF THE KALAHARI. Laurens Van der Post.

            The beautiful and insightful adventure of a South African WWII hero, who upon his return, searches for & finds the last remnants of the remarkable Bushmen. They are surviving in style in an inhospitable desert.

THE HEART OF THE HUNTER. Laurens Van der Post           

            Continues the story begun in Lost World of the Kalahari. It is an elegiac evocation of both the external & internal worlds of the last of the Hunter Gatherers, written by a keen observer.

THE ISLAND WITHIN. Richard Nelson

            An anthropologist, turned subsistence hunter, goes to an island off the coast of Alaska to find deer and grizzlies. He develops an animist spirituality. This is an astonishingly beautiful book about the relation of a man to nature.

THE TRACKER. Tom Brown, Jr.

            The story of the apprenticeship of seven year old Tom Brown to an Apache scout and elder, Stalking Wolf, in which Tom learns a lot more than wilderness survival skills.

TOM BROWN’S FIELD GUIDE TO NATURE OBSERVATION AND TRACKING. Tom Brown, Jr.

            The almost legendary master of tracking and primitive wilderness survival has written a manual on how to not only survive, but to flourish in Nature’s embrace. Tune into the man, who has reconnected thousands of people to the Earth and gain a little of his ethic and wisdom as a bonus.

THANKSGIVING ADDRESS. Jake Swamp

            Swamp was the Peacemaker for the 6 Nations of the Iroquois. He was head of the Tree of Peace Society. This pamphlet, which is a classic example of Native American thanksgiving, and said on every occasion, can be obtained from John Stokes , of Thetrackingproject.org

THE LOST CIVILIZATIONS OF THE STONE AGE. Richard Rudgley.

         A scholarly analysis of the impressive technological and cultural achievements of our ancient ancestors.

OUR BABIES, OURSELVES: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent. Meredith F. Small.

         A Pediatric Anthropologist examines different cultures’ approach to parenting.

LIMITED WANTS, UNLIMITED MEANS. A Reader on Hunter-Gatherer Economics and the Environment. John Gowdy, ed.

         The interaction between Hunter-Gatherer economics and the environment. Describes a culture in harmony with the Earth.