Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Stewards of the Land

The now infamous photo of a fireman giving water to a koala that survived Australia's wildfire has been seared into my mind. I feel sad for the many human victims of the disaster down under but nothing compares to the anguish I feel for the lost terrain and wildlife.

People have greater chances of survival in such situations. I don't know all the details of this particular travesty, but generally humans have the opportunity to get out of harm's way. Wildfires are a little trickier than some events because they have been known to jump, winds can be less predictable, and people near the initial outbreak are more prone to be caught by surprise. Those that choose to wait until the last possible minute to get out are just asking for trouble and I honestly don't have much patience with them.

Tornadoes, lightning strikes, tsunamis, earthquakes and other sudden events do evoke more sympathetic responses from me so I am not totally brash.

Still, I get the impression that people don't really think about the consequences of disasters as they relate to animals and the environment. While approximately 200 people have perished in Australia, more than 1 million animals have been sacrificed not to mention the charred terrain encompassing an area twice the size of London. What seems to be the act of an arson has completely disrupted the balance of nature on the other side of the world. Trees and plants provide oxygen, the food chain leading up to human needs has been interrupted. In the case of the Koala, eucalyptus forests were destroyed and will limit their grazing territory.

Humans are stewards of the land and animals yet we destroy rain forests and wildlife with the belief there is "plenty to spare." New species have been discovered in South American jungles in the last year. We have no idea what unknown creatures were destroyed in Australia. Animals (including humans) and plant life interact to maintain balance in nature. When there is a major jolt to the system, the balance will fail.

We may not see change right away, but the effects will be felt thanks to a pyromaniac. When watching the news, look beyond the human travesty and take in the whole picture before "ewe" think it only affects another herd.


  1. As you are aware, I lived in Los Angeles for 30 years. In reading your piece and thinking about the Australian fires, I realized how one's experiences dictate one's appreciation of the loss.

    Fires are a regular part of life in Southern California. In fact, there is what is referred to as "fire season." There were fires in the Sepulveda Pass within 1 mile of my home. I once traveled by train to visit my girlfriend near San Diego, and upon my return, the trains had to be postponed because the fires had jumped a six lane highway. Finally, Northern California was not immune. My partner and I traveled to Detroit for business, only to turn on CNN and see his neighborhood in the Oakland Hills ablaze. One of our associates lost her entire home during that blaze.

    In thinking about all of that destruction, I realized that there was very little noticeable loss of wildlife because the areas are so densely populated, and they had been forced out of these areas previously. Fortunate for them.

  2. I once attended a conference in Seattle, and for dinner one evening, we got on a ferry and traveled to a nearby island, where the Native American Indians of the area prepared salmon in the traditional manner. After completing the meal, any salmon waste was returned to the water so that the salmon could be "reincarnated" so to speak. It is my understanding that the natives always had a synergistic relationship with nature.