Cohabiting With Humans

Hiding is a more effective strategy in the animal kingdom of cohabitation with humans than Fight or Flight. What animals 'thrive' with us? Coyotes, deer, mountain lions (sort of), rabbits moles rats. What's gone? Buffalo antelopes bears moose - they don't hide, they sit and stare at you or they run. Same in Africa. What thrives? Monkeys. Birds. Snakes. Things that hide in trees or burrow in the ground. What's nearly gone? Big game.

While on safari in Rwanda and the Congo this summer the myth of the big game hunter completely demystified. I could not believe my eyes. The most astonishing animals — like elephants, giraffes, water buffalo, lions, antelope, gorillas and so on — just stand there staring or innocently grazing or lie there dozing, while the big hunter walks up and shoots them. Give me a break Hemingway. I am now quite certain the most challenging part of big game hunting is getting there — that is demanding. Shooting big game that does not know it’s being stalked and is not afraid of you is not very sporty. From what I saw it’s ridiculous. I hear it takes days to track and stalk a leopard, that seems like what ‘hunting’ is supposed to sound like. Tracking can be different than hunting though.

Of course I’m somewhat ambivalent about judging as my father was an avid game bird hunter, but also enjoyed shooting bear and wouldn’t have stopped there given the opportunity. Growing up with him hunting since the age of 7 who am I to point the finger? I must have killed hundreds of ducks, geese, pheasant, quail all by myself. You can say as a little boy doing what he was told I didn’t have much choice, but I always questioned the act and relevance even then. Is this supposed to be fun I’d ask myself? It’s not necessary because of grocery stores but fun to pretend what-if in a Daniel Boone sort of way. I stuck with it through high school as it was the only thing my dad did with me, but that didn’t help any birds.

This brings up so many points, animals cohabiting with humans, hunting, relationships, the NRA, really loaded ;) issues. In my early works in Funk I emphasized hunting in quirky ways as it flew in the face of the righteousness of the art world. It was fun and funny to ruffle feathers. But my point in part was art world ribbing, not hunting condoning.

I appreciate that people like to have a relationship with animals and wildlife, but does it still need to resolve in slaughter? Isn’t the animal kingdom’s well-being challenged enough? Old ways die hard though. Europeans came to North America with a blood lust for the slaughter of animals and natives and forests alike. Many still seem to happily inherit those traits. Does Trump really need to roll back environmental regulations all across the board? Why do Republicans generally hate nature? Why destroy forests for short term gain leaving behind a barren landscape for centuries? Let’s see, first it happened across Europe, primeval forests annihilated, then Africa as it was colonized, clear cutting everything in site for crops. Officially, you must grow a crop in order to be a ‘colonizer’. I can tell you that throughout Swaziland, South Africa, and Rwanda (the only African countries I’ve been to) the dominant tree is Eucalyptus, yup, from Australia by way of the Portuguese, the fast-growing replant of the razed natural timber. This stunned me. Anyway, the exact same clear cutting feeding frenzy happened throughout the US since the 1600’s onwards, and is happening as we speak at the pace of an acre a minute in the Amazon. 

Hiding is better than Fight or Flight when it comes to living with humans. Works for terrorists too. Hard to run when your rooted though, says the forest. Stand your ground, become a stump, in hunting a trophy or dinner.