PARANOIA STRIKES DEEP
chance intersection of a 1967 song and a 2016 election-year editorial,
neither of which said a word about plants or animals, set me to thinking
about ecology. Neither intended to evoke thoughts about the environment,
but both did.
I was reading
an article by Carolyn O'Hara, managing editor of The Week magazine,
when the Buffalo Springfield song "For What It's Worth" popped
up. The O'Hara editorial was laser-focused on the presidential race
and government conspiracy theorists. The song by the rock group is a
classic protest song. The common thread was paranoia, which led me to
consider some people's response to the outdoors.
level of environmental and wildlife paranoia has been present throughout
history, but in recent years that paranoia has reached epidemic proportions
in modern society as humans drift further away from connections with
nature and the outdoors.
I am concerned
that people now find more to fear in their ideas about the wilderness
than they find to enjoy. It appears our rational evaluation of risk-assessment
has gone awry. If some of today's attitudes about the outdoors had prevailed
with early pioneers and explorers, Lewis and Clark would still be in
downtown St. Louis.
I do not understand, some people have a dread, even terror, of certain
animals that could harm or kill us though the odds of that happening
are statistically near nonexistent. Yet these same folks appear to have
no concern about other activities that eliminate hundreds of people
driving while texting strikes me as an activity much more likely to
end badly than a trip to Everglades National Park that is home to pythons
and crocodiles or Yellowstone where wolves and grizzly bears roam free.
Doesn't the lowest level of common sense tell us we should put an end
to texting while driving and spend little time worrying about the hazards
that could befall us from wild animals in national parks?
paranoia extends beyond irrational fears about wild animals, sometimes
with a hint of politics. For example, some people and organizations
promote the idea that we no longer need the EPA. Why on earth would
anyone want to reduce regulations that keep the water we drink and air
we breathe from becoming contaminated? Rivers and streams not polluted
by industrial, agricultural or domestic wastes should be a given in
has been a guarantee of Congress since President Nixon was in office.
The next time you hear someone espousing the idea that we eliminate
programs that regulate and assure healthy environments for everyone
to enjoy, take a look at who is profiting personally and commercially.
My bet is they live upstream or upwind and that they benefit from instilling
paranoia in the public against a well-meaning regulatory agency that
is setting regulations for our own good.
the fauna that inhabit our planet can indeed kill us. And an African
lion, Australian saltwater crocodile or Great White Shark could not
care less that we are human. A person is no more special than any other
protein bar to such predators. But that's no cause for paranoia or even
alarm. The odds against being eaten remain overwhelmingly in our favor.
fear and paranoia keep you from a rational assessment of the personal
risk (minuscule) versus the impressive benefits (substantial) of experiencing
enjoyable, even spectacular, natural habitats. If you tally up human
deaths from wild animals, you will find that far and away the most dangerous
animal you are ever likely to encounter in the wild is another person.
of or paranoid about the natural world is flat-out unreasonable. We
need to develop a culture that does not fear wildlife and a worldview
that appreciates and respects all of nature. If you want to worry about
something, worry about whether the person in the car next to you is
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