Sunday, 30 December 2012

Causes, Effects, and Responsibility in the Environment and in the Craft

This morning on the way to work, there was a discussion on the radio with an environmental expert regarding caring for the environment, motivations, and causes.  The statement was made that we shouldn't worry about is climate change man made or is it mother nature.  He discussed a couple examples.

One type of bird is breeding much earlier because spring comes earlier, and people are worried, thinking the bird shouldn't have to change the breeding times to adapt.  He said there's nothing wrong.  Adaptation is natural and there's nothing to worry about.

Another type of bird lives near the polar ice cap.  It gets its food from the edge of the ice, flying out, then bringing the fish back to its young.  It is now having to fly over 100 miles each direction, and can't keep up to keep its young fed.  He said this is a problem, because it's not adaptation, but being unable to adapt enough.  He said if we value the species, we should do so because of that, not because of climate change being caused by man or not caused by man.

That was his general premise over all.  If a species or habitat or resource is important to us, we shouldn't worry about what's natural and what isn't, we should take steps to preserve it.

While I agree that is is just as dangerous to assume all changes are man made and therefore try to stop them in all cases as it is to assume all changes are natural and should be let to happen regardless of the consequences, the idea we should intervene for those things we value and let those we don't be lost seems just as dangerous.  Are we able to truly make that decision?  I've seen examples of both the first two, living in the west.

For decades upon decades, the Forest Service fought every fire that started, putting out all of them they could.  This was bad because fire is a natural way that the forest rejuvenates itself, destroying the old and dead and deceased, and stimulating new growth.  In response to the realization of this, there was a swing to a "let it burn" policy, where fires were only fought when they directly threatened buildings and homes.  This was equally as bad, especially after years of putting out all the fires.  The fires spread out of control and were disastrous.

Another example is logging in Oregon.  For years, the big companies over-logged, clear cutting huge areas and not replanting.  The small companies cut much smaller areas and replanted because they couldn't afford the fines, but the big companies found it cheaper at that scale to pay the fines than to replant.  In response, the spotted owl was found as a reason to stop logging of old growth forests (I won't go into the issues of that, as, if it wasn't the owl, it would have been something else). The results?  Small companies went out of business because they couldn't afford to replace their equipment to handle smaller trees.  The big companies could, so continued to overcut and not replant but now had less competition.  The net result was preservation of old growth, but heavier impacts on the environment as a whole and expansion of big business.

And, an example of focusing on what "we" (in this case, people not living anywhere near enough to be impacted) value is the wolves in Yellowstone.  The environment had been without that type of predator for over 100 years if not longer.  The wolves were hunted down in Canada with helicopters, some mated pairs were separated, and the wolves were dumped into an environment they weren't used and wasn't used to them.  They multipled much quicker than expected because they had a tremendous food supply and no competition or threat.  Livestock were killed and ranchers retaliated, often in horrible or unnecessary ways.  A local wolf species vanished.  Several species suffered greatly.  In short, it was a mess.

The issue is, if we make decisions based on what things we like, we will most likely make things worse.  As Cochrane said, "Do not do what you desire, do what is necessary."  We need to analyze and understand before we act.  We need to minimize our impact on the environment, both when we would harm it and when we attempt to fix it.  Yes, we need to act to save and preserve in some cases, and definitely need to cut back on the damage we do, but to subjectively save things we like and let things we don't be lost can impact things in very destructive ways.  Imagine if we said, "we don't like stinging things or spiders, so we'll less all bees and spiders die out, maybe even try to kill them off."  The impact of that would be unimaginable.  Yes, that's an extreme, but we need to be concious of the effects of our actions, regardless of our intensions.

This is true in magic and witchcraft as well.  Magic and witchcraft are the process of creating change, and those changes ripple out.  There are effects of every action, even if it's a metaphysical or supernatural action, and they don't all become obvious right away.  We need to think through our magic before doing it, observe the results, both direct and indirect, and learn from those observations for future workings.  Caution and attention is necessary, magic should not be done unthinking and without observation.  Not to say that means to avoid all workings, just to be concious of our actions and of the effects, and to take responsibility for what we do.

~Muninn's Kiss

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