America’s Serengeti

For the most part, birds don’t take people very seriously. Leastwise those that we don’t shoot or feed. Which is, by far, the majority. That might not have been so true when the passenger pigeon used to make the sky over the plains go dark for hours on end. Who knows, though, for sure. We’ve killed off so many creatures by the mere method of depriving them of habitat, how could you tell? The flocks of those delicious pigeons might have been trivialized by the scrawny blackbirds, or the too tough ravens, or who knows what. Early adventurers might not have thought their hoards worth mentioning in their handwritten journals.

I’ve a friend who’s planning a trip to the Serengeti for a safari. I may never make that journey. At 63, who’s to say? But I learned last year that I’d traversed America’s Serengeti four times, and parts of it many times before that. I’m talking about the Great Plains, of course, although it’s probably not a fair comparison, since the Great Plains were so much larger.  They were, however, equally rich in wildlife before Europeans got a hold of them.

The past tense is the proper choice, since the Great Plains are really gone now.  I only realized what we had destroyed by accident last year when I stumbled on early pioneers’ accounts at a rest stop in Iowa. I wrote about it in a prior journal entry (“On the Road Again, August 14, 2006 at (that’s one of the early, long entries, so I’d suggest searching for the date and then for “What is most striking”)). The Great Plains was once the largest meadow in North America, at least, but I only thought of the Serengeti comparison when I heard of Hank’s planned trip.

Nowadays the Great Plains, instead of an even much larger Serengeti, is America’s cereal bowl/meat production facility. Much of the world’s in fact. So I may never get to see a real Serengeti, there being only one left, so far as I know.

But at least I can sit on the edge of the meadow behind my little rental here in Tahoe, watching birds, clouds, and softly moving grass and listen to the sounds of nature, trying, fairly successfully, to ignore the frequent intrusions of the engine or a car or truck on the streets behind me, or the planes that sometimes land at our overly large, but rarely used, airstrip the casinos keep open for the occasional gambling junket from Japan.

It’s beautiful. It’s relaxing. But, sadly, only vaguely reminiscent of that great Serengeti of America that no one now living will ever know. But then, the view is always gorgeous when looking away from the tumor. That’s why they have a National Park system. It’s even more so why almost every town has a park–or many, depending on size. To fool you into not realizing it’s a tumor.

But don’t despair. I spoke of Resonance earlier (May 16th, 2007) and the Mars Society meeting I attended at the start of this month was an effort on my part to build it. Next time: a report. But the first step is realizing, as many in the environmental community already have, our tumorous nature.



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