By: Erin Brown
Although I have forever had great reverence and fascination for wildlife, as of late the increasing contact and interaction between humans and our wild companions has captured my attention and my heart.
From the protests and signage strongly urging the Utah Department of Transportation to install wildlife fencing along I-80, to the recent ‘management’ decision of the Utah Wildlife Board to increase the states cougar hunting quotas, to the round-up of hundreds of Utah’s wild horses to make room for more cattle grazing, it feels like there is a building friction between our wild spaces, the animals that call them home and the ever increasing creep of human interference.
Many of these issues hit me straight in the gut, not only because I am a supporter of both non-violence toward ALL animals and the joys of co-existing with our non-human counterparts, but because what seems to matter most is of what usefulness these animals provide (or don’t provide, for that matter) for humans. Does wildlife provide a direct measurable benefit to me, do they present opportunities for scientific research that will aid in the development of medical treatments, do they assist in making humans lives easier or do their behavior patterns makes things more difficult? This is how we have begun to measure the ‘importance’ of wild animals.
I am not here to blame the scientists, or policy makers, or even wildlife ‘management’* bodies. I am here to discuss the more general idea of useless or impractical creatures. I know that doesn’t sound all that respectful to these animals, but the idea behind it means a whole lot more.
My joy, fascination, deep respect, delight and wonder for the world around me, and ALL the creatures in it, comes from a knowing that they are simply out there. Not that they can DO something for me, or present themselves while I hike or bike in the out-of-doors. Not that their bodies produce chemicals that may cure cancer or the common cold, or that their presence will make for a great selfie to post on social media. But that out there, in the depths of the oceans and the tops of our peaks beautiful creatures live without humans and in many (if not most) cases in spite of humans.
For example, Cuttlefish do not fascinate me because their skin may suggest new forms of military camouflage, but because of the fantastic light shows that sometimes play across their bodies. Rhinos exist not to provide horns for wildlife traffickers to sell to far off lands or even to be on display for ecotourism. Their sheer size and beauty stand alone, whether we are there to witness it or not. How incredible is it to know that right now, as you read this, Spirit Bears are roaming the coast of British Columbia and wild wolves are forming strong family units in their native lands of Yellowstone National Park??
We should value wild life (along with all non-human life) for just BE-ing. For simply existing in their own right. In fact, perhaps it is not even our place to ‘value’ them at all, but instead to solely appreciate their existence and do all that is in our power to decrease our footprint on our planet. This can be one of your greatest gifts, one of the most meaningful ways to ‘give back’, to create space in your heart and in your actions so these souls can continue to exist without human interference.
Wildlife is and should always be useless in the same way art, music and poetry are useless. They are useless and impractical in the sense that they do nothing more than raise our spirits, make us laugh or cry, frighten, disturb, delight and and even provoke awe. They connect us not just to what’s weird, different or ‘other’, but to a world where we humans do not matter nearly as much as we think we do. And that should be enough, more than enough to let them all just be.
*The reason management is in quotes throughout this piece is I believe they are incredibly flawed bodies, with board seats occupied by Industry representatives, business ‘experts’ and political pawns. And I say this loud and clear… the Utah Wildlife Board is a major issues to/for me and for the continued safely of wildlife in this state. See article from above here.