Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Pro" is for "Progressive"
Been a while since I posted.  Life has been busy. I'm sure other parents can relate. 
Part of what I'd hoped to do with this blog is explore what is of lasting value in our progress as human beings, but without disparaging or forgetting what has always been valuable.  In our consumer oriented culture, we tend to look at old ways of doing things as somehow inferior to the new.  While sometimes this has led to unforeseen negative consequences and unnecessary suffering, just as frequently human resourcefulness and advancement has had the opposite effect.  I joke about being a Luddite, but I am also very aware that if I was a Neanderthal, without modern medicine to address the serious knee injury I suffered in my mid-twenties, Nature would have selected against me a long time ago.  I am very glad to be here.

I would separate technological and social advances into two groups; those that support the meeting of our basic needs without inhibiting our evolution as human beings, and those that don't.  The former are generally easy to distinguish from the latter.  Typically they are motivated by long tested values such as compassion, empathy, justice and generosity.  Not to mention being functional and pragmatic.  An example would be the afore-mentioned modern medicine.  As much as doctors can be maligned for common human weaknesses such as greed and arrogance, the underlying motivation for those in the helping professions is a concern for the well-being of others.  They have a code of ethics which helps to preserve a focus on this value, so fundamental to the spirit and reputation of their profession.  We, as customers, depend on this code to protect us.  It allows us enough assurance and faith that we can put our very lives into someone else's hands.

An example of non-progressive advancement would be the evolution of weapons of war in modern times.  While it has been said that such things protect us, and are a "deterrent" to aggression, their proliferation contributes to an exponentially increasing potential for destruction, intensification of fear, and divisiveness.  The underlying motivations for improving weapons technology these days are generally not from a sense of justice, generosity, empathy, or compassion.  More like cynicism, suspicion, and considering the money involved, self-interest. 

"So," you ask, "if you hate weapons so much, how do you explain the fact that you use weapons to hunt with?" 

My answer is simple.  I don't hate weapons, I distrust what is made with the express purpose of killing or dominating other humans, and I regret their occasional necessity.  War is a reality, and a defensive response to naked aggression is easily justified.  But we need not be at war with the animals we hunt.  They have not improved their technology one bit.  For my hunting purposes, I use as little as possible to get the result I am looking for.  That is my ethic, and this is where "progress" and "primitive" intersect.  To my mind, some things need little or no improvement.  Sometimes, we get it right, and it is good enough.  There is a tipping point where a development stops serving an ethically constrained need and starts to serve something, shall we say, a little less wholesome.

Our ancestors needed to eat, needed to defend themselves.  As I've said before, tools were developed that allowed this to happen, primarily made of stone and sticks, and our ancestors were very successful with such tools, (as evidenced by the fact that I am writing this, and you are reading it).

Today, I too have needs.  They compel me to find resources for myself and my family, and, like the doctor, it is important that I do so with a focused attention on ethicsWhether that is through my job, or through hunting, the principles are the same. In my work, when I get my needs met in a manner that harms my client, either through exploiting a weakness or by manipulation, I am in the wrong.  It doesn't matter how long I get away with it, or how much money I make from it, nor does it matter if my client deludes himself into thinking that he has benefited. I am still in the wrong. 

If I go hunting with a tool that twists the natural predator-prey relationship from being a mutual struggle for survival, to one where I nearly always win without breaking a sweat, I am in the wrong.  It doesn't matter whether I acquired a Boone and Crockett record, or the admiration of my peers, or a sponsorship from the hunting industry. 

To me, this is an ethical decision.  There may not be a clear line of what hunters should or shouldn't use for hunting, but it is clear to me that all hunters need to ask themselves these ethical questions: "Will this tool give me an unfair advantage?"  "If everyone hunted like I do, how would that impact the population of animals I hunt, or the habitat they need to exist?"  "When I leave, will my presence here have enhanced or inhibited the enjoyment that the next person gets from this place?" or, "How will it impact the next animal  that passes through?"  "How do I give back in return for the privilege of hunting?"  "Have I earned the right to be here?"  "Did I allow greed to make my decisions, or another, higher motivation?"

When I consider these questions, they lead me to:

- Hunt with a self-bow, and aspire to hunt entirely with tools I have created, from natural materials that I have acquired myself.

- Eliminate all electronic technology from my kit. 

- Use a traditional compass and aspire to navigate through observation of the sun and stars.

- Take only what I need, or what my family and friends can use, within the limits of the law. Be proud when that means I don't take my "limit."

- Attempt to use everything.  Waste nothing.  Something died, as we all will, and I need to respect what was left behind, as we'd all want for ourselves.

- Hunt on foot.

- Practice low- or no-impact camping and travel.

- If a species is endangered, excessively vulnerable, or severely pressured, I won't hunt it.  This means no water-hole blinds in times of drought, no endangered sage grouse (even if the season is open), and no hunting over bait, among other considerations.

- Knowing that the interconnection between all living things is both more vital, and more complicated, than I can fully understand, I try to get involved in protecting the habitat, health and populations of all animal species.  Whether I hunt for them or not.

My hope is that this list will not be the end of this exercise; that others who read it will expand upon it, argue against it, or otherwise help me refine it into something that will be truly useful.  Our natural world and the creatures that inhabit it are in crisis, one that we have at least partially inflicted upon them.  We must take responsibility for what we do, and the impact that it has.

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I just today (after many months of the Blog being up) figured out how to allow comments on the things I post. That has always been my intention, but apparently I didn't know how. I will moderate the comments, but I welcome disagreement as long as it is civil. Strong language in the heat of passion is okay, abuse and personal attacks are not. Enjoy yourselves!