'A Hunter generally know more about the animals they depend upon than any natural historian looking at them from the outside whist they additionally have a vested interest in their continued general well being.' - indeed, that knowledge through use is a completely different beast to knowledge for its own sake, or simply for aesthetic appreciation (at a distance). I'm glad that a major part of my coming to understand the 'natural' world was because I got interested in foraging and herbalism and wanted to know what you could use any particular plant for - a very different, more active way of being outside. There's a danger of getting stuck in that utilitarian perspective and starting to exploit the 'resources' around you, but for me that was quickly tempered by observations of a few times when I took too much and the plant didn't recover. A respect and understanding of what was appropriate came along soon after that, and when I read this in Kat Anderson' 'Tending The Wild' (a great book detailing all the ways native Californian tribes actively managed wild food sources) it made total sense:
'Several important insights were revealed to me as I talked with elders and accompanied them on plant gathering walks. The first of these was that one gains respect for nature by using it judiciously. By using a plant or an animal, interacting with it where it lives, and tying your well being to its existence, you can be intimate with it and understand it. The elders challenged the notion I had grown up with – that one should respect nature by leaving it alone – by showing me that we learn respect through the demands put on us by the great responsibility of using a plant or an animal.
Many elders I interviewed said that plants do better when they gather them. At first this was a jarring idea – I had been taught that native plants were here long before humans and did best on their own without human interference – but it soon became clear to me that my native teachers were giving me another crucial gift of insight. California Indians had established a middle ground between the extremes of overexploiting nature and leaving it alone, seeing themselves as having the complementary roles of user, protector, and steward of the natural world. I had been reading about how various animals’ interactions with plant populations actually benefited those plants – how grizzly bears scattered the bulblets of Erythronium lilies in the process of rooting up and eating the mature bulbs, how California scrub jays helped oaks reproduce by losing track of some of the acorns they buried – and it seemed plausible that the many generations of humans in California’s past had played a similar role. If it was true that native plants did better with our help, it meant that there was a place for us in nature. (Tending The Wild, p.xvi)'
'Hands-on plantsmen and farmers likewise generally understand a lot more about the natural world around them and how their own interventions to grow vegetable crops can effect the rest of the natural world: often in ways that effectively make hunting seem utterly benign, than the morally pure city Vegan righteously preaching his innocence.' - yup. As a bad-tempered young farmer told me recently: 'there's no such thing as vegan farming'. How do they think you can plough or rotovate a field without killing innumerable tiny organisms? How are the crops going to get fertilised? What about the rat poison that invariably gets put out when they start nibbling every last carrot, making them unsellable? What about the squished or otherwise 'controlled' slugs and aphids? What about the fact that appropriating a patch of land for growing human food unavoidably takes that potential habitat away from all the species that could have made their home in woodland, heath, marsh, bog? etc etc... I could go on all day!
Nice article, thanks. I kick myself because I had the opportunity to go on that trespass he led near Brighton, but didn't get motivated enough to look up transport options so it passed me by, d'oh!