I have so many things on my mind lately, politics in particular since the Race for the Presidency is off and running. But, there’s plenty of time for that, right?
I listened to a re-broadcast of Fresh Air with Terry Gross this afternoon (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/08/138924127/in-1493-columbus-shaped-a-world-to-be). She interviewed the author of 1493: Uncovering the World Columbus Created. Not only is there a vast amount of history that we are never taught in school, or see on television or in the movies, but the author, Charles C. Mann, delves into how drastically ecosystems in both the New & Old Worlds were changed by this epic event. You can go here: http://knopf.knopfdoubleday.com/2011/08/09/1493-by-charles-c-mann/ for more information as well.
Did you know that the New World did not have smallpox, malaria, measles or influenza? Why? Because there were NO DOMESTIC ANIMALS in the New World.
Did you know that by exporting bird guano (aka bird poop) to the Old World to use as fertilizer, along with potatoes from Peru that the Irish Potato Famine was put in motion? More about the Irish Potato Famine here: http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/famine/ I never realized just how terrible things got in Ireland until I watched an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?”. A celebrity, and I don’t remember who it was, was searching for his/her roots and the path went back to Ireland. The celebrity’s ancestors lived and died during this period.
Many years ago I started reading The Conquest of Paradise by Kirkpatrick Sale. After reading how Columbus and his men cut off the hands of the indigenous people and/or set loose dogs on them to tear them apart, I stopped reading. I’m going to have to find that darn book and do my best to make it all the way through.
But, what I take away from all this, now more than ever? We do not know the full consequences of our actions, even when they are seemingly benevolent. And, throughout the Fresh Air broadcast, the argument over native/non-native species is really, pretty much, moot. European bees caused the die-off of native bees. Earthworms did not exist in the Americas and caused native trees to die off, allowing new species, like pines, to replace them. So, to all you cat-hating scientists out there, let’s talk about cattle, goats, sheep, horses, earthworms, bees, etc. in addition to cats when we start bemoaning the damage done by non-native species. Then again, had the Europeans just stayed home, few if any of these non-native species would be here today.