By Mark S. Edwards
Why don’t I kill as many critters as I can? I mean a massacre. Call it entertainment, sport, art, ecosystem management or making a living.
Start out small — poisoning plants, anything we don’t eat and some that we do. Move on to bugs, worms; focus first on the non-natives, the invading immigrants, the ones getting in our yards, then branch out to birds. I mean the ones still left, like starlings and sparrows. Might as well include the lingering bluebirds, cardinals, throw in the bats. There aren’t many left and their numbers are dwindling anyway.
Then on to bigger game; snakes, frogs and fish. The tools are just down the street for deer, fox, bunny rabbits, crows and mourning doves — hell, just about anything that flies, fries or moves. We should be plowing up parts of the parks, planting cash crops of corn and beans to pay people to mow the picnic areas. For that matter, what good are trashy trees except for shade and who spends much time sitting outside anyway?
I just want to be fair. I just want to help. I’ll have to hire some people, get a grant, government assistance. It’ll be good for the economy, sell licenses cheap to pay for free ammunition. Wild things don’t produce much of value but you could eat them if you want. What about fish, pigs, chickens, horses and hamsters? Wait — why not dogs and cats? This might need a little more thought.
I don’t want to forget to save a few cuddly ones for advertising corn syrup drinks, cougar cars and butterfly computers. I should keep some for the zoo and the kids, some exotics for the stage shows in Las Vegas. Maybe think about a traveling educational exhibit?
I’ll put pictures on Facebook, color photos of the atrocities, and sell advertising space, something to compete with pornography and sports or combine them all. Wait, this could have its own series, called “Reality Dies” or maybe something softer at first for public TV like “Nature Now,” “End of a Species” or “Master Species Theater.”
Darn, Iowa beat me to it — we are the most biologically altered state in America. We traded 93 percent of Iowa’s habitat for agricultural purposes along with 6 percent for cities and roads. Two-thirds of our roughly 36 million acres are covered in just two annual plants, corn and beans. We killed the native prairies — only 30,000 acres left. It would be hard to do a better job.
All county, state and federal public land together in Iowa amounts to a square less than 39 miles on a side and all these areas are losing native species. We have produced the most polluted surface water in America and continue to reduce habitat for most species.
The Lesser Scaup Duck, the most common diving duck in North America, cannot migrate across Iowa without starving. Ninety percent of all bird species have declined in the last 10 years, including our state bird, the American Goldfinch, by 80 percent in the last 25 years.
Out the car window, we see green but behind the corn curtain lays a world of wounds.
Why is this state advertised as feeding the world when we have to import 86 percent of what we eat and it travels an average of 1,500 miles to get here? We want the facts to fit how we picture this state and when they don’t, we ignore the facts.
These false beliefs might be stronger than reality for a short time but then will fade away just as most species are doing and leave us in a world without frogs, lightning bugs, bird songs — or a future for our families.
Mark S. Edwards of Boone has worked for the Iowa Conservation Commission and is retired from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, where his work included initiating the DNR trails program. Comments: email@example.com