Thursday, March 22, 2007

When Values Collide 

This story is interesting because it points to a growing problem in the United States -- the mixing of wildlife and people. The citizens of Florida don't mind that the crocodile has returned as long as the crocodile doesn't show up in their backyards. But, in many wildlife categories that is what is happening from bear through turkeys, opossums, raccoons, coyotes, groundhogs and deer. There was a bear in my town this year that caused general panic, and deer are as common as squirrels but wreak more damage.

Citizens subscribe to environmental values that have allowed these critters to thrive, but they also want to grow gardens and not worry about animals pooping on lawns, slashing garbage cans, making off with pets and denuding flower beds. Thus, for example, in towns through the Northeast, citizens have accepted the need for killing deer to cut down on populations roaming freely. They expect wildlife control will come and cart away brown bears to a wilderness "somewhere."

The problem continues to grow as more people move into areas where wildlife have long felt at home and as wildlife learn people won't hurt them. What has happened is interesting from a PR perspective. It is a growing clash in values. By subscribing to environmentally responsible living, citizens have allowed the environment to return in ways they don't like. One or the other has to give eventually.

It seems to me that environmental values will yield over time to practicality in many towns, and it will be better in the long run. Our town was paralyzed for years because a substantial group of citizens couldn't bear the thought that a deer might be killed. It took an environmental study to prove that deer were out of control. I wonder if it will take an environmental study to prove that bear don't belong in flower beds.


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