A little while back, I was cruising the internet looking for a place to land, reading some blogs, some news articles, some websites, searching for who-knows-what who-knows-where and I came across an interesting blurb that compared the rock star turned hunter apologist, Ted Nugent with Michael Pollan, the environmental author of books like Botany of Desire and The Omnivore’s Dillema. There was a strangeness of similarity in their two viewpoints despite their obvious dissimilarity in their approach to the topic, something which might point to a merging of two movements which for a long while have been separated by politics.
That blurb came to mind just recently when I came across the attached video that concerns itself with a man who cares so much where his food comes from (a self described foodie) that he decides to take up hunting, something he has never done before in his life. In the video, he takes a hunter safety course, learns how to shoot, and kills a duck.
Both of these are interesting topics because they point to a merging of two seemingly different points of contact with nature, that is those who use the wilds and those who seek to protect them. Not that these categories are mutually exclusive but I’m talking about what each camp emphasizes here.
I have for many years been a hunter and a tree hugger. I also care where my food comes from and for the most part, what I don’t shoot, I raise or grow. All of this, my foodie-like tendencies, my interest in hunting, and my environmentalism, I believe have a central source.
This is it: I grew up in Western Michigan on 10 acres of field and forest. This 10 acres was surrounded by an 80 acre plot to the East, and several other large plots running every other direction. My brother and I were outside most our lives, shooting bb guns, exploring cricks and swamps, being inundated with our nature. After exploring our acreage we would run the neighbors yards as well and because of these journeys, every place would have a story associated with it. We knew these places. They had become loved by us, and we knew that we wanted to keep them as they were in our childhood.
Throughout high school and into college I would backpack, ride my mountain bike, hunt for wild foods, fish and cross country ski. I would be outdoors. I remember one year in college that I would go out running, hiking, cross country skiing, or snow shoeing while I reviewed the names of the trees that I learned in my Ecology of the Northern Forest class.
I was outside every day that year exploring and playing. My professor of this class was also an avid hunter and environmentalist. Back then I thought this type of person was rare, but one thing I think learned from him above all else was simply a love for the wild places. He used to get off trail as he lectured and give wanderlust tales concerning the woodcocks drum on old oak stumps and the uncovered nests of flying squirrels. He used to preach the love of nature and as a result of this, the protection of it.
This is before I learned of organizations such as the Izaac Walton league and other conservation minded organizations that included hunters in their mix. It’s also before this phenomenon of the foodie hunter and the primitive diet fad which has so many of its followers hunting around for wild meat. My professor was sincerely different than many of the environmentalist and hunters that I grew up with and many times different from the ones that I meet where I live now.
Currently I live in the suburbs of a large city in Michigan. I always find it strange when I meet someone that is a hunter or an environmentalist here, because many times they have no love for the woods. Well, the hunter does love the woods, because he goes into it every November usually smitten with beer and buck fever and the environmentalist loves it because of climate change, environmental degradation, etc. But many of them never really get out into the woods to explore on a weekly basis, many of them haven’t cultivated an awe of these environs that they get down on their knees to inspect the leaf, the bud and the flower. They love it for their particular agendas, but the agenda many times precedes their interest in nature.
I am an environmentalist and a hunter because my love for the natural beauty that surrounds me precedes these agendas. I’ve grown up with all these experiences in the natural world and like the places in my childhood, I feel a connection to this earth because of these experiences. Hunting without love of this place creates individuals who think the forest is their’s to loot and destroy, and interestingly enough I think environmentalism without a true love for this place leads to a public who is frightened that their world outdoors is other, foreign to them, and think that at any time it could turn on them and destroy them (Louv makes this point in the video I mention below).
But a true love for nature, meaning getting outside and exploring your environment with an intention of knowing your environment more, “makes (the person) familiar with natures ways and forces so that he is not so helpless in the presence of natural forces and disaster” (Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature study, 2) and promotes a feeling of conservation and sanctity of life (12-13). This is why studying and learning from the natural world is so important right now.
If you have a love for this place in this way, you will understand how to use it in a way that promotes its continual life, because you will know how it functions and you will know its limits. This ethic should inform both hunters and environmentalists. Hunters should use wisely and promote wise use and environmentalists should know that you can’t preach recycling and care of the earth unless you have people that know and love the earth. This ethic, however, not only pertains to hunters and environmentalist but to scientists, farmers, builders, and any one of us who use and benefit from nature; that is, all of us. But unless nature study has a prominent place in our modern world, then we will continue to use our natural resources without the respect and care that they deserve.
Richard Louv, in this video, talks about how children in the modern day of digital distraction are less and less getting outdoors to explore and play in the wild that surrounds them. For him, this lack of nature study is telling on the environmental crisis. Children that get outdoors know and love the outdoors. Why? Because this is their environment, this is where they have been placed. It is their’s to discover, and when you are able to explore and discover a place on your own, not just learn facts about it, but actually discover facts, then having a desire to protect and preserve it comes natural.
One of my favorite quotes is by Andrew Fletcher, as quoted by Juan Luis Borges in one of his non-fiction pieces. Fletcher writes, “Let me write the nations ballads and I don’t care who writes the laws.” Hunters and environmentalists, those who use and those who seek to protect this earth, both have a tendency to push for legislation that will protect their interests. But I think this emerging trend of the foodie hunter and the hunter environmentalist points to something that could benefit both without the long fought battles of politics. That is simply this, if we teach the ballads, that is if people from an early age have an education in nature then I think the wonders, the mystery, and the reverence for this place will do a lot more for both causes then laws and codes could ever do.