Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sometimes natural isn't that good.

The Berlin Zoo was recently the center of controversy. Now, I have walked past the Zoo more times than I can possibly remember. When I’m in Berlin the Zoo it is directly between my apartment and the main train station I use. It is five minutes from my door. But I’ve just never gone in. I’ve walked past the well known elephant gates several times a week and yet never gone through the gate.

It’s not that I don’t like animals. I like them very much. One of my favorite ways to spend a week away is to go into the African bush. I used to rent a tree lodge in the middle of a game reserve in Hluhluwe, Kwa-Zulu Natal. First, I walk around the bush in the vicinity to see what wildlife was there. Then we’d drive through the different parks and reserves looking for wild life. We spend some time at the cheetah breeding project down the road and take a drive out to the Indian ocean and walk on the beach. And then we’d head to St. Lucia estuary and cruise the estuary watching the hippos and crocs.

I’ve floated down the Zambezi at sunset watching amazing numbers of animals come to the rivers edge to drink. I remember the sun setting behind the trees and seeing majestic elephants at the river’s edge with giraffe not far behind them. I’ve seen elephants roaming by the hundreds -- and I mean somewhere between one hundred and two hundred of them.

I’ve had monkeys use my roof for games waking me in the morning and wildebeests fighting underneath the lodge keeping me awake at night. And on one occasion we were chased by a rhino -- thankfully we were driving at the time. So the reason I haven’t gone in is simple. What reason would I have to do that when I spent so much time in the African bush?

Now I have a reason. This little guy is Knut and he’s a new neighbor. And one radical animal rights nut wanted the cub left to die. Sweet guy! Knut was born in December. But his mother ignored him and his brother. The brother died. Zoo keepers decided to intervene and rescue this little fellow.

And the environmental fundamentalists went loopy over the idea. We have a pretty good idea what an environmentalists is and what a fundamentalist is but what is an environment fundamentalist? That is someone who treats nature the way the Calvinists treat God. The will of God is absolutely sovereign and we live with his edicts. The will of the Nature is absolutely sovereign and we live with her edicts. If Nature proclaims an animal should die who are we to second guess the will of this god? These are people who turn nature into a deity with the power to decide right and wrong.

A rational approach is that nature is what it is and sometimes it does good and sometimes it does bad and sometimes it needs to be slapped up the backside good and hard. The environmental fundamentalist can’t see it that way. Nature's edicts are sovereign law from throne of heaven.

And Nature said this cub was to die. Now man, according to both religions, is an evil sinner who transgresses against the will of God. In this case the transgression was in rescuing this cub and helping it survive.

Animal rights “activist” Frank Albrecht whined that hand feeding this cub, and saving it’s life, “is not species-appropriate”. Well, Frank isn’t species appropriate either. He’s clearly very inappropriate for our species but no one is advocating putting him down. Not even me though I would be tempted. Frank said: “The zoo must kill the bear.” No second guessing the will of God.

Stepped in bad publicity this ass wipe of an activist tried to back peddle a bit. He said his view was complicated and nuanced and that what he really meant was the zoo should have allowed the cub to die not actively kill it now that is healthy and happy. “If a polar bear mother rejected the baby, then I believe the zoo must follow the instincts of natures. In the wild, it would have been left to die.” See, what I mean. You must never second guess nature. Fundamentalism! In the Greens like this man fundamentalism is just as vicious and deadly as when it drives religionists.

In fact I consider a lot of people like Albrecht to be religious. They aren’t scientists but a cult. They worship nature and want only the “natural”. It’s pretty much rubbish as far as I’m concerned. I’d like to take Frank out to St. Lucia for swim and have Nature pass judgement on him. I can assure him that the crocs would do something very natural with him, of course they may have to wait until the hippos have finished mincing him for them.

Albrecht does not understand that nature is sometimes brutal and foolish. So are we, but lets not endow nature with some divine goodness. Nature is not always good. It is often cruel. Cultists like Albrecht have distorted views of reality but that is typical of fundamentalists. Nature sometimes screws up and does awful things. There is no divine intelligence in nature. It doesn’t work that way. There is no beneficent will behind nature. It is. And sometimes when it acts we have to act and undo what Nature has decreed because it screwed up.

I remember December 26th, 2004 very well. For the previous week I had been desperately trying to book a holiday away that Christmas. And I called every travel agent I could to find to see if there was anything available in Phuket. I had never been and I wanted to share something special with someone I love very much.

I tried every outlet I could but nothing. So I weighed the options and decided we’d go to Sydney for the weekend instead. We got a great room near the top of the Novotel overlooking Darling Harbour. We flew in on Christmas Day and spent the day walking around. I remember turning on the news the next day and seeing the horrific news that hundreds of thousands of people have been killed by a tsunami. I was thankful that the resorts in Phuket couldn’t offer us a room otherwise that’s where we would have been. I wondered about the many people who were on the plane for part of our journey, it was Air Thailand, and many of them were headed onwards to Phuket.

That tsunami was Nature speaking. Should we have allowed those people to die? We intervene in nature all the time and we ought to do so. Every time we innoculate a child against a disease we interfere with nature. Nature saddled me with bad eyes and man gave me glasses so I can see. We don’t forage in the woods for roots and berries. We grow food. It’s unnatural.

And it’s good. I’m glad that nature doesn’t always get things the “natural” way. And if this polar bear understood what is going on he’d appreciate that the zoo keepers prevented nature from taking it’s course. I have always argued that the view of nature taken by these environmental fundamentalists is inherently cruel. And I’m glad Mr. Albrecht spoke out as he did illustrating that point so well.

If you wish to look at photos and videos of this lovely cub you can do so on the Zoo’s web site. And I think that the first nice Spring weekend after I get back to Berlin will be spent walking down to the Zoo and visiting this little fellow. And when I do so I’ll be thinking how great it was that someone had the wisdom to step in and stop the tyranny of nature.

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