The Lesson of Yellowstone

A lot of people have been posting this week about the calf in Yellowstone who was euthanized after park visitors scooped him in their SUV. Reactions ranged from incredulity towards the tourists to anger towards the Park Service, and such reactions are to be expected any time an animal is (perhaps unnecessarily) put down. Often I think that rangers are all-too trigger happy, but I’ve never been a ranger so I reserve judgment on that (except at zoos, which shouldn’t exist in the first place).

But it’s strange that one humane death, albeit a highly publicized one, provokes ten times the outrage than do countless inhumane deaths—like those caused by eating and slowly choking on plastic, or by being tortured in vivisection labs. Yes, it’s stupid to take a wild animal and put him or her in one’s car, but before the car even gets to Yellowstone, the death toll required to build, maintain, and drive it (let alone that required to build and maintain the car-centric infrastructure it requires) is astounding—almost incomprehensible.

You could say that at least in this case these people were trying to help, but herein lies the stupidity of humans in general: we think we can control/fix ecosystems. Every time an ecological problem is “solved,” the “solution” creates ten new, worse problems. We can never just leave something alone.

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