I just came back from a job-related trip to Indianapolis, where I spent one week training with about 34 other people from different parts of the country. The only thing we had in common was that we all work in medical labs of some sort. Of the 35 of us, only two of us were vegetarian. I learned later that the other vegetarian, a beautiful young woman from India, had never once eaten flesh. I didn’t speak to her at length, but I imagine she didn’t really view it as a choice but rather as a lifestyle that had been instilled in her from birth, a part of her culture and religious beliefs.
We all have choices, but few of us venture outside of our comfort zone or question our lifestyles, our everyday actions, or even our core beliefs. I like to think that humans are somewhat intelligent, but I see examples all the time where people are not thinking about what they say or what they do.
One day while taking a break from our training, I saw a chipmunk directly outside the window that overlooked a small retention pond. This cordoned off area within just feet of Interstate 69 was home to at least one rabbit, chipmunks, muskrats, and some ducks. Naturally, I took a picture of the chipmunk and showed it to a few people in my class and during one of our dinners. Living in Florida, I never get to see them and I was so happy to get to see one up close.
One woman, an employee of the company and a resident of the Indianapolis area, immediately informed me that chipmunks are so destructive. They destroy the little plants in her yard. I was thankful that she didn’t go on to tell me how she and her husband kill the chipmunks who call her yard home. Rather, she uses mothballs as one technique to try and discourage them from coming around.
Another discussion centered on the Canada geese who try to nest close to the window near that retention pond, a little oasis surrounded by concrete and buildings and just a stone’s throw from a major interstate. Our instructor recounted a time when the company hired some people with dogs to come and scare the geese away because they are “such a nuisance and poop everywhere,” so they don’t want them nesting on their property. They wanted to kill them all, but Canada geese are protected, so they did the next best thing and forced the geese to find some other location…hopefully, I was thinking, a location far enough away from the homes and businesses of uncompassionate people who would show the same disregard for their lives. Of course, that is increasingly difficult to find since humans have taken over the landscape.
How ironic. The animals, which were here first, are a “nuisance” and are “so destructive” in the eyes of most humans, while humans continue to mar the landscape with tall buildings made of glass for birds to fly into, build more strip malls, and cover the earth with asphalt and concrete for parking lots, highways, and still more buildings on all sides in all directions.
How can people not see this dichotomy? Are their minds so clouded over so they have no ability to think and reason, so they say what they have been programed to say, think, feel, and do? Or do they just not care, which doesn’t really explain why they would utter such nonsense.
I often wonder if people don’t care whether the whole world is covered in concrete and the only non-human animals left are domestic animals and cockroaches. I for one wouldn’t want to live on a planet devoid of all the beautiful majestic creatures, each one a sentient being just wanting to live and having to struggle just to survive.
People talk about wanting to get away, which often entails going into nature to camp, recreate, be surrounded by beauty, breathe the fresh air, and get away from people for a change. But if we continue to look at certain animals as a nuisance, what sense does that make?
We can’t destroy the planet and the diversity of species and think that these wild places are just going to continue to be there for our enjoyment. “Our enjoyment.” We must look past our selfish interests and view the world from a different perspective. Having compassion for others has to extend to life forms that look different from us. We need a major shift.