CHAPTER 4 -
FORAGING AND THE ECOLOGY
Excerpt from the book: SHOOTS AND GREENS OF EARLY SPRING
in Northeastern North America
By "Wildman" Steve Brill
Wouldn't plants face mass extinction if everyone took up foraging? This specious argument
is put forth by people who presuppose humans to be apart from, not a part of nature. If
you've educated yourself sufficiently to identify edibles and to avoid poisonous plants,
you're certainly not going to extinguish your objects of study. When an edible is sparse,
you'll let it regenerate, while searching for it in another location, where it may be in
There is a difference between renewable and nonrenewable resources. If you pick the leaves
of a dandelion, they will grow back. If you cover a park with a subway yard, all you'll
ever reap is a crop of graffiti. All living things use renewable resources which are then
recycled. That is the basis of ecology. We should try to concentrate on using our
renewable resources and preserving the nonrenewable ones.
We're constantly picking plants in this society. Municipal mowers cut down more plants in
an hour than an army of foragers could eat in a season. Anyone with a backyard or garden
is constantly cutting down lambs-quarters and uprooting dandelions, usually with little
success. The difference with foragers is that we're more conscientious about what we pick,
and we eat our collections.
Nevertheless, our ecosystems, the source of our economy as well as of life on this planet,
is in trouble. On a local level, public officials are more concerned with building
baseball diamonds and restaurants in the parks than they are with the plants. It's
destruction of habitat, not ecologically oriented foraging, that's endangering our
wildlife, and city agencies are always ready to make unsavory deals with equally unsavory
contractors to "improve" the parks and do away with "all the ugly
weeds," usually at great public expense.
When I ride through local parks on my mountain bicycle collecting my dinner, I can travel
for hours without encountering a soul. Our parks are underutilized and neglected. Since
nature abhors a vacuum, it's not surprising that sections of certain parks become
well-known marketplaces for the drug pushers and muggers, and that there is no public
reaction to the official ecological murders described above.
We need more responsible foragers, bird watchers, artifact hunters, butterfly collectors,
amateur zoologists, hikers, runners, and other kinds of nature lovers in the parks,
including educated park personnel, to displace the undesirable elements and to head off
any possible official mismanagement.
We also need more police back in the parks. The urban park rangers, who currently patrol
the New York City parks, are all too ready to ticket law-abiding citizens for parking
violations or minor infractions. They're often eager to defend their superiors' errors
(although there actually are some ecologically oriented horticulturists who've joined the
Parks Dept. and are doing some good work), and they're neither empowered nor qualified to
go after the violent criminals.
If you use sane common sense when you forage, you won't harm the habitats, and you'll be
adding a vitally -important nature-lover to the environment.
Click here to visit Steve's Web Site