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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 great abundance

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.
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Click here to visit Steve's Web Site

 

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