Saturday, March 12, 2011
Just passing through
I had to take a small break from my mountain of term papers, books and exams to share a quote that I have recently come across. I am finishing a course right now on holistic rangeland management and as a part of this class we read a wonderful book called " Revolution on the Range: The Rise of a New Ranch in the American West." The author tells an intriguing story about the transformation that is taking place on ranches across the country and he includes numerous accounts of individual ranchers throughout Colorado and Wyoming. It is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it to all of you!
One of my favorite passages in this book is right at the beginning where the author quotes John Ingalls on grass. He said:
"Grass is the forgiveness of nature - her constant benediction. Fields trampled with battle, saturated with blood, torn with the ruts of cannon, grow green again with grass, the carnage is forgotten. Streets abandoned by traffic become grass grown like rural lanes, and are obliterated; forests decay, harvests perish, flowers vanish, but grass is immortal."
Now isn't that just beautiful!
Reading this book, I found many of my prejudices against ranching to be deeply challenged. At first it was a bit unsettling to feel my beliefs being challenged in such a way (beliefs upon which many of my values and opinions are founded.) My initial reaction was to reject the message of this book because it made me uncomfortable. This was especially true when the author recounts a story about a rancher using a charge of dynamite to blow up a beaver dam because it's presence was causing the creek to be too deep for the man to walk his horse across. I instantly stereotyped this rancher as a red-neck, "Good ol' boy" with no understanding of the dynamics of nature. (Unsurprisingly, he found his creek filled with sediment and the banks eroding terribly a few days later.) But as I continued reading, I discovered this rancher allowed his world view to be changed by the changing sentiments and values in society. He listened, he learned, he went back to school and now he actually gives seminars on holistic range management. Towards the end of the passage this rancher is quoted saying one of the most insightful things I have read/heard about modern day ranching. He said it's not enough to make changes to your ranching that benefit the environment, you also have to sell your changes to the public. He goes on to explain the challenges that task can present and says to be a successful rancher today, you have to be trilingual. "Ranchers speak in stories, the BLM (bureau of land management) speaks in data and the environmentalists speak in poetry."
In the end I find myself whole-heartedly behind the ranchers on the "new ranches" of the American West. I feel like my former prejudices have been pushed aside and I can now see these individual and family ranches for what they truly are; something completely distinct and different from the corporate meat industry that damages our lands, mistreats cattle and passes additives and antibiotics into our beef. For the first time, I feel like I can clearly see the differences between these two drastically different variations of "ranching" and I am embarrassed that it has taken me so long to allow myself to really see what now seems to be painfully obvious.
Another great thing about this book? It's not propaganda., It's not written by an environmentalist. It's not written by a rancher. It's written from the outside perspective of an archeologist who was disheartened by the constant conflict between ranchers and environmentalist in the 90's. He was motivated to act and ended up producing a very good book and founding a non profit called the Quivira Coalition that works to bring ranchers and environmentalist together on common goals.
A voice says, "Cry!"
And I said, "What shall I cry?"
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
- Isaiah 40:6