Posted by: r.m. | April 6, 2011

what is ‘natural’?

An interesting discussion on Europe’s largest remaining herd of bison — a mere 470 – in today’s Guardian.

As the animals roll their massive shoulders and step disdainfully away from us through the trees, the question remains: what is natural? The winter-fed bison, at least surviving? A herd not fed or culled, but perhaps living in a forest that was not their original home? Or, if it could be achieved, bison living on open plains? How far back in time do we need to go?

 

Those questions posed apply to animals in numerous countries, in numerous situations.  Wild or stray dogs in Lebanon. (Read this article on the controversy of stray dogs in Lebanon.) Coyotes in Lebanon.  White-tail deer in North Carolina. What to do when we’ve altered the ecosystem to such a degree that we have animals deprived of their natural predator — coyotes without the wolves.

The issue is magnified with Europe’s bison – but not separated from the overall context, the overall situation: what do we do when we’ve altered nature to such an extent that “natural” rarely exists?


Responses

  1. “what is natural ?”, an interesting question indeed. nowadays, we consider everything coming from non-human biomes as being natural, without considering other factors. the case of the bison is a remarkable example as to why we should be reevaluating our methods when differentiating between what is natural and what is not. originally, the bison lived in vast plains and wide areas, and used to feed by itself, wether it is under the hot sun, or in heavy rain. nowadays, the rare bisons left inhabit forests (like the Bialowieza forest cited in the article), and trainers are the one that feed them in winter time, using the process as a way of studying their habitat. This example does not show any thing bad done by humans, it is not of the category of a nuclear bomb, nor of extinguishing a certain species from the world, but it does have an important consequence, that was mentioned (a little) in the article. By changing what was natural in bisons, we are also changing the gene pool of the whole bison family, which is never a good thing, and this is what we should be careful not to be messing with.

  2. “what is natural ?”, an interesting question indeed. nowadays, we consider everything coming from non-human biomes as being natural, without considering other factors. the case of the bison is a remarkable example as to why we should be reevaluating our methods when differentiating between what is natural and what is not. originally, the bison lived in vast plains and wide areas, and used to feed by itself, wether it is under the hot sun, or in heavy rain. nowadays, the rare bisons left inhabit forests (like the Bialowieza forest cited in the article), and trainers are the one that feed them in winter time, using the process as a way of studying their habitat. This example does not show any thing bad done by humans, it is not of the category of a nuclear bomb, nor of extinguishing a certain species from the world, but it does have an important consequence, that was mentioned (a little) in the article. By changing what was natural in bisons, we are also changing the gene pool of the whole bison family, which is never a good thing, and this is what we should be careful not to be messing with. Something is “natural” only when it is left to act on its own.

  3. Biol 207 (not 201, my bad), and sorry for the duplication

  4. What is natural? A question that is hard to answer. Every word is defined differently from one person to another. What may seem natural to me may not seem natural to you. Mainly, natural means anything that is evolved simply from nature and raised in nature without any alterations from humans. Natural is related to creation. This means that anything is evolved like it is created can be called natural. However, in these days, humans are altering the physical habitat of the environment that they live in. As I see, the world “natural” will soon be extinct. Also, it is not possible after any kind of alteration to arrive to the natural state by using inefficient methods like feeding system of the herd that includes pesticides, and still defining that this is natural just because the natural equilibrium was reached. So, the answer to what is natural is in the hands of humans.


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