[permaculture] Lions and elephants on the Great Plains?

Ben Martin Horst benjamin_horst at myrealbox.com
Thu Aug 18 18:48:42 EDT 2005

I wouldn't go so far as to call it TOTAL idiocy. The well-respected 
Australian biologist Tim Flannery, for example, makes a pretty good case 
in his book "Eternal Frontier" that the extinction of most North 
American megafauna about 10,000 years ago left major holes in many 
ecosystems that still haven't been filled. He claims that Arctic 
environments were once much lusher, more closely resembling prairie than 
what we think of today as tundra, due primarily to grazing by mammoths. 
Mastodons opened gaps in the canopies of Southeastern and Southern 
forests, allowing successionary species to move in, and letting a few 
young trees to sprout here and there among all the ancient giants. In 
general, North America was a friendlier place for humans to live 10,000 
years ago than it is today, due primarily to the presence of all the 
long-gone megafauna (of course, lions, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, 
short-faced bears and a host of other large predators would have made 
living here more of a risky venture, too).

If one takes Flannery seriously, it seems there might be some reason at 
least to try introducing a few species analogous to extinct North 
American megafauna under highly controlled conditions in order to see 
what happens. Flannery suggests as much near the end of his book. Such a 
venture might even be worthy of the support or efforts of some 
permaculturalists -- after all, many of us are heavily involved with 
such non-native species as cattle and sheep (not to mention all the 
various flora) ... ranching camels or something might have validity 
under certain circumstances as well.

But I also believe that Lawrence is entirely right that there are a lot 
of other, more recent ecological "holes" that we need to fill before 
moving on to something as bizarre and risky as introducing African 
megafauna into North America. As he notes, reintroduction of bison and 
restoration of family, small-scale, local, and organic farming top the list.

Buffalo Commons first; playing with elephants can and should wait.

Lawrence F. London, Jr. wrote:

>Total idiocy; a coverup for the destruction of the buffalo
>and attempts to destroy family farms, small scale agriculturre, serious 
>environmental stewardship, organic farming, local food production systems.
>But still there's hope if people will pay attention to their own 
>footprint and how it interrelates to their own community, local and 
>permaculture mailing list
>permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org

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