As some of you know, I am a native Floridian. I was born here, one of my parents was born here, and the other might as well have been. I haven’t even been out West past central Texas. Somehow, little old Floridian me chose to go to a very Oregonian School. Suddenly, I realized, the Natural Resources degree program I enrolled in was going to take me on a journey into things I can’t hardly even fathom, not to mention wrap my mind around enough to get superior grades. Suddenly, I find myself engrossed in water wars, salmon runs, native American viewpoints, traditional lifestyles, and the enthusiastic teaching of concepts such as Biodynamic farming (which involves bone dust and moon cycles..) and holistic ranching and management. I’m hearing about species like seals and more and more about salmonid species. (I added the word salmonid to my vocabulary very early on.)
Somewhere along the way, through interactions with classmates, teachers, and coursework, I realized that there is a dramatic difference in Eastern US views of natural resources versus those of the Western half of our country. Of course, I can’t speak for everyone, just generalities, that probably hold the biodynamic farmers on the extreme end of both sides. (no harm meant, just saying…)
My southern upbringing taught me that animals while beautiful to look at were food. Deer, hogs, ducks, rabbits, fish, even armadillos and squirrels weren’t off the menu. Many people around here use the phrase “If it’s brown, knock it down”. Now, that’s not everybody. My family of hunters only hunted what we could use, and not for trophy. Another thing is that eastern US folks are all about convenience. We like stuff fast, we like to throw away what we don’t use.
Even naturalists around here are more of the category birdwatchers. They like to look at the things, even mark them off on their lists, but it’s seldom that you meet people truly passionate about what they look at and where it lives, and for that matter where they live. Our grocery stores are a mecca of wastefulness. Large, filled with plastics, no bulk bins anywhere. Our fishing is done on powerboats and for tournaments.
Out west, it seems, people still have some remnant of a pioneering spirit. They take it all in, enjoy the trees, the clouds, the mountains, and the foggy days. They’ve rallied to see predators and buffalo return to the restored prairies. That’s something you’d NEVER see in Florida. Panthers here barely get a mention, not to mention a lot of support in bringing them back. Of course there are the opposing teams, but it seems, that for the most part opposition to nature isn’t so black and white there. Opposition comes when a rancher is losing sheep, a town is losing it’s water supply, native people are losing their treatied rights and tribal traditions, or when simply the thought of cooperation between two groups is just too scary. Out there, it seems, it’s not about the inherent dangers of nature, it’s about problems that have to be mitigated in order for everyone to live with it. (Did you know that out west they have open air farmers markets commonly? Did you know that many stores sell things out of bulk bins, or that the Oregon Tilth certifies many organic farmers throughout the nation with stricter standards and better than the USDA? )
So, now that my mind has been enriched by this traveling to a distant land via virtual education, I’m dying to go out west. I want to go to Oregon. I want to see salmonids, I want to see conifers that are older than Jesus, I want to see long grass prairies, real riparian stream that flow from mountains, but most of all I WILL see that open air, local goods market, and the bulk bins. And when I come back, if I make it back, I will bring that back with me and be inspired to do more here. I may get there and find I have it all wrong, but I don’t think so. I think I’d fit in well there, and that scares me. On December 8th of this year, providing I pass Statistics and AREC350 I will graduate with a BS in Natural Resources and a specialty in Fish and Wildlife. I have worked hard, and I believe that the WESTERN perspective I’ve gained will serve me far better than any EASTERN one I already or could have had.
So to finish off my western education, I guess I had better get used to saying this..
“Cheers!” (Translated to Floridian as “See ya”- I think.. )