Carrying Capacity


Every rancher understands carrying capacity. Put too many animals on a pasture and they will overgraze it. They’ll trample the soil in the watering areas and increase the erosion. The animals at the bottom of the pecking order will go short on food. Manure will build up and not be able to break down because there’s so much of it. They’ll start to eat things they wouldn’t normally eat – weeds, sometimes poisonous – seedlings, leaves. What they don’t eat is often trampled or rooted up as they search for food. Eventually the land dies and so do the animals.

Old Ma Nature, as Gene Logsdon was fond of saying, is also Old Bitch Nature. She is unforgiving and harsh. She doesn’t care about the latest fad or the amount of money you have for bling. Mess with her, she’ll kill you quick. Ignore the basics of biology long enough and it will come back to bite you.

We humans seem to be getting close to the carrying capacity of earth. We may have already hit it. If we continue down the road we’re traveling – causing increasing pollution; wasting resources; killing the soil with excessive plowing, herbicides and pesticides; killing off our fellow travelers: birds, mammals, reptiles, plants – I can guarantee it will not end well. Even in the last few years I can see the signs of accelerating problems all around. Trees are dying that should have had another 30 to 50 years of life. Bird populations are down – I almost never see western meadowlarks on the way to town any more. There used to be one on darned near every fence post. We don’t have as many orioles as we used to. I see fewer honeybees.

I would like to think that my grandchildren will have enough of the basics – personal and political freedom, productive land, fresh water, wood to heat and build with, high-quality food – to live long, happy, productive lives. But with every year that passes, it seems more unlikely.

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