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LOANED FOR A SEASON

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When Entrusted to my Care was first published in 1966, Grand MacEwan raised conservation issues not yet discovered by the media and public. These concerns included dwindling natural resources, water conservation, air quality, industrial wastes, animal rights, soil fertility, and too rapid development. Entrusted To My Care
Copyright 1966 Western Producer Prairie Books
243 pages,
ISBN 0-88833-175-4.

According to an Oriental proverb, "God will not enquire of thy birth, nor will He ask thy creed. Alone He will ask: 'What hast thou done with the land I loaned thee for a season?' "

If natural resources are on loan much of the accounting will bring no compliments to the borrowers. On his longtime record, man will appear as a careless fellow, a waster and a predator. It has suited his arrogance to believe he was created to have "dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." Having inherited special privileges, why shouldn't he be free to amend Nature's laws and consume Nature's bounty to suit his convenience, pleasure and lust for luxury?

To enjoy the full benefit of an exalted position, he plundered soil, grass, trees, minerals, wildlife and other natural gifts, forgetting that they were his "for a season" only. Knowing his life span was short, haste seemed imperative that succeeding generations with expanding populations would have more rather than less need, conveniently escaped his notice.

To give his exploits a mantle of respectability, he called it development but went right ahead to market natural gas as though the product sealed in rock for millions of years should be liquidated in a generation or two, as though it was perfectly right to take Niagara peach land for industrial use or take as much as possible from agricultural soils while returning little.

It doesn't mean that Nature's treasure has been suddenly or drastically depleted. Notwithstanding what happened to passenger pigeons, Eskimo curlews. cedars of Lebanon, soils of North Africa, blue whales and the mines of Rome, rich resources remain. It would seem that greedy humans failed to discover all of them or found themselves incapable of eating all, selling all or burning all.

It is wrong to suppose the world was created primarily to serve mankind's purposes and pleasures. A conviction about having dominion over land and water and living things breeds ideas of unwarranted self-importance, even worship of self more than the Creator. It's a sobering thought that man's place in Nature's scheme is, after all, a small one. If through war or disease or race suicide, human kind were to disappear from the earth, there is no reason to believe the remaining species of plants and animals and the planet itself would not go along fully as well, perhaps better than before. Spring would follow winter as usual; plants would grow and seed and die as always; ducks would nest in the North and winter in the South and, apart from a few parasitic animals like English sparrows and Norway rats, no living creatures would miss the absence of humans any more than the Labrador duck is missed. Man is not an essential spoke in Nature's balance wheel. If anything, his predations and greed have made him a disturbing force more than a balancing influence.

More than any other animal, man is a stranger and foreigner in Nature's community. He's the one guilty of leaving pans of the earth in waste; he's the trouble-maker, the one inspiring the most fear and terror in fellow-creatures. If the wild things could speak, they'd agree; the sight or smell of man is enough to send any wild animal to flight. From the time the civilizing white man arrived on the North American continent, many wild things have been trying to escape from him-like grizzly bear and whooping crane-retreating farther back to avoid his dangerous and repulsive ways.

Nor is there reason to think that people of modern times have found a much better conscience towards resources. History may have some harsh things to say about the present generation. As world population goes from three billions to four billions and then five billions and the planet becomes more and more like a human anthill, wise use of resources becomes a matter of ever greater urgency. The prospects for grandchildren and great grandchildren are ever more uncertain. A benevolent philosophy of conservation should be cultivated.

But what is the meaning of conservation? The "developers", eager to make their millions, the trigger-happy hunters and the aspostles of unrestricted free enterprise continue, in many cases, to misconstrue the meaning. They have been inclined to look upon those taking up the challenge of conservation as hoarders and misers. But nobody suggests that resource gifts should remain untouched. They are for using. Hoarding would be folly. Conservation means managing resources so they will continue to support the human family. Envisaged is a state of harmony between people and the natural treasures around them. In contrast to exploitation for the sake of getting rich quickly, conservation means using in such a way that resources will bring the greatest good for the greatest number. The conservationist is not a miser, not a hoarder, not an apostle of gloom; rather, he holds to the wisdom of Nature's time-tested order and believes that a generation occupying but a speck in eternity's span should work with Nature, not against.

Surely it could not have been part of the Master Plan that natural resources should be consumed or plundered by the first generation of human creatures to discover or reach them. Recognizing responsibilities to generations yet unborn thoughtful people will demand the renewing of renewable like soils and forests, and the administering of nonrenewable so they will serve mankind to the best possible advantage. What greater challenge than that of bringing wise and generous guardianship to the natural heritage?


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