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Humans have changed nature in many ways since their existence on the earth. Some of these changes were good, but many were not. People have made the world easier for themselves to live in, but harder for other animals.
In “Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight” by Ursula Le Guin, the main theme was the domination of the world by the human race. Gal experienced firsthand how the animals lived before the humans took over. Chickadee explained to her “When we lived together it was all one place. But now the new people (humans) live apart. They weigh down on our place, they press on it, draw it, suck it, eat it, eat holes in it, crowd it out…” (Le Guin 43) Myra also saw how humans had forced the animals into isolation. She saw the wickedness of human nature when the farmers shot at Coyote on sight, and then set a trap to poison her.
Since the Neolithic Revolution, humans have domesticated animals. The positive effects of this are that the animals are fed and kept clean. Despite this, the animals must sacrifice their freedom as wild creatures. For example, cows were kept and bred to provide milk, food, and clothing. Chickens must live in small coops and lay eggs; only to have their babies stolen from them and cooked for breakfast. Horses are forced to bare a human’s weight on their backs, and carry the human where he or she pleases. In “Buffalo Gals” Horse said that his kind were used to bring the “new people” to the animals’ land (Le Guin 37). These domesticated animals had no free will and were virtually slaves to humans throughout history. Animals today can be trained for specific tasks, such as a Seeing Eye dog or a talking parrot. Dogs are kept by homeowners for protection and used by law enforcement to sniff out drugs or bombs. This type of human-animal relationship only benefits the people; the animals’ abilities are just being taken advantage of.
Another form of domestication is the pet. Humans have kept pets for many years and the pets are usually better cared for than a cow or flock of chickens. One reason is to train the animal for a specific task, such as a Seeing Eye dog or a talking parrot. Another reason to keep a pet is companionship. Someone who is lonely or disturbed may find emotional comfort in owning and taking care of an animal.
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Despite these positive effects of owning a pet, being a pet is not always the greatest life. For the most part, dogs like their masters and enjoy living in captivity with them. But this is not the case for all domesticated animals. Fish, for example, are kept in a tiny tank in its owner’s living room. The life and experiences of the fish are confined to the walls of its aquarium, and although the human may love his fish, the fish has no idea why the person has it jailed in such a small cell. If anything, it probably feels resentment toward the human. The same goes for a caged bird or a hamster. Although some birds can be taught tricks and learn to love the human. But this is only if the bird has been alone all its life and away from others of its kind.
When Chickadee referred to the humans “eating holes” (Le Guin 43) in the animals’ world, she was probably referring to the “new people” polluting their land. Pollution is another negative effect of human domination on this planet. They litter, destroy the ozone layer with factories and automobiles, and taint water supplies with sewage and garbage. So much so that even us humans cannot drink water without putting it through some form of filtration device or paying money to a large corporation to bottle “pure” water for them. Then the people throw the non-biodegradable plastic bottle in a patch of grass where it sits for hundreds of years. Even primitive man was polluting the atmosphere with the smoke from their campfires. Animals are affected by pollution as well. For example, birds and fish have gotten caught in the plastic rings that hold six-packs of soda together. The sewage that is dumped into rivers and lakes is also unhealthy to the creatures that dwell there.
People have also destroyed the rainforests by cutting down mass amounts of trees for lumber and paper. This is another example of how humans have intruded the animals’ kingdom, or as Chickadee would say, “crowd it out.” (Le Guin 43)By killing these trees, and bettering their own lives, people are destroying the homes of thousands of other creatures. Many of these species can only be found in the rainforests, so destroying the forest would exterminate them. Humans are also killing themselves, in a sense, by limiting the oxygen supply with each tree that they cut down.
In addition to those that live in the rainforests, many animals have become, or are close to becoming, extinct as a result of human actions. The dodo bird is a prime example. They lived on a small, isolated island called Mauritius, which had no natural predators of the dodo. When the humans came they killed almost all of the timid, flightless birds and what few they did not kill were quickly wiped out by the new species introduced to Mauritius by the sailors. The rare, expensive fur of the white tiger almost made it extinct as well. The buffalo were almost completely obliterated by American settlers. They were killed not just for food, but for being in the way of the railroad lines. Le Guin comments on the extinction of animals in “Buffalo Gals” when Chickadee says “Maybe after a while longer there’ll only be one place again, their (human) place. And none of us (animals) here. I knew Bison, out over the mountains. I knew Antelope right here. I knew Grizzly and Greywolf, up west there. Gone. All gone.” (Le Guin 43)
Throughout history the human race has been known to ruin nature wherever they go. It seems as though the better people’s living conditions become, the worse it is for every other species on the planet. As humans continue to consume land, the plants and animals to whom it once belonged are isolated more and more. People hurt the ecosystem by polluting, foresting, and needlessly killing animals. Even pets, if given the choice, would probably prefer to run wild than be held captive in their owner’s house or a tiny cage.
1. Le Guin, Ursula K. “Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight.”
2. Randour, Mary Lou. “What Animals Can Teach Us About Spirituality”
3. Reilly, David. 1998, 1999. www.davidreilly.com/dodo/background.html