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Nobody tells them what to do!


Walk Softly

by Geoffrey Carpentier


I recently read an article in the Toronto Sun by guest columnist John Stossel (July 28th, 2023, “Free to try stuff”). The title of the article intrigued me, as it was on one of the paper’s political editorial pages. What were they talking about?

The gist of the story was that politicians and influencers think, ONLY they know what is good for us and therefore feel the need to tell us what we should be doing. He goes through examples of how life can function just fine without someone prescriptively telling us how to do everything the way THEY think it should be done.

He cites one example of how New York City’s Central Park was poorly maintained when under the structured oversight of the city. But after residents took over its management, through a non-profit conservancy agreement, the park is now run very well and enjoyed safely by millions! He sums it up by stating, “Government that governs less, governs best.”

So this got me thinking about nature. No one tells a baby bird how or when to fly, when to migrate, how to find food and later find a mate. Each creature has to figure this out on its own, and billions and trillions of animals go through their lives surviving on their wits and instincts. There is no rule book where some ‘super-animal’ guides the rest. They rely on innate learning, which is the ability of animals to do things without being taught how or why. In fact, in nature, ‘WHY’ never even enters the conversation. Animals just do things because they must in order to survive. The rules of the game are simple, avoid predators, find shelter, eat enough, attract a mate and don’t die until you’ve produced enough offspring to replace yourself.

What this leads to is a concept called spontaneous order, whereby relationships and strategies for survival develop through necessity and opportunity. For example, an anteater chooses to eat termites; but termites don’t want to be ‘lapped up,’ so they build massive ground nests with dense walls. The anteaters, still hungry, develop abilities where they can detect these insects deep inside the mounds and tear the mounds apart with their sharp claws. Necessity leads to innovation which itself is led by spontaneity. Something figures out how to solve a problem without something else telling it there is only one way to do so; one brain is never enough to ensure survival!

Birds sing and communicate in many ways. But why do they have different songs and so many calls for so many different purposes? No greater bird saying, “All you birds need to have a single unique song and seven special calls – each of which will do the following ...”. That never happened. What did happen is each species developed unique songs which their prospective mates could recognize. This was coupledwith an undetermined number of calls to express distress, warn of predators, share news about food sources, and the like. How many calls are necessary is decided over time, until all the necessities of survival are met. Mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects also all developed their own ‘languages’ to tell their story and to ensure their survival.

Humans are struggling with trying to deal with and understand climate change, as it affects us all and the environment.

We tend to rely on others to do our thinking. “Everything must be electric by 2050; gas and oil are always bad; you need to control your environmental impacts, and here’s how you must do that”.

But is that really going to solve anything? Has it so far? I personally don’t think so. I know we have an issue with climate and have to do something, but is taxing Canadians the best way to solve this? A better approach is to stop naively looking in our own backyard exclusively and truly look at this through a global lens. The problem is GLOBAL – look for global solutions! More on this next column.

Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

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