It’s unsustainable, my dear

deerFive years ago we moved from the town to the countryside. Owning a large garden for the first time, we eagerly rushed out and planted vegetables, flowers and fruit trees.

Deer ate the lot.

The worst thing was that the deer didn’t wait for the vegetables or fruit to grow, they just stripped all the new shoots from each plant and moved on to the next one. All the plants died. There never was any fruit or veg.

That was a hard lesson to learn. As a child and young adult I had been taught a fiction about how nature is perfectly balanced and in harmony. Nothing could be further from the truth. Left alone, deer destroy sustainable forests, reduce biodiversity and devastate natural woodland and birdlife.

Nature isn’t finely balanced. Species don’t live in harmony with their environment. They live precariously on the edge of existence. If more food becomes available, their numbers increase and they ravage the food source until it’s gone. If predators increase, food becomes scarce or the weather worsens, their numbers start to decline. And not through birth control and planned parenthood, but through death. Quick and violent death, or slow and painful death. Old age isn’t something animals need to worry about. They don’t need extended families or nurses to care for them, because they mostly die young.

Of course, most people prefer Disney’s Bambi version of nature. They also seem to like the idea that nature is good and humans are bad. But look at nature without the green-tinted spectacles and you’ll see a picture of cruelty, catastrophe, death, suffering and extinction. There’s nothing sustainable about nature. It’s an unstable system that evolves in the most wasteful and destructive manner imaginable.

An ecosystem is an urban fiction; a middle class fantasy. Get out into the countryside if you want to find out what nature’s really like.

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