“The foreseeable outcome is that in the year 2150, when human population peaks at around eleven billion, alpha predators will have ceased to exist — except behind chain-link fencing, high-strength glass, and steel bars. After that time, as memory recedes and the zoo populations become ever more genetically attenuated, ever more conveniently docile, ever more distantly derivative from the real thing, people will find it hard to conceive that those animals were once proud, dangerous, unpredictable, widespread, and kingly, prowling free among the same forests, rivers, estuaries, and oceans used by humanity. Adults, except a few recalcitrant souls, will take their absence for granted. Children will be startled and excited to learn, if anyone tells them, that once there were lions at large in the very world.”
- David Quammen, Monster of God (2003).
This passage has been bouncing around in my head in some way or another since I read Monster of God a few years ago. It certainly hooked me into the book. The idea that animals we know now could be/will be remembered or mythologized after their disappearance is a powerful one, of course, for a biology teacher or anyone concerned about these things. Wolves coursed through these forests; buffalo roamed these plains.
This morning I Googled “once there were lions,” to see what else was out there, to see if I’d have to choose another blog title. I think it would also make a good album name, by the way, perhaps for a solo project. More on that later. Anyway, Quammen’s passage from MOG showed up online through Google Books. You can preview most of the chapter here. Other references to O.T.W.L online included an article in SWARA by Lawrence G. Frank with the same title. But the most interesting connection I found was that Richard Louv cited the Quammen passage in an article called The Nature-Child Reunion (published in “National Wildlife” Magazine, June/July 2006, by The National Wildlife Federation, http://www.nwf.org. ©National Wildlife Federation.) I’ve been meaning to read Louv’s Last Child in the Woods for about a year now, and I’d already moved it up on the “to read” pile for this summer. This strikes home for me as an educator and a father, now, since raising a child has moved from the purely theoretical to practical reality. We want to make sure he plays outside, in the woods, in the dirt, and with the dog.
So the plan isn’t to limit myself to writing about ecology, teaching, or child rearing, or to lament the disappearance of alpha predators. Those will be part of the blog because I care about those things. But I’d also like to keep track of anything I’m reading, playing, listening to, and thinking about. It’s time to gather these ideas all together in the same place, disparate as they are, because people might be interested. Even if they’re not, that’s okay. It’s certainly a broader outlet than Facebook status updates or Twitter tweets.
Thanks for reading.
Scott Lilley, June 2009