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When does natural become man made? What's the dividing line?

  1. Oct 2, 2008 #1
    I'm watching a show about reintroducing bison to the great plains, because man killed most of them off. In the same breath they talk about how indians would burn the plains to attact bison to the new growth and that's why there were so many of them. Who decides which is the natural order? I'm fairly sure that by increasing the number of bison, the indians caused the decrease of some other creature. If we are going to get the world back to how it was before man crashed the party and ruined everything what do we aim for? primordial soup?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 2, 2008 #2


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    I all most sure there is no ansewer to that.
  4. Oct 2, 2008 #3
    The best plan would probably be the extinction of mankind...
  5. Oct 2, 2008 #4
  6. Oct 2, 2008 #5
    That's only a few hours from here, it's a pretty cool place to see.

    They killed millions of buffalo there, they did not kill them by the millions.
  7. Oct 2, 2008 #6
    Sorry , crappy grammar.
  8. Oct 2, 2008 #7


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    What makes humans somehow "unnatural"? That's the part that always boggles me, as if we're something other than "natural." :uhh:
  9. Oct 2, 2008 #8


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    PETA members?
  10. Oct 2, 2008 #9
    Salad is not food! Salad is what food eats.
  11. Oct 2, 2008 #10


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    :rofl: :biggrin:
  12. Oct 2, 2008 #11


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    :rofl: I've never heard that one.
  13. Oct 2, 2008 #12

    Chi Meson

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    Serious here:

    I think of it sort of like good architecture. There's a scientific part that follows physical laws, the structure, the materials, etc, and then there is the unquantifiable aesthetic part. Reintroduction of animals to areas is kinda like deciding that the living room worked better in the earlier design when it was east of the kitchen, not on the second floor. There is a sense that we liked it the was it had been, before the plans were changed.

    Is anyone following me?

    So if you make a change in the blueprint, and then don't like what happened, why can you not make another change? Either way, it's not going to be "natural." And I agree, what's not natural about humans? And we have blueprints!

    "Hey, I don't like the island cook station in the kitchen, I wanted the peninsula design. No, wait make it an archipelago!"

    Yeah, that would be neat.

    Yes, I am talking about the bison.
  14. Oct 2, 2008 #13
    I think a more accurate analogy would be that we liked the kitchen before we drove a bulldozer through it.
  15. Oct 2, 2008 #14
    Or liked the lot before we built the house. ;-)
  16. Oct 2, 2008 #15
    I wouldn't think that the purpose is strictly to put things back the way they were before. My impression is that ecological scientist have theories about what makes an ecology "healthy" and robust - able to deal with disruptions and return to a point of stability - and that's what they're often aiming for in restoration projects, rather than simply a desire to turn back the clock.
  17. Oct 2, 2008 #16
    Or liked the house before we knocked it down...
  18. Oct 2, 2008 #17

    Ivan Seeking

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    From what I understand, the big picture is sustainability. Some people just hate to see change, and there are plenty of puritans out there, but other people [like scientists] are worried about throwing things out of balance to the point where our ecosystems collapse. For example, we wiped out the wolves, so deer populations exploded and wreaked havoc. We DDT'd the mosquitos in some third world nations to near extinction, so the mosquito predators took a dive, and the mosquitos populations exploded making the problem worse than when we started.

    We are like children with crayons trying to repair a Michelangelo. Frankly, we don't what is important and what isn't, but we are told that ecosystems are or may be highly interdependent. So, for example, the loss of trees in old growth forests might, through a long sequence of events, eventually lead to the loss of phytoplankton in the oceans, which is the base of the food chain for the planet.

    As for Bison, I don't know of any claimed critical role that they play. Perhaps they are critical as a food source for wolves or scavengers that in turn play other important roles in the ecosystem.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2008
  19. Oct 3, 2008 #18

    Vanadium 50

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    I should point out that there is some evidence that the great mid-continental prairies are themselves artificial: produced by burning, to increase the number of bison the land would support. Had this not happened, a large fraction of the prairie would likely be oak savannah (and a good fraction of the savannah would be forested).
  20. Oct 3, 2008 #19
    "Who decides which is the natural order?"

    English professors at an MLA conference.
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