Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bad News Bears

Canadians tend to regard themselves, purely anecdotally as peace loving, nature geeks who are more socially accepting and better educated than our Southern kin, the Americans. When actually reviewing my provinces recent news, I find myself sorely lacking in evidence of such. Most of the news which trickles up to Canada is, let us remind ourselves, anecdotal, or the dregs of the media machines which will talk more about the scandal (read: murderous politicians, drunk reality stars, and sexually confused Evangelists) because of ratings and the almighty dollar. Of course we Canadians aren't going to hear about the good, fair normal people within the States, they don't make news. When speaking with and getting to know many Americans or people of other nations, rarely do I think to myself "gee, hey, I'm obviously better educated."

Recently there has been a tonne of bad press within Canadian borders which boils my gravy... (yes, that is a strange analogy, but I used so many in my last post I feel the need to add at least one to this one.) We just yesterday had a well known politico charged with drug possession and drunk driving. Our governments appears to be operating quietly and sneakily, and has changed many things of late which affect people close to my heart. These are not the issue at hand, but I hate to say it- we do just as much stupid stuff as any other place does, and there's far fewer of us to share the blame.

For instance (and down to business...) This summer, my province was responsible for ending the lives of twelve black bears who had begun regularly eating at a town dump site. Read the full article HERE . The gist? Bears find garbage, bears eat garbage. People shoot bears. Instead of
1) installing bear fence
2) assessing danger
3) tranquilizing and relocating bears
(all of these are ways I have heard of dealing with these animals) instead wildlife officers killed them the day of initial assesment. They did not even bother to review the current situation so that it could be prevented in the future.

Why is this of interest to a human ecology textiles student?
Human Ecology approaches problems with a solution/outcome based attitude. When looking at the choices made, or choices which will be made in the future, one should consider possible outcomes. I understand that these bears may have been in a habituated state, but what brought them to this level of dependence in the first place? Oh. People.

Humanity is imposing upon a lot of this world. We are sprawled out, and cover a lot of territory. Our policy for living here should reflect this. The town in question is dependant on many different levels of government to provide for their needs. Although this landfill may be maintained by municipal funds, it is important they also have access to the necessary assistance to keep humanity's "junk" out of the rest of the worlds relatively natural flow.
One note I find particularly troublesome:
"...Fencing the dump wasn't an option either. "Once bears are habituated to a site, they will break down fences," [Sustainable Resources Development spokesman Dave Ealey] said. "We don't put up bear fences. That's something that municipalities can do if they feel it's becoming a problem."

Well. That answers that. I wonder if the big flashing light of irony was going off in his head as those words left his mouth. Killing 12 bears in one day isn't evidence of a problem. That might be silly. This couldn't be the inevitable end to this issue again several months down the road... That's just... Oh, wait. LOGICAL.

Human Ecologists take classes which yes, help them plan events like weddings, quilt shows, or literature conferences. We also study government and programming policy, to foresee and prevent possible issues. Human Ecology also understands the world as a cooperative system. We impact the world just as much as the world impacts us. As such, all policy developed should reflect that, and not just protect people from the world, but also protect the world from the impact of people. This is why we develop sustainable clothing, family programs, risk at youth events, or become employed by municipal collectives which help promote and refine rural development issues and solutions. Policy is important because it will shape our lives now and down the road.

The travesty of this "policy" is that the township is on it's own recognisance. There was no recommendation made to the town, no changes were made to the way things are working, and the policy was to extinguish the "problem" without even studying it. To be honest, bears were just doing what bears do- eating the easiest food they can find. Maybe it's time to review the idea that the problem is.... hum (wait for it...) anity. At the time, the bears had not endangered anyone, no attacks had been reported, they were simply too used to eating the food we left in bear-sized snack containers (read: garbage bags) out in the open for them. This is not policy, it's entrapment.

The news article above references other work sites- temporary living quarters which house many people which use bear proof garbage containers, to prevent just such a problem. This shows that within this company, safety of inhabitants and responsibility to this site within a wild area had been considered before implementation of this temporary site.
Boggling. My guess is that because the people living there would be under the responsibility of the company while housed there, these companies endeavor to make safety the foremost concern because they will be held accountable by unions, families and co-workers if something bad should happen.

I do understand that perhaps these bears could not be saved. I understand that this rural area may be less familiar with bear issues than the mountain municipalities such as Hinton, Jasper and Banff. I understand that when I visit Jasper and I HOPE to see a bear, I want it to be while I'm safe, and I don't want to be lunch. But I do also understand that this issue was not the bears fault, and it makes me shameful to be Albertan at this time, to know that we aren't protecting our natural resources like wildlife better.


  1. How sad. Poor bears. But really, you must have realized that governments generally do what they want and create the justification post-act. Politicians are self-indulgent at best, downright corrupt at worst. US or Canada. As long as they're human, they're susceptible.

    Regarding the US image...I went to Italy in 2000 and spent a month there. It really opened my eyes as to my own countrymen. I was really quite embarrassed when I realized that the world sees Americans (and often rightly so) as self-centered, lazy, greedy, egotistical and wasteful. It's really quite shameful. We are used to having plenty. To using without thinking of what we discard. Of not having to worry where the next ____ [fill in the blank] will come from because there will always be another (meal, job, car, outfit, etc). The current economy is shaking some people awake, but as soon as there is a good recovery, all will be forgotten. Sigh.