Our world is currently waging war against a catastrophic disease called corona virus, which has the potential to infect millions of people and to kill thousands, possibly millions, of individuals. The entire world was caught unprepared for this crisis, finding it difficult to provide the personal protective equipment and required medical supplies needed to protect health care workers and infected patients. It is frightening to realize we lack the information necessary to understand the intensity and duration required to gain control of this health issue. Just two years ago, the Administration eliminated the Pandemic Department of the Centers for Disease Control.
For decades biologists and ecologists have been observing and studying the concept of carrying-capacity of domestic livestock and a variety of wildlife species. Their observations have demonstrated that when over-grazing occurs, major damage to species environments takes place. Such things as soil erosion, stream bank deterioration and erosion, noxious weed invasion and loss of site productivity result. For centuries livestock grazing activities have utilized herders and cowboys to manage and rotate the herds on large grazing allotments; to prevent over use and damage to portions of the allotment. Biologist have also been conducting rangeland condition surveys to determine the number of animals we can allow on any given allotment or pasture. Since homo sapiens began domesticating certain animal species thousands of years ago, we have understood the necessity of managing the number of animals and the utilization of the forage, to protect the natural food sources.
In the late 1600’s, European settlers began arriving in significant numbers and bringing with them their domesticated livestock, most of which was non-indigenous to the North American continent. They found the land covered with forests and teeming with a wide variety of wildlife species. Things were about to change! Competition for the available forage would increase as more domesticated stock numbers increased. The total carrying capacity of the land can only shrink as more animals utilize the area.
By the late1800’s, biologists were developing concerns about shrinking wildlife populations, mainly due to over harvesting of predator species which killed their domestic animals and issues like the massive harvesting of the buffalo population for profit. Wildlife populations are considered the property and responsibility of the individual States. The States began establishing Departments of Natural Resources with Game and Fish Divisions responsible for management of states forest lands, wildlife and fish populations. The first steps were to restrict hunting and fishing activities by establishing seasons, requiring licenses and limiting harvesting numbers. Eventually, the competition for food between livestock and wildlife resulted in major complaints from farmers and ranchers. This raised interest in evaluating carrying capacity of wildlife habitat by biologists to determine population numbers for various communities. Studies and observations disclosed the fact, as population numbers and densities began to stress their environments, nature seems to intervene with disease or starvation to reduce numbers and density to bring back balance.
I worked on wild turkey study in southern Missouri with the State Game and Fish biologists in 1963 and 1964. The study disclosed how the type of bed rock the soils were derived from, influences the productivity of the site, thereby determining the vegetative growth rates and species diversity, effecting the carrying capacity of the forest community for turkeys. This information provided insight into how nature appears to maintain balance between food supply and population density.
Some years later, I worked on a wolf project in northern Minnesota with Dr. Dave Mech. Dave did his doctorate thesis on Isle Royale, Michigan under Dr. Durwood Allen. Dave’s thesis was interesting as it confirmed the natural process of population control in the wolf population over several years. The island is an enclosed environment with the wolves primarily food source being moose. The island supports a single wolf pack which tends to have an average of 22 members. The pack raises one litter of pups annually and although the number of members may vary by one or two each year, the pack size appeared to naturally remain within the carry capacity of the environment.
For years, we have been observing situations where non-human species have over loaded their habitat and nature has intervened to bring things back in balance with the environment. Natures actions and human efforts to control population numbers have been an acceptable practice, as our society has never considered assigning rights to non-human life forms. If they have no rights or value, apparently it is permissible for nature and humans to intervene in population control. What about the human species? Throughout history, we have observed numerous situations where human populations have destroyed their environment, and in some cases their populations have totally disappeared.
As I think about our current health issue, I am drawn back to situations I have observed with non-human species and natures intervention to attempt to bring balance to the environment. My studies and observations of the complexity of Creation, has revealed phenomenal processes that have been built into the evolutionary development of the Universe and Earth systems. Processes like; photosynthesis, transpiration, the significance of the changing of the seasons, connectedness of all living organisms and the necessity of diversity have been designed and incorporated into creation. Is it possible that a process, designed to maintain balance between life and Earth’s carrying capacity, was also a part of the creation plan? We are told Earth’s carrying capacity may be between nine and ten billion people, and our world population today is seven and three quarter billion. Are our requirements and desires stressing our planet’s limits? Humans have developed unbelievable intelligence in science and health, but are we really capable of controlling nature? Are we being challenged to better understand the complexity of Intelligent Design? We seem to have great power to destroy, but limited power to control the natural world!