Tofu surprise and coyote cries

In all of nature, there is no sound more pleasing than that of a hungry animal at it's feed. Unless you are the food.
- Edward Abbey

by Robert Nanninga

ecently California has been visited by fire and flood, events provided by nature and made worse by man. Natural disaster is an oxymoron. Nothing in nature is disastrous, only man's reaction to it is. Fires racing across hills of dry brush is nothing. But put 100 high-priced homes in their path and all of a sudden you have a disaster. The current floods in Central California are another example of man-made calamities. For eons, rain has fallen, snows have melted, and rivers have overflowed their everchanging banks. Not until human beings decided to build their homes in flood plains did this become a problem. We are all victims in one way or another. Some just get more taxpayer support than others.

Over-population, and the resulting expansion-oriented over-development, is the real problem. Greedy developers and their simpleton troops of the wise use movement have staged a coup that has addicted California to housing starts. We have all seen the local news, when the talking head tells us that recession looms because housing starts are down. Catastrophe can only be diverted if we fill in another wetland to build another stripmall.

Of course, the building industry is going to cry foul if you try to conserve anything. It is, after all, their constitutional right to push animals to extinction. What we need to keep in mind is that these bulldozer boys buy the property knowing full well that it contains sensitive or endangered habitat. Then they rattle their sabers when they are told that they can't build whatever they think the Constitution promised them. These pseudo-patriots of the property rights camp claim they are protecting the American way of life. That would be amusing if they didn't have the ear of a shortsighted Congress. The only thing being protected is profit margins based on foolish, unsustainable choices.

Human beings are not only crowding themselves onto marginal land ­ land that is prone to flooding, bluff failure, and tectonic rumblings ­ they are also forcing local species out of their habitats. This is a worldwide problem. In Africa, its humans versus elephants. In India, it humans vs tigers. In part of Africa where elephant populations are sustaining, the locals kill the "extras." Elephants are not small opponents, so they trample a few villages, and all of a sudden they have a public relations problem. The pachyderms are the culprits, not the millions of people pushed into areas elephants have used for millions of years.

In New England, officials say they are experiencing the horrors of deer overpopulation. Scientists are experimenting with all sorts of birth control. The reality is not deer overpopulation, but wolf under-population. Instead of feeding the deer contraceptives hidden in grain, we should feed Americans those same contraceptives hidden in doughnuts and Big Macs.

The Florida panther now numbers in the teens. This elusive cat is the victim of shrinking everglades due to deserts of sugarcane receiving preference over the natural world. Isn't nice to know that we are all subsidizing the extinction of yet another species?

I write this is because it seems that this is all I can do about the amount of roadkill that is succumbing to asphalt. Opossums, skunks, raccoons and coyotes seeking food and a place to raise their young are crushed beneath the wheels of human indifference. If these were dead humans in the middle of the road, there is a good chance motorists would at least stop to drag the poor unfortunate person out of the street. After all, nothing must interrupt the flow of traffic. But a coyote we just leave in the road to rot. Organizations like Project Wildlife can't keep up with the numbers of injured animals being brought to them by concerned citizens.

In San Diego's North County, we are seeing a higher attrition rate due to the fires that cleared the massive amounts of brush that provided food and shelter. Deer head inland, and the coyotes head into busy neighborhoods following the small mammals seeking cover. The tragedy is the fact the most of the sanctuarys of open space are surrounded by ribbons of death. Every time I see an animal lying in the road, it is like a kick to the stomach. I'm not normally a sentimental person. But all this carnage is beginning to affect me. On my way to work the other day, composing this column in my head, I happened across a mature coyote on the side of the road. It had dragged itself away from on-coming traffic to die. It was as if the Goddess was talking to me, tears welled up in my eyes. The tone of my day was now set.

Wildlife are not the only victims of this imbalance, domestic animals also bear the brunt. As wild animals take up residence in our neighborhoods, our pets are added to the menu. Last week, my friend and familiar Tofu Aloysius Amen Ra, a beautiful and incredibly social white feline who loved broccoli and pizza crust, became part of the food chain. We know this because we found his tail in the brush between our house and I-5. For two days, I walked around with a hole in my heart, a hole the size of a loving white cat. All I could do was light a candle on the alter, ask my friends to do the same, and send the spirit of Tofu on its way. To the number, every friend I told said at least he wasn't hit by a car.

This past weekend, I saw the coyote. Instinctively I knew that Tofu was now a part of this new addition to our neighborhood. Blaming the coyote is not the answer. Being a part of the food chain, he was only doing what he needed to survive. I did not cry for Tofu because I am profoundly grateful for the time he was with me. I do, however, have to hold back my tears for the coyote, the opossum, the skunk and the deer because once I start, I will never stop.

Robert Nanninga is an independent video producer, actor, vegan, active member of the Green and environmental communities, and a board member of San Diego Earth Day.