As you travel up and down our roads and highways, do you ever take notice of debris in the ditches and in the medians? It is astounding at the bottles, cans, paper, and anything else you can imagine that almost covers the landscape. Even on our rural backroads, the beer cans and paper sacks from fast food joints seemingly touch, they are so abundant. Empty containers of diesel, oil, and household cleaners lie in a state where residue leaks onto our soils and into our streams and rivers. Look at what is beneath any bridge or culvert the next time you cross one. I’m willing to bet you’ll find discarded refrigerators and washing machines as well. Bundles of trash bags, full of human waste, resemble that of embedded rip-rap to slow erosion. This clutter can be referred to as litter, but I prefer to label this as a form of Q.
Pollution, in the sense that most of us think of, is the contamination of the environment with a negative effect and the possibility of adverse change. There are many forms of pollution which include air pollution, thermal pollution, and light pollution just to name a few. You may wonder out loud, light pollution? In our natural world, light comes to us from the moon, stars, and the sun. Any other form of light, other than sources such as a fire, is manmade. So, what kind of negative impact would you think artificial light could cause? Take the firefly for instance. Their reproductive habits involve both males and females emitting flashes of light to attract one another. With the massive systems of streetlights, businesses, and automobiles, there can be an inhibition of these insects finding one another, due to interference and confusion, to ensure breeding. I know this may sound farfetched, but it’s true. In fact, there are some species of this insect on the near endangered list due to this disruption of behavior.
Emissions from combustible fuels add to our pollution problem as well as contaminants from factories, chemical plants, and other industries. Though the pollution issue worsens as human population grows, this started thousands of years ago with prehistoric man. There is evidence of “soot” on ceilings and walls of caves where man first dwelled. Fires were built in these places where no ventilation codes were in effect which surely had some effect on the people building and using them. Native Americans used fire in closed dwellings like tepees for warmth and insect control. The gases and soot surely could have had an impact on air quality even back then. Though we could go on and on about causes and what impact pollutants have on our well-being, there is one form of pollution that many of us don’t even think about. I’ll explain.
This past week, JH made his first jaunt into his favorite haunt. That was almost poetic, wasn’t it? Anyway, the secluded area he hunts every fall is in the middle of a swamp surrounded by a convalesce of serpentine creeks. Cypress knees and ancient hardwoods cover the bottomland floor. This sanctuary is invaded by mankind, JH, only a few dozen days a year. The remainder of the year it is left for those that make their living there. Of course, by this I mean, the deer, the beaver, the wood duck, and every other living creature that is native to this oasis.
I have my own little area, very similar in habitat, that I frequent on occasion as well. It is in these places where you can find yourself and lose yourself at the same time. The peace and serenity found among the natives is priceless. Your troubles, stress, and blood pressure are reduced to only fragments the moment you become part of your surroundings in these areas. For decades, we have become whole here. Our souls are rejuvenated each time we visit and return.
The quiet time was exactly what JH was looking for this past week as he slowly pulled his bow up to his stand and settled in for the first hunt of the year. Of course, a five-year-old buck making an appearance within 20 yards would make the experience only that much better. Sadly, times are a-changing. The slamming of tailgates on huge dump trucks vibrated the swamp. Chainsaws and log trucks shook the white oak acorns from the limbs. Backhoes rattled and clanked as they crushed standing timber. Does this sound like some sort of pollution? Well, it is!
Noise pollution may be one of our worst forms of this “toxic” problem, possibly ranking number one in the hierarchy of all sources of pollution. In humans, these unwanted sounds can lead to hypertension, sleep disturbances, and other harmful effects. Regarding wildlife, noise can disrupt their ability to detect danger, making them vulnerable to both predators and vehicles as well. So, what changed in and around our beloved haunts?
Years ago, these swamps were just that, swamps. We all enjoyed what they offered and didn’t take them for granted. We ventured in and out leaving only our footprints. I guess we can’t leave a good thing alone, for soon everyone wanted to make these areas part of their permanent lives. Urban sprawl allowed the invasion of these pristine getaways to get out of control. We couldn’t just visit these areas anymore, we had to build lakes in and around them, and build homes and cabins all over them.
We push roads and destroy timber just to make them “better.” The silt from dump trucks and log trucks taint the waters that the sunfish and otter thrive in. Dogs from the pens bark incessantly.
Voices from the intrusion of man can be heard in almost any direction. Fireworks, school bus traffic, and loud music totally disrupt and ruin what was once sacred. And to think, this all occurred because “we” couldn’t get enough of a good thing. Well, I hate to say it, but in many areas the “good thing” is now gone. We couldn’t leave well enough alone. We couldn’t just be content with allowing the stream, the swamp, and the hardwood bottom to serve both us and the flora and fauna that inhabit it. No, we had to interfere with nature and screw it up. Are you happy with the lethal sounds of man that now demolishes what was once your refuge? Think about this. Can you relate and have you been affected by what we have done and are doing? Is your own haunt now tainted with barns, gravel, metal, and concrete? Noise pollution goes hand in hand with our demise. Is there anything we can do to reverse this debauchery? I think you already know the answer to this question. I invite you to think about our intrusion into our most secluded areas. Try to be as proactive as you can to preserve, and not disrupt, what offers to us more than you realize. More importantly, think about what we do to those that have been there long before us and will be there long after we’re gone! I think you know who they are. Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.