Wildlife Conversations (Rev. Lou Snead)
I am not a hunter. Most environmentalists I know are not hunters. I suspect that the majority of us who are deeply concerned about global warming, water conservation, and protecting the natural environment do not hang around those who make up the hunting culture in America. We tend to connect with nature through hiking on nature trails, kayaking rivers and lakes, or enjoying a camping experience. While deer hunting is a big sport in Texas, most of the environmentally sensitive folks I interact with do not own a gun and have no interest in shooting any form of wildlife. In the name of protecting biodiversity on the planet, some of us even resist the idea of killing wildlife. Unlike a large portion of the world's population we do not depend on hunting or fishing for our source of food. So, it's easy for most of us to think that wildlife is an integral part of Nature needing to be protected from human encroachment into their habitat (with the possible exception of keeping deer from eating our landscaping).
Consequently, our perceptions about protecting and enjoying wildlife may be preventing us from having conversations about important environmental issues with those who like to hunt or fish as a sport. Most of the hunters I know actually appreciate the interconnections between nature and wildlife. They have a self-interest in wildlife management efforts, in land conservation and restoration, and in protecting wildlife habitats. What they may not appreciate or understand is how some of our human activity to produce and use energy and other natural resources is working against their own environmental concerns. This is where environmentalist and hunters should be talking to each other about our mutual interests and concerns. We might discover that protecting the ozone layer and wildlife habitat are not competing. Finding common ground on environmental issues with unlikely allies is a challenge we need to face in this era when half our country support a political administration that wants to limit the EPA and withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Those of us involved in Citizens Climate Lobby and environmental issues here in Georgetown, Texas, are learning that we can and must have fruitful conversations with folks in our community who now appreciate the economic benefits of shifting to renewable energy sources with our public utility. They may never become tree-hungers but some have come to see how renewable energy has both an economic and an environmental benefit. The same may be true for those of us who are concerned about wildlife and protecting nature from destructive human activity.
Concerned about wildlife in this perilous age of global warming and climate change? Have a productive conversation with a hunter or fisherman about their concerns regarding wildlife. Try to identify common concerns with them and avoid any hint of environmental elitism. Just don't wait till hunting season.
Rev. Lou Snead is a retired Presbyterian pastor living in Georgetown, TX. Ordained in 1978, he served churches in Virginia, Dallas, Houston, and Austin. Since 2014 he has been leading the Interfaith Eco-Network of Georgetown. Check out more of his writings on AllCreation here.