Thursday, October 09, 2003

Romanticizing Nature

I came across this story via Reason's Hit & Run blog, and I thought it simply too ironic to avoid passing comment on.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A massive bear killed and ate a grizzly bear advocate and his girlfriend, Alaska police said on Thursday, citing a tape capturing the dying man's screams and human remains in the bear's stomach.

A three-minute audio-only recording from a video camera depicted the brown bear attack on Timothy Treadwell last Sunday as his girlfriend advised him first to play dead, then fight back, the Alaska State Troopers said.


The evidence proved Treadwell, 46, and girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, 37, "were killed by bears and not by poachers or by anti-bear-huggers or anything," trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said on Thursday.

The tape belongs to Treadwell's organization, Grizzly People of Malibu, California, and will be given to the group, Wilkinson said. The troopers have no plans to release the tape to the public or to news outlets, he said.

"We don't think it does anything but give cheap thrills," he said.

According to news reports, Treadwell can be heard yelling at Huguenard: "Get out here. I'm getting killed," while urging Huguenard to hit the bear with a frying pan.

A National Park Service investigation revealed that one of the two bears killed at the site by park rangers and troopers had been feeding on the Treadwell's and Huguenard's bodies.

That bear "has a conclusive amount of human remains in its stomach," Park Service spokesman John Quinley said.

The body of the second bear had been partially eaten by other bears and its stomach did not contain human remains, Quinley said.

The mauling deaths were the first recorded fatal bear attacks in the 85-year history of Katmai National Park and Preserve, Park Service records show.


Treadwell, a charismatic figure who filmed himself cavorting with the huge bears far closer than most experts recommend, argued that they were not dangerous.

This sounds harsh and insensitive, but I'm going to say it anyway - what a moron! This is what happens when people buy into the dangerous myths peddled by so many "environmental" organizations like "Friends[sic] of the Earth" and "Greenpeace." Man and civilization are part of nature, rather than being a "cancer" on the planet as these organizations like to make out, and there is nothing particularly benign about the natural world, as illustrated by the bear cannibalism pointed to by the first sentence I highlighted.1 Bears, wolves, tigers and other carnivores are not the cuddly creatures soft-headed animal-lovers like to make them out to be, and for most of mankind's existence on this planet, we have been the victims of these beasts, rather than than the other way around.

Solid arguments can and ought to be made for the conservation of dangerous predators, but we ought always to guard against the conceit harbored by ridiculous advocacy groups like "Grizzly People of Malibu," and by dullards like Timothy Treadwell who are all-too-quick to say stupid things like "Supposedly-dangerous-carnivore X has an undeserved reputation, but will not attack humans unless provoked." To a hungry carnivore, the mere presence of a giant lump of defenceless meat called a human being is often all the provocation that is required.2

1 - Indeed, there are plenty of utterly natural phenomena that are extremely unpleasant, including numerous viruses, many strains of bacteria, a wide array of protozoa like Plasmodium (the cause of malaria), and various worms like Wuchereria bancrofti (which causes elephantiasis). Drawing from daily life, even faeces is natural, but few sensible people would claim that it must therefore be good. Many of the most dangerous toxins and carcinogens we know of are entirely "natural" in origin, and it is a gross logical error to either assume that what is "natural" is "good", or that what is "unnatural", because man-made, must therefore be "bad"; yet this is an error that environmental activists and advocates of "organic" farming make all of the time, and illustrates why 90 percent of the statements they make are worth regarding as the utter nonsense that they are.

2 - When people point to examples like the lions of East Africa as evidence of large predators' aversion to human prey, they fail to understand the reality of what is going on. East African lions fear humans for the very good reason that they have learned the hard way that hunting a Masai quickly turns the hunter into the hunted. There is nothing "instinctive" about such behavior, and when pampered Westerners deluded by watching the Discovery Channel come to lecture the benighted natives on the cruelty of hunting lions, they set up the very conditions that lead to the sorts of vengeful slaughters of large predators they ought most to deplore.