An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of February 11, 2006
written at Hacienda San Juan Lizárraga one kilometer east of
Telchac Pueblo, Yucatán, MÉXICO

DOG WITH BLUE-GRAY EYES

One afternoon this week while Vladimir and I did our botany in the Pavilion, a wild-eyed, hungry-looking, hair-matted, stinking dog stumbled from a clump of palms, climbed onto the Pavilion and stalked around as if looking for something. I think he was a young Siberian Husky, with bright blue-gray eyes set wide apart in a white face. That's unusual for around here, since dogs here interbreed so casually that most show no identifiable affiliation. This dog's rear end kept collapsing, apparently because he'd been hit by a car. He was as pitiful as you can imagine and those bright blue-gray eyes bore right into us.

The landscape here swarms with starving dogs. You hear packs of them howling deep inside the scrub at night. In large numbers they hang around informal roadside dumps, frequently fighting over scraps.

Of course the ideal is for fewer dogs to exist, and for the ones we do have to be loved and cared for. It would seem such an easy thing to do, to sterilize dogs who shouldn't reproduce, or at least to keep females inside or tied up when they're in heat.

But, how can we expect more civilized treatment of dogs when humanity often treats itself no better? Think of all conflicts going on right now mostly caused by competition for natural resources, just as with the dogs at our roadside dumps. Consider how George Bush's new budget shifts moneys from already stressed social and environmental programs to the military.

One is tempted to think that basic Darwinian evolution is at work here. Whenever a species' population attains a very large distribution, it fragments into races and subspecies, and finally new species emerge. Could it be that right now we humans are evolving into subspecies of "haves" and "have nots"?

This will never happen, if only because the living strategies of the "haves" is unsustainable. There isn't enough clean air on Earth, not enough productive land, not enough fish-producing sea, and not enough moderate weather to maintain consumption-obsessed "haves" long enough for them to become a subspecies. Nor will bomb-possessing "have-nots" permit "haves" to enjoy their indulgences for so long.

In the end, for the sake of Life on Earth, today's "haves" and "have-nots" will have to meld into a population consisting of fewer people living more equitably and much more sustainably than most of us live today.

Else, the future belongs strictly to the "have-nots," for their living strategy is most sustainable. And even their survival will be possible only as long as their population numbers stay within bounds -- a dynamic historically regulated by war, disease and famine.

It would seem so easy to make better lives for dogs, and for ourselves. However, something in human nature keeps us from doing the simple things clearly needing to be done -- controlling our numbers and our appetites, sharing resources, empathizing with one another and other living things around us.

The blue-eyed dog with starvation in his eyes may become the prophet of our time simply because we are willing to let it happen.