The other day I saw a mature, female White-tail Deer out in the scrub. I've never seen a deer in the Yucatan because people here hunt them year-round, despite the law against it, so they're rare. After firewood gathering, hunting seems to be the most important outside male activity here, maybe even more than working in the cornfields.

When I casually mentioned to a group of men that I'd seen a deer, they wanted to know where. I wouldn't tell them because I knew they'd go try to kill her. By now I think most males in Sabacché have approached me individually and asked where I saw that deer, but I've not told anyone. "The gringo's deer" has become a village joke, in a good-hearted sort of way, the men just shaking their heads over my obstinacy and peculiar thinking.

This scrub, being perpetually hacked over so that it produces endless browse right at deer-head level, is perfect habitat for deer. With the deer's top natural predators exterminated -- the Jaguars and Mountain Lions -- if people stopped killing deer, in very little time the scrub would produce a deer bounty. But men here will never give the deer a chance. Here wildlife management laws are viewed as unrealistic, classist, anti-family government intervention.

When I suggest that if a few individual deer should be allowed to live and reproduce so that eventually the population will grow and everyone can have much more venison to eat, I get a blank look. "He just doesn't get it," the look says. "Killing deer puts food on the table, so people needing food should kill all deer all the time."

We're all familiar with this kind of short-circuited reasoning: "Win the war against terrorism by making war over there before it comes over here," and "Help the rich get richer so prosperity will trickle down to the poor... "

Mother Nature appears to have programmed humanity so that about half of us accept such thinking, while the other half can see right through it. It seems that both mental predispositions, at least during the course of human evolution, have been equally necessary.

That's not the case today, however. In every respect, because of humanity's newly acquired ability to destroy Life on Earth, ignorance and lazy thinking can no longer be tolerated.

My only hope for continuing Life on Earth is that I'm right about the Sixth Miracle of Nature igniting during our times -- the miracle that enables thinking beings to learn from experience, and solve problems rationally.

As postulated in my Six Miracles of Nature essay at the Fifth Miracle consisted of "Life becoming conscious of itself." The Sixth Miracle, just now in the process of coming into being, is "Mere consciousness evolving into the ability to learn and feel."

The challenge of our time, then, is to assure that more and more of our fellow humans receive the education and life experiences needed to enable the Sixth Miracle of Nature to come into their lives, too.