An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of November 3, 2013
Issued from the Frio Canyon Nature Education Center
in the valley of the Dry Frio River in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas,
on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA

KEEP OUT PRIVATE

KEEP OUT PRIVATE

The Dry Frio Valley is great for birding and flower sniffing, but there's just one road into the valley, and not far north of Juniper House that one road ends at the gate shown above.

I'm told that earlier this was a county road connecting with towns to the north, but here it's typical for such little-used thoroughfares to be abandoned by the county, then large landowners -- and most land here belongs to a few very large ranches -- stop traffic on them. Between here and Uvalde 35 miles to the south there's not a single place to get off the road and walk around, but plenty of signs forbidding you to leave the highway. We are surrounded by beautiful, interesting hills, but I can't wander from the road farther than I can spit.

But, land owners have a point: If everyday folks were allowed entry, they'd shoot the animals, cause fires and leave an ocean of trash. Even when most visitors are respectful, that's the way it works out for landowners. Moreover, some of this area's large landowners practice good conservation techniques.

I don't take sides when it comes to gates across what once were public roads. However, standing at the above gate inspired a train of thought that lead to what at first seemed a completely unrelated insight: That, after 3.8 billion years of evolution of Life on Earth, Nature finds strength and sustainability in mosaics. We see forests here, deserts there, grasslands elsewhere, oceans, lakes and the occasional icecap and savannah here and there.

Moreover, the history of biological evolution teaches that whenever any living thing or biological system grows too large it fractures into a mosaic, the parts of which often end up competing with one another for resources.

For example, European House Sparrows introduced into the US in the 1850s spread across North America, becoming abundant coast-to-coast. Already House Sparrows are fracturing into subspecies. In North America, northern birds are larger than southern ones, and birds in arid areas are paler than those in rainy parts. If allowed to continue evolving, eventually a mosaic of House-Sparrow-like species will appear, possibly competing with one another. Similarly, when humans spread across the Earth, we fractured into races and later would have separated into subspecies, then distinct species, but in recent times that evolutionary process has reversed. Now it's our intellect that evolves... evolves, and fractures into a mosaic of sometimes competing and mutually antagonistic social and belief systems.

Standing at the "We shoot all trespassers" gate, the notion forms that maybe this gate, or at least the attitude behind the sign, is part of a stress fracture in a big system that once had at its heart a thriving American Middle Class, but now that system is fracturing into a mosaic of competing and mutually antagonistic parts. Actually there are overlapping mosaics, among the easiest to distinguish being the mosaic of blood-red Red States and bluer-than-blue Blue States, and the mosaic of haves and have-nots.

The hopeful thing about all this is that the history of Life on Earth teaches that though sometimes certain patches of Nature's mosaics vanish forever, something always fills the voids, while the mosaics themselves keep evolving forward steadily, ever more diverse, ever stronger and ever more beautiful.

Problems only arise when you have an emotional or some other kind of attachment to a mosaic's patch that's disappearing as you stand there looking at it. Facebook Icon.