Back to Nature

rhyerHarold has been dismantling his feedlot. He built it over 40 years ago and eventually achieved a 30,000 head capacity. You can imagine the accumulation of steel, rubber, railroad ties, nails, car bodies, pipe, chains, wire, horseshoes and baler twine.

He has completed most of the hauling off and is ripping the ground that has been packed like road bed. He’s planted it to millet. He is returning the land to its natural state. Harold’s reason for razing the feedlot is, of course, urban encroachment.

The land is too ‘valuable’ upon which to raise livestock. In the next few years Harold’s feedlot will become part of the city. Crisscrossed with tile, cable, wire, iron and asphalt. It will be drilled, scraped, paved, disemboweled, pounded and polluted.

Millions of tons of concrete, brick, timber, glass and iron will rest in or on old feed alleys and sick pens. Oceans of sewage, mountains of refuse and purgatories of poison will work their way into the soil upon which the city is built.

It will become the receptacle for the waste of human herds. Ancient civilizations as mighty as ours have disappeared. All that remains of them are the ruins of the cities, the Aztec and Egyptian pyramids, the great walls, the foundations of majestic coliseums and castles.

But it is hard to find the ugly footprints of olden agriculture, a hog wallow, a horse corral, the trail to water, the milking shed, an irrigation canal, an overgrazed pasture, the chopped down woods. They seem to have vanished. I think that is because, though agricultural production changes wide expanses of land, the changes are not deep.

If you want to look at long lasting destruction of the environment, you need go no further than any major city. If people were to abandon Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Denver or San Francisco, how long would it take the earth to heal the scars left by man?

How many years after abandonment would we still see pieces of the Golden Gate Bridge, Denver International Airport or the Empire State building? Hundreds? Thousands? Compare that to the time it would take a cleared pasture, a clear-cut forest or a highly fertilized irrigated desert to return to its natural state?

It has always bothered me that a self-proclaimed environmental lobbyist can point from his high rise and accuse ag producers of destroying the environment. It’s truly the pot calling the kettle ‘non-green.’

Whether we live in town or in the country, we all play a part in the degradation of our environment. We eat the bounty of modern agriculture. We drive to and fro, and we buy 2×4’s. By dismantling his feedyard, Harold is doing more than most of us to allow the land to return to its natural state.

However, the next squatters on the property may leave a more long-lasting legacy of destruction. The earth is constantly trying to heal the scars on its skin. But we humans just keep pickin’ at the scab.

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