When Aldo Leopold taught Natural History, he assigned his class the task of diagramming the flow of food energy through a natural community. In his diagram, Leopold created the “food energy triangle” now taught in schools throughout the world. With sunlight as the driver and water, soil and wind as carriers (the base), photosynthetic energy passes thru insects into fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds ending with predators which includes humans.
With each step up inside the triangle, 90% of the available energy is used by those organisms for their metabolism and reproduction. When the remaining 10% of energy moves to the next level of consumers, the population of different species therein decreases proportionately. Meanwhile consumers at each level exert a force on “lower” levels keeping those populations in relative balance. Each food level consists of differently adapted species that act as a conduit for energy flow through the biological community. Disrupting one (or several) levels causes disruption throughout the system. This is especially true of “keystone predators” (such as coyotes, badgers and wolves) that are pressure points critical in keeping different species population in check.
This model is the basis of a vibrant biological community, without which humans cannot survive. Our technology has enabled us to temporarily extend our population by overly extracting food from or eliminating “pest” species. However, our longer-term community health is dependent upon a healthy ecosystem. A disruptive force has been hunting contests that provide entertainment for a small number of humans to kill predators and fur-bearing mammals for trophies and bragging rights.
If we are to be good custodians of the land that supports us and future generations, then we, as a society, need to accept limitations on our behavior that are consistent with natural carrying capacity. The elimination of hunting contest is one aspect we can be easily adopt as firing ranges can provide alternative mechanical means by which the thrill of hunting and contest excitement can be created technologically. Hunting and fishing for food can continue, provided that the State Game and Fish (SGF) use solid science to meter the number of permits issued; and, those who hunt and fish self-monitor and inform SGF when poaching occurs.
This is but one step where we can take individual and cumulative action to better preserve those lands, water and air entrusted to us by our grandparents to provide a quality life for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.