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Might Makes Right: Squirrels, Evolution, and Encinitas.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
August 26, 1999


Once again I am being contacted by readers who are witnessing the poisoning of animals in city parks. Not long ago I mentioned that some Oceanside residents noticed a groundskeeper pouring chemicals in squirrel burrows in downtown's Rotary Park. I am certain that the "Don't feed the squirrels" ordinance includes toxic substances. Artistic Landscaping was the name of the company serving up the brew. Is it just me, or is that weird.

Not one to avoid a good paradox, I couldn't help noticing that poisoning squirrels is far from a civically minded action. As is all chemical warfare. Why is it that we can't allow these small mammals the piece of habitat they have been able to claim as their own. Earth knows we haven't left them many options. Must humans kill everything they see as a pest?

The new poison hot spot is Swami's in Encinitas, not only is this a favorite spot for soul searching surfers, the tide pools beneath the Sea Cliff County Park is a protected marine habitat. Once again the poison paradox was in front of me. What effects does the poisoned squirrels have on the immediate environment? Once poisons are released into a biotic environment it can't remove or reduced, although it might be diluted, it is still there.

Wondering how the monks and ministers at the Self Realization Fellowship felt about the genocide taking place next door, I decided to give them a call. Talking to Brother Ramananda, I was assured that the philosophy of Paramahansa Yoga Nanada included the "utmost respect for nature." I took this to mean that causing a small mammal to slowly die from internal hemorrhaging was not in keeping with the higher laws of conscience and harmony. Perhaps the squirrels should seek sanctuary at the temple.

Next I talked to Encinitas City Council person Christy Guerin who said that she thinks that the state is requiring eradication measures, and that it has been done every summer, for the past four years. She also said she believes it is being done to protect the fragile bluffs from the damaging effects of burrowing. This is what I call a classic example of "scape squirreling."

Human impact to the bluffs is much more destructive then these small animals. Not only do we weigh down the bluffs with non-native plants and irrigation, buildings and parking lots, the constant flow of people up and down the stairs is an earthquake compared to the stirrings of a few squirrels.  Let's face it folks, these poisons are being used as a band-aid to make people think they have control over problems of their own making. Considering that humans are the only ones affected by bluff erosion, it is clear to me that specieism is clearly in play here.

Besides I don't see what the big deal is, we want sand on the beaches, squirrels are obviously part of the natural erosion process. Once again paradox is being fueled by irony, it seems we go out of our way to stop natural processes and then spend billions of dollars to mimic their effects.

John Franklin from the city of Encinitas' Community Services department returned my call, and informed me that the eradication policy had been implemented by the city, not the state, and poisoning was seen as the most economical method. Mr. Franklin also assured me that poisoning was an approved method for bluff stabilization. When I asked him if any other methods had been considered he said no, as if the thought of alternatives never occurred to him.

This response did not come as a surprise to me, having just talked with Brother Ramananda. In his opinion, the ills of mankind can be traced to the fact that humans have spiritually lost touch with nature. That because of overcrowding our relationship with the planet has become combative. To paraphrase my findings, squirrels are the enemy, and should not be tolerated. Economics over the environment. Bummer.

I can't help but connect the killing squirrels in Encinitas and the decision of the State of Kansas to discontinue the teaching of evolution as part of the curriculum. That's a lot of history to erase. The fact that squirrels have made it this far gives them the same rights to life on the bluffs as we take for ourselves. Talk about disconnecting from nature. Creationism is just another doctrine of anthropocentrism.

When I asked Mr. Franklin if squirrels played a natural role in coastal erosion, he said that burrowing was not. When pressed, he said he had no idea what the squirrels did before the city was incorporated. I do. Before parking lots squirrels went about their lives, leaving enough room for other species to go about theirs. It is a shame that the only species that doesn't follow that simple philosophy is the one with cosmetic poisons.

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