Thinking Like a Planet: Saving Wild Horses Through Quality Ecology

27 Feb

Decades ago Aldo Leopold experimented with deer population within one ecological habitat. Within his wolf and deer management experiment, he learned, or should I say he realized within his growth as an Ecologist, his experiment failed. He grew to understand, as we all do over time and when we allow nature to provide us with information above and beyond what even our belief system gives us, that human activities impact our environment entirely. There is a flow, a relationship or patterns that cannot be ignored any longer.

We have many more problems, compounded today, than during Leopold’s times, and it is time we confront them – and the Wild Horse’s on Public Lands situation can be used here as a metaphoric guide, so to speak, of misinformed human-activities – versus — nature and how we ignore nature’s relationships. Some refer to this as nature’s-energy, and which some understand and others, well, simply choose to remain ignorant.

Leopold realized the overly violent removal of wolves created cross-scale spillovers. It challenged him and others, to the point of change. What he thought as constant, was not that at all, but his actions proved more of an inconsistent nature, which promoted via his actions, destruction of an entire habitat.

Learning through our errors is what life is all about. Standing up and admitting our errors, difficult at best, but doable. And as with Leopold, a better circumstance develops – with Leopold we ventured into his realm in, “Thinking Like a Mountain.” The difference between then and now, as it was discussed in other readings I perused, is we now must “Think Like a Planet,” and understand just what relationships we must deal with, in nature, within both wildlife and vegetation, and oceans and rivers alike.

Yes, all is connected, and we must redefine our place as humans, as not of supremacy, but of yet another species that can, and willing I suppose, to work within nature’s relationships – and to realize that it is our supremacy mind-set, our rapidity and violence of our activities that are now spilling over into destroying our natural habitats, our rain forests, and our public lands. Yes, our Wildlife Game Management Paradigms as well as our Range Management and Wildlife Management models are not working any longer. We have stepped into a world where change is required on our planet, or extinction follows.

Ecology and Mother Nature

As Leopold had discovered, or as he realized his mind-set was in need of change, in order to encompass the entirety of our natural environment, perhaps his hard-learned advice was:

“. . . when undertaking or risking major structural changes in larger systems, first, act experimentally, creating limited controls and carefully observing changes to larger, normally slow-moving systems; and,

. . . secondly, do not act irreversibly until you understand the likely consequences of your actions.” — Leopold, Think Like a Mountain

We can see now the structural analogy between the expansion of consciousness that is needed today, that enables us to self-critically reject one metaphor and the values it represented, in favor of a more, all-inclusive situation – that of the Mountain.

Now we step forward and into the term malicious-science, which is science drawn from opinion only, which, we find within the use of Pesticide PZP. We also find disorder, chaos in record keeping, and darting of wild horses a very disorganized methodology derived from bad-science. As the darters go into the field, many find the fact of not knowing whether or not particular mares had been darted, and also find Stallions had been darted with the Pesticide PZP. Incompetence? Absolutely! Irresponsible? Absolutely! There is much, much more negative than positive within the use of this Pesticide on our Public Lands, and corruption also, but on with this discussion.

It seems that the term “getting it right” is not of value when dealing with the government agencies that are paid millions in tax dollars to manage, not kill and lead to extinction, America’s Wild Horses. We look at the Bureau of Land Management as well as the USDA Forestry, and find their Economic Ecology to be misleading, and to be very inaccurate. Their Range Management nothing more than a broken paradigm or irrelevant model. There seems to be no understanding within either agency, in the matters of scaling the circumstance for correct modeling, or management; nor any mind-set at all toward the relationship of the wild horses to many different ecological habitats, nor, toward any type of Biodiversity what so ever – as if these situations did not exist.

We can say ignorance plays a roll in the modeling of wild horse management within these government agencies, but that becomes metaphoric as well, but inaccurate, as there is also hatred and an odd complex of special-interests only mind-sets that Leopold also had within his deer experimentation. Although, Leopold understood his errors, and become an advocate toward making better the relationships, he at first overlooked within nature. He established an ethical point of view, that we all see now, worthy and necessary in his approach, and even our approach today within wildlife and Ecological Habitat design and management principles. Obviously to us all, he left us with an insight, a simile that can apply to many different situations.

Wildlife and Habitat Dynamics

In order to recognize a specific sign, an observer or researcher, often has a preconceived image of what a typical sign looks like. Such a typical sign will he defined by certain characteristics which enable us to recognize specific patterns in signs with corresponding characteristics. Without such preconceived images many signs may be overlooked. However, with a preconceived image of a specific animal’s spoor (e.g. used here as the track or scent of an animal, in this discussion wild horses) in mind, an observer will tend to ‘recognize’ spoor in markings made by another animal, or even in random markings.

Their mind will be prejudiced to see what they want to see, and in order to avoid making such errors they must be careful not to reach decisions too soon. Decisions made at a glance can often be erroneous, so when encountering new signs, time should be taken to study them in detail.

To state wild horses are destroying our Public Lands, remains a choice of ignorance, over the more logical spoor, or science methodology of meticulous observation. Evidence is also required, but there is no evidence given by BLM or Forestry personnel in the field – just rhetoric.

While preconceived images may help to recognize signs, the observer must, however, avoid the preconditioned tendency to look for one set of things in the environment to the exclusion of all others. If one goes out with the intention of seeing a particular set of things, the mind is shut off from everything else. Researchers need to vary their vision in order to see new things.

It would be easily seen how special interest data gathering, or malicious research develops, from the above. For example, Rancher’s/Public Lands Managers see nothing more in the habitat than predators that may hurt, or even kill cattle. From then onward the ecology will be in danger of over-production of the raw material, or the graze; because, in the Rancher’s/Public Lands Manager’s mind-set, there is nothing else that really exists – or by some, to hell with anything and everything except cattle. Paramount destruction follows. Sadly, the BLM and Forestry support such endeavors, and at the cost of America’s Wild Horses, who are being take to extinction, and easily seen within the dynamics, or lack of, today’s wild horse management paradigms, and actions that follow.

Shift in Metaphors

There is a transformation taking place, and the two government agencies as well as what is referred to as “Welfare Ranching,” not only remain uncomfortable with the facts of truth, but fight it at every clash when a shift of metaphor transpires. The supposed productive factory metaphor, or what we refer to as the over-consumptive reaping of nature’s raw material (grass and grazing lands) and when nothing left simply move on to another habitat (destruction at its very worst), ignores the fact of seeing land as a “fountain of energy” that when used properly, can accommodate many. So why lie – which merely states corruption involved.

But this “Fountain of Energy” metaphor is both dynamic, and emphasizing energy flow and process, and yet also integrative. Where it does not replace the ecosystem-as-productive-factory metaphorically, it does shed a little light on the nature’s-raw-materials metaphor, and how our lands are being misused, destructively at best.

These terms, in real-time, can and does relocate productivity for a much larger use, within a larger system of food-chains (both Ecologically and eventually to the slower moving Environmental Landscapes) within an “energy-flow” context. Many of us would like to develop further, a much larger ecological system within our Public Lands, where it can fulfill its Multiple-Use paradigm, within a production context, while stabilizing and renewing wilderness areas (diversity of wildlife – top-down trophic cascades, and of course some bottom-up classifications as well) where the wild horses can still run free, as well as wolves and other species alike. Relationships are built on situations, or ideologies, such as this aforementioned, which become a far more superior model of managing our Public Lands. Simple ignorance leads our Public Lands to destruction, and non-fulfilled margins of Multiple-Use Lands – which is the designation of our Public Lands anyway.


We need to progress, from the utilitarian-only management mind-set to a superior modeling practice and process of Ecology-Guided multi-scaled management paradigms, and for government agencies to take responsibility for all impacts of management choices. Yes, it is time to rid our government agencies of employees who have become irresponsible, and agencies fraught with misconduct and corruption.

Yes, learning to think like a mountain, but even expand upon that, and we must start thinking like a planet, and consider all the different levels of natural situations, as well as human-made problems which are devastating our planet currently, that can be resolved through an understanding of our relationship with nature itself.

We need to replace the economic models, that have been corrupted, and never really worked anyway, due to not understanding the relationship we need to have with nature, and the prevalent raw materials available to us. Take what we need, and leave the rest, for growth, for the future. Production and consumption is no longer on the negotiating table, because we now have limited raw materials to use.

We must reorient our thinking, and using the wild horses as our guide, toward enhancing our environmental system in its entirety, by improving the smaller ecological habitats, which will eventually become healthy, and slowly reintegrate within the overall landscape. This reintegrates the processes that many habitats depend upon, and into a more viable, a more complex system that will support the continuance of our human society, and generate quality into the life of not only the human species, but nature itself. . .


Posted by on February 27, 2018 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “Thinking Like a Planet: Saving Wild Horses Through Quality Ecology

  1. Maggie Frazier

    February 27, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    Thinking with common sense – all of the above is so true. Unfortunately, there is such a lack of what my grandparent’s generation called “common sense”! I wonder, honestly, if any single representative of our “government” actually looks outside his privileged little space and sees what is happening to our planet. The fact of so many countries now having not enough water for their citizens? Now frankly, that should say something to these supposed movers & shakers. While this administration is getting rid of all those pesky regulations – you know, clean air, clean water, even a healthy environment – where exactly do they think this will end?
    And then, all of the animal species (wild horses among them) that are being driven out of their habitats & exterminated. We need them – all of them – far more than some of these greedy humans!
    Thanks once again for YOUR common sense!

  2. Louie C

    February 28, 2018 at 8:02 pm


    House “Science” Committee Chair Wants Scientists out of Environmental Health Policy

  3. Barbara Warner

    March 3, 2018 at 12:47 am

    Beautifully written truths, John. Thank you.

  4. Louie C

    March 6, 2018 at 6:32 am


    I’m 63 years old. There was a time when I was very proud of my generation.
    During the years of the Viet Nam war, we took a stand … spoke out against the war,
    civil injustices and so on. We protested, marched and preached peace, love and
    kindness. We condemned apathy.
    It’s now thirty five plus years later. Perhaps we can step forward again and leave
    our mark on history. We started out passionate about making things right, why not
    make some noise on the way out too. What our government is doing to the wild horses
    of the western US and the way it is being done is an atrocity. It is an injustice against
    nature. Even the horses left behind or turned back out suffer from the social disorder
    gathers cause.

    We have had people from 15 different countries come to our Liberated
    Horsemanship clinics here in Warrenton, MO. We also traveled to Italy and British
    Columbia for clinics in 2009. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people from
    other countries ask something like, “What’s wrong with people who allow an icon of
    their country to be unnecessarily brutalized and exterminated by their government?”
    It’s an embarrassment and I don’t have a good answer. Apathy and self-indulgence?
    Maybe. But I believe it is more likely just too few people are aware of what is being
    done and its short and long-term consequences … for the horses themselves and for our
    country. Mahatma Ghandi once said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats
    its weakest members.” For me, and many others that includes animals.

    Dr. Nock has been a scientist for 40+ years. He is a tenured faculty member of multiple departments at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a subject of biographical record in both Marquis’ Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare.
    Dr. Nock has published numerous articles of original research in leading scientific journals on diverse topics including learning theory, wild horse behavior and stress physiology. Currently his research is funded by the United States National Institute of Health and focuses on transgenerational and epigenetic effects of morphine.
    Dr. Nock has a deep practical and academic knowledge of animal behavior and related topics. He has a Master of Science degree from a psychobiology program at Bucknell University that focused almost entirely on animal behavior and related subjects. He earned a PhD from the world renown Institute of Animal Behavior, Rutgers University, and continued with four years of post-doctoral studies that focused on behavioral neuroendocrinology. The best part is, he can communicate what he knows in straightforward, understandable terms.

    Click to access Wild%20Horse%20Stress_1.pdf


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