05 February 2004

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Bernd Heinrich ("Hibernation, Insulation and Caffeination," Op-Ed, Jan. 31), observing scarcity, puzzles how pre-humans found enough game to survive winter. The answer: things have changed.

During back-to-back summer trips to East Africa and to Colorado, I saw an abundance of game at Masai Mara and almost none in the lush valleys of the Rockies. The problem for game in the mountains: winter range, now farmland. I was reminded of the La Brea Tar Pits, where we can glimpse an Africa-like bounty of life from pre-human Southern California.

Humans' large brains demand a lot of food energy, but overcompensate with resourcefulness. The long-term effects are scary. In prehistoric times we had ample game; in historic times ample forests. In modern times we have ample oil. In competition for "growth" and for excessive wealth, we humans are like adolescents joy-riding a stolen car: powerful, reckless, purposeless, dangerous.

I'd rather walk.

Chicago, Jan. 31, 2004

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