Bear decided it was time for a change. It was late summer and the heat was bothering him. Each year, it seemed to grow hotter. The river was drying to a trickle and food was scarce. He headed north following the receding glaciers.
An ice age was passing but even a bear moves faster than a glacier. So Bear didn’t have to go far. When he reached the cold, he wintered in a hollow tree a hundred miles from where he began. He didn’t wake until spring.
Then, as so often happens to bears on the move, Bear was distracted before he could resume his journey by that other more imperative call of nature, procreation. Bear mated and settled there by the hollow tree. He and his mate had five offspring.
One of them with a particularly long, warm fur coat – we’ll call him Bear, too – continued the trip north, motivated by the receding ice and sweaty palms that come with thick fur.
Generation after generation spanning thousands of years Bear (we’ll call all of his descendants ‘Bear’ now, since they were evolving into a distinct genus) moved north, selected by nature’s mechanisms for a warm, sleek white coat more and more suited to the polar extremity which would be his ultimate destination.
Ten thousand years later Bear finally made it, and he was hungry. Fish were hard to come by swimming beneath the ice, so he looked to the Arctic seal for his next meal. Our new genus, Polar Bear became a predator upon the timid seal—an environmental pressure slowly driving seals from their arctic habitat.
A slow, simple and even romantic dance ensued; Bear and seal, one leading, one following, across latitudes and ages. As new adaptive seals (Seals) moved south, away from the Polar Regions toward more temperate zones, adaptive bears would follow until a new balance was created and then broken again.
But during Bear’s ten thousand year expedition, and of course over the millions of years that preceded it, men were also evolving. There were men and then there were Men. And thick furry coats weren’t among their adaptive features. Men had developed tools and new ways of adapting, through behavior.
Despite their relatively diminutive size, slowness of foot, their short jaws, and small canine teeth, Men with their new Brains were terrific hunters. And in those equatorial latitudes, bears—those now distant cousins of Bear’s—were easily hunted and killed by Men (while Polar Bear remained safely at the North Pole).
Bear meat might have been tastier than camel but the real bonus was a bear fur coat. A Man might kill a bear and donning this previously-owned coat, he could migrate to the North Pole in only the time it required to walk, ride or drive there: a ten thousand year journey for a bear effectively duplicated by a Man in months!
Generations of seals had no time to become new adaptive Seals and fell prey to this new Man. Even our highly adapted Polar Bear was unable to find a speedy back door exit from which to escape this situation. Nature provided no way for Bear or Seal or many of the other creatures in the path of this new behaviorally adaptive Man to compensate. Extinction was often the result.
Our well traveled Bear might have found his final resting place on a hanger in a well appointed department store. But what about Man? Is man nature’s final predator?
For a moment let’s not talk about nature but about Nature—the great umbrella under which even greater compensations are, even as we speak, being made. Nature is an additive system; it always carries the biggest stick. Within Nature responsibility is a relative issue – but humans are mortal and Nature is ultimately responsible.
Remember Prometheus, tied to a rock for all eternity?
Remember Superman, died January 1993 edition, D.C. comics?
Remember the bear?