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Humber Portage - Wasteland - James E Garratt

Our house here in the Humber Valley is, at least for the time being, immersed in wasteland. 'Wasteland' implying, of course, that this land is not yet directly utilized by humans and is therefore wasted. This is a 'default' assumption deeply ingrained in the modern mind. The urge to occupy wasteland is aggressively pursued by society through its institutions, industries and attached cultural qualities.

Part of this wasteland is composed of marginal pasture. The soil is too stoney to support cash crops. However, a plethora of other lifeforms here tends to deny the human presumption that this area is wasted.

Red-tailed hawks, for instance, are a noteable resident. We often see them soaring overhead or hunting above the meadows. Red-tails have nested nearby in the valley for three of the six years we've lived here. Visitors from the city, driving through the area, see the hawks too. For many people it is their first sighting of a large hawk in its natural habitat.

How do we place a value on the presence of these hawks - whether for their esthetic qualities or the practical work they do in maintaining the 'balance of nature'? To my mind, the living presence of a red-tail hawk is of greater value than any artwork made by human hands. It is the 'real thing' not a facsimile. I think that many visitors from the city would agree with me. Yet are we willing to let red-tail hawks continue to live here?

Consider how much 'wasteland' a family of these hawks requires to survive. Definite figures are difficult to arrive at, but the land area would be measured in hundreds of hectares (ie. a thousand acres). What choices can we make? Or are we too busy, too distracted - too far gone - to even begin to contemplate such choices?

copyright James E Garratt

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