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Giving a Hoot

Introduction by Mark Lerner (November 28, 2018): Nancy de la Vierra wrote this crystal-clear and inspirational feature for the Scorpio-Sagittarius 1992 issue of our pioneering astrological magazine – Welcome to Planet Earth. Nance’s observations and her writing style, in my estimation, are always profound, thought-provoking and poetically-measured, to coin a phrase. [Nance was a deep student and researcher of the best poetry, novels and plays, and when we met in 1989 and for well over 25 years afterwards, she usually read three books a week. Her vocabulary was immense; her I.Q. at genius levels.] Because we have a current presidency wrapped up in total narcissistic, over-the-top, “me-ism,” something Nance truly detested as a wave moving throughout our era of human evolution, were she alive now I am not sure she could even write this kind of beautifully evocative story. The truth is – not just in the Pacific Northwest, but globally, on land, in the waters, and throughout the atmosphere – I am constantly inundated with reports of the gigantic percentage of species being decimated, and with extinctions happening year after year. The Northern Spotted Owl – Nance’s focus in this article – is still very much an endangered species for the reasons she spells out below. And, curiously, the invasion of another species of owl – the barred owl – larger in size and very different in its living habits, migrating west from other areas of our continent, has become another dynamic in northern spotted owls leaving the forests out here and possibly going extinct – if humanity does nothing to reverse the calamitous climate change affecting all of Mother Earth. At her birth, Nance’s most elevated planet (at the potent beginning of the zodiac, 1 degree of Aries) is Pallas or under its ancient Greek name Athena – the Goddess of Knowledge, Wisdom, Problem-Solving, Strategizing, and associated with its animal totem and spirit, the Owl. Nancy de la Vierra’s Giving a Hoot begins now…

I have found it especially difficult to put pen to paper on the subject of the much maligned Northern Spotted Owl. I have been asked to address this issue, and it is not due to a lack of passion or interest, but a surfeit. As I ruminate in my retreat high in the Oregon Cascades, I hear a Steller's Jay make his presence known outside my door. I'd like to think he is thanking me for the black oil sunflower seeds I have distributed for him and his forest companions, but I don't have a lot of confidence in that assertion. Of late, when I hear the politicians (especially Bush and Quayle) gravitate towards this subject, it really sets my teeth on edge. Their apparent total lack of sincere understanding on this matter is appalling.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, timber workers (who vote) have decided to make the Spotted Owl their battle cry. They and their politicians trivialize the owl's plight and so diffuse the issue of old growth forests. Blaming the owl for forest management's shortsightedness, they attempt to appeal to the self-serving masses. Somehow, the owl's very existence (to believe them) threatens their livelihood and their ability to continue in their rampant destruction of the one percent of old growth remaining here. My question to them is this: What will you do when that tiny remainder of old growth forest is gone and you have forced not only the owl, but countless other species of animal and plant life into extinction? Who will you blame then?

I find it more than a little interesting that the owl has always, in our folklore and myths, been a symbol of wisdom and the natural world. A chance encounter with a member of the species produces a primitive sense of awe. The irony of wiping out an entire species of this appealing little creature indicates at what end of the intellectual spectrum are the perpetrators. There is often a tendency to anthropomorphize when one considers owls. Perhaps it is their human-like countenances which seem to reveal discernment and sagacity. Or their apparent similar social behavior (most owls are monogamous). There are numerous classical associations as well. The Greeks believed that their goddess of wisdom, Athena, possessed the ability to transform herself into an owl. [In astrology, birds of prey—eagles and hawks—are higher symbols of the sign Scorpio while the owl reveals a spiritual connection with Sagittarius.]

It is extremely disturbing to me that Bush has used this topic to nail down the working man's vote. Does he think we in the Northwest are so patently idiotic as to fall for his ruse? Suggesting to frightened mill workers and loggers that torpedoing the Endangered Species Act and sacrificing the owl will save their jobs for any length of time is disingenuous. The American electorate's tolerance for duplicity and prevarication is astounding.

Our two primary economic rivals, Germany and Japan, recognize the seriousness of the global environmental crisis. They realize the gravity of the worsening situation and see environmental protection as an opportunity for economic development, not as a barrier to growth.

Yesterday, while flipping channels, looking for news, I came upon the 700 Club and its leader, Pat Robertson, giving his so timely two cents on this very subject. Apparently, their aim is to dictate to their pathetic faithful whom to vote for. Mr. Robertson went on to say, "This whole matter is ridiculous—these people (environmentalists) actually worship trees." (At this point, he gestured rather clumsily, as if he were hugging a tree.) Continuing, he said, "I mean, I'm sure that this owl is a nice little bird, but if you cut down his tree, he'll just move to another one, and if you cut down that tree, he'll just move to another one. To save an owl, and lose 5 or 10 jobs is nuts."

Interestingly, it is that type of myopic and ignorant thinking that has us where we are today. An elaboration on the Manifest Destiny theme. The thing exists, I can take it, so I will take it—regardless of the cost—to other beings, human and otherwise. Where do we get the nerve, the temerity, to assert that simply by the questionable virtue of being physically able to rape and plunder the habitat of indigenous peoples and wildlife—it's okay? I am reminded of the description F. Scott Fitzgerald gives to his characters in The Great Gatsby:

They were careless people—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…

To refer to the mindless and full-scale numbskulls who have carved up our mountains and hillsides and left them looking like the leftovers of thermal nuclear war—as careless—is I realize, kind. But it came to mind.

I recently caught a news program about how successfully the job retraining program has worked in some of the most distressed timber communities. Interviewed was a man in his middle fifties, a lifelong logger, who was receiving, at taxpayer's expense, an education that will enable him to be a registered nurse! Now that doesn't seem like such a bad deal. What other group, after pursuing a career that has done so much damage to the environment, gets a free ride on the taxpayers? My nineteen-year-old wants nothing more than to become a nurse, but she has not been able to secure any kind of student aid in the form of loans or grants and I do not have the resources to offer a great deal of help.

This habit we have of leaching every natural resource from the land and moving on is blatantly irresponsible and downright stupid. Always looking at the short run eventually comes back on you. And that is what the timber folks are so angry about now. Their sins are visiting them. It is not the fault of the owl or any other species that loggers are beginning to stand in unemployment lines. It is the result of unforgivable poor forest management, business decisions and market forces.

But the entire issue is not the extinction of the owl or any other endangered species. It is the owl's habitat, his home. Vanishing magnificent old growth forests are the issue. Environmentalists are reviled and ridiculed by those in our country's highest office for simply wanting to preserve the minutia remaining for future generations—so tomorrow's children might still be able to see a glimpse of the glory this planet demonstrated everywhere during better times.

As to the charge that we environmentalists "worship trees," if the drivel Mr. Robertson shoves out is an indication of alternatives, I can think of worse places to put one's faith. But if forests held any god-like qualities, they wouldn't so desperately need our help in saving them now.

Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. -- Chief Seattle

Note To Readers: Please take a moment to learn more about the Northern Spotted Owl and the endangerment of this species of Owl and Old Growth Forests. Thank You!

© 1992 and 2018 by Nancy de la Vierra. All rights reserved.

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