The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Our actions have consequences

PuddleEvery morning, I walk our dog through the floodplain and peer at puddles.  A few months ago, high waters stranded baby fish in ephemeral pools, puddles that are bound to dry up before the summer ends.  My first instinct was to scoop these babies out and carry them back to the creek, but then I paused to consider the consequences of my actions.

While it seems like a good idea to save the minnows, how do I know that these stranded fish aren't part of another animal's life cycle?  Do crawdads depend on pools like this for easy prey or do tree roots need the quick burst of nitrogen left behind as the minnows' bodies break down in the parched puddle?

Three damselfliesAnd what if moving those fish back to the creek disrupts the ecosystem there?  Will I singlehandedly overpopulate the stream, lowering reproductive rates of the other fish?  What if my minnows are better competitors but are actually less fit because their offspring will be more likely to drift into puddles and die without continued human intervention?

In the end, I left the puddles alone, choosing to let the fish die rather than setting off a chain reaction, the results of which I can't begin to predict.  The experience sent me off on a thought tangent, though, one that ballooned out into a lunchtime series (even though the lunchtime series is supposed to be on summer vacation.)  This week's topic is pretty controversial and is bound to make many of you decidedly uncomfortable, so I hope you'll bear with me rather than jumping to the wrong conclusions.  In fact, I'll even make you wait until tomorrow to learn the theme.  How's that for a teaser?

Don't let your chickens die of dehydration on hot summer afternoons.  Install a homemade chicken waterer that will never spill.

This post is part of our Ethics of Vegetarianism lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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For mosquito control and because of the limited natural habitat, I have installed six bat houses on our property, and a friend suggested I install a mercury vapor light outside on a pole so that the bats would have an easy supply of insects to eat at night. I explained to him that it would be interfering in the the way that they naturally get their own food and also a light that stays on all night is another form of pollution. Some things are best left alone and without human intervention.
Comment by zimmy Mon Jun 28 16:41:38 2010
Bats do such a good job with insect control! Between our wild bats and dragonflies, we really don't have a bug problem, despite living next door to a swamp. I'm glad you stuck to your guns about the light.
Comment by anna Mon Jun 28 17:43:25 2010
I'm looking forward to this series. I love your blog, especially your experiments. Thanks for the inspiration.
Comment by Kelly Tue Jun 29 00:23:27 2010
I hope you still say that today when you learn what the series is about. :-)
Comment by anna Tue Jun 29 07:31:45 2010

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