“Seasons”: Our Glorious Forests (i.e. Habitats) Are Waning

This review of “Seasons” was originally published on SFForest.net. The movie encapsulates the history of our gorgeous planet — the history of it all, not just mankind. This is history as we should be looking at it and comprehending it. Habitat destruction is increasing at an alarmingly faster and faster pace. Habitat, habitat, habitat: it is the most important factor impacting wildlife, including urban coyotes. In San Francisco, forests and thickets are being removed in favor of native grasslands which, it turns out aren’t even native!

2015-12-3013-07-59This movie, SEASONS, mesmerizes with the beauty and magic of its photography of the forests, forests which are few and far between these days. The story is told almost entirely visually — few words are needed. The movie begins as the Ice Age wanes and melts, creating lush, gorgeous and almost impenetrable forests — life wants to live — and these forests spread across the continents and so do the species which inhabit them.

To begin with these are secret places which humans inhabited only minimally — after all, there were few people in the world back then and forests were not so hospitable to people. So the forests were left to thrive — for eons. The movie both gives you a feel for the everyday life of the forest and its inhabitants — the many species that live there — at the same time zeroing-in on these species during both some of their more brutal life-changing transitions and during the softest transitions such as birth. In those few moments of change, the animals become “who”s instead of “it”s — individuals on their journeys through their lives in the forests which covered the world.

The movie takes us through a number of seasons. Nothing really changes at first except the seasons themselves. The movie opens onto a white blanket of snow and buffalo coping with incredible cold — each of them in the herd is hunkered down in the snow so as not to expend energy — winter is brutally harsh. We then hear a screech owl as the thaw of winter takes place and hear the dripping of water — the melting snow. And the movie begins.

photo credit: Mathieu Simonet

photo credit: Mathieu Simonet

With springtime come babies, birds, bugs . . . too, like bears — and a shy human observer — that’s all the human activity there is to begin with. And we begin to see animals at telling moments in their fight for survival or for a place in their social hierarchies: horses fight viciously for dominance or mating rights — magpies watch knowingly.

Soon Fall comes with wind, more bugs and birds, geese migrate and then snow again. And again the snows melt into streams where we see beavers and pelicans. We see hogs and wolves. We see baby ducks jump (literally crash land from enormous heights — but they are light and it doesn’t hurt them) — this is the journey they must take. We see bears, one lying lazily in a tree watching a vicious fight between two other bears — they are amazingly ferocious. We see spiders weaving webs and then more wind and rain, drenching rain this time, and a rainbow.

photo credit: Ludovic Sigaud

photo credit: Ludovic Sigaud

Wolves are introduced: they howl and they hunt and they, too, as bears, moose and horses, have ferocious and life-altering dominance clashes: bears use arms to hit each other, horses use teeth to bite or hooves to kick, deer use antlers to whack each other, wolves use teeth. A snake slithers over low-lying branches and we find ourselves rooting for the little mouse to escape. Flying squirrels are gorgeous — all the animals are gorgeous. Then we see baby wolves escape into their den from a bobcat — how brilliant it is that Mama wolf chose such a tiny entrance to keep such predators away. And throughout it all, green, green leaves which always hide the animals somewhat. The leaves soon turn to oranges and browns and fall off as the seasons progress.

A strutting deer is taken by a bobcat behind a snowbank, so we don’t actually see it, but we know what happens. A young wolf is viciously driven out of his pack and has to make it on his own. He accepts his fate — this is HIS journey. And again, we glimpse a single human passing through. Nothing has really changed year after year — only the seasons.

photo credit: Philip Garguil

photo credit: Philip Garguil

But slowly, instead of the wild hogs, we see pigs and goats and castles. There is a hunt and an arrow is used. Humans are taking over with their roads and harnessing animals to make life better for themselves. In the meantime, there are fewer and fewer places for animals to take refuge. Trees are felled — we are told it takes 3,000 trees to build one ship in Her Majesty’s navy. Animals begin taking refuge in the mountains. There are now more open fields, so there are more butterflies. There is another hunt by humans who have “advanced”: they use horses and 20 hounds to pursue one deer. The forests have been cut specifically to allow this kind of hunt: it was a microcosm of what we were doing to the entire world: the world would be for us and us alone.

Then machines and horses and war, factories spewing out filthy smoke and the spraying of poisons such as DDT to control our environment. Cities now pop up where forests used to be. The movie proposes that a new alliance is possible — that now we must work to preserve what is left — that it is possible but we must do so now. There still are some forests full of beauty and magic: the movie depicts them in all their gorgeous glory. It’s time to wake up to what human presence is doing and arrest our taking over it all before it is all gone.

Experience the beauty of the natural world with SEASONS, a documentary from the team behind WINGED MIGRATION: http://bit.ly/SeasonsFilm

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPC2kZQ9kwU

Fire!

2011-10-08

Coyotes are very aware of even small changes in their environment. Here, something big has happened and they are checking it out, looking around, spooking, “tasting” it and marking it. It was not until several days after the fire that they would even approach the area. As time goes on, the change will be accepted as the way things are, but initially this is never the case where coyotes are concerned.

I was not there to see the fire as it occurred, and probably neither were these coyotes, or they might have tried putting it out in its early stages! Hope Ryden in her book, God’s Dog, on page 144 refers to an incident she witnessed whereby a coyote put out a small fire (posted in May of 2011) which I’m reprinting here again, below:

“Did you know that coyotes put out fires?” The man asking the question had been smoking a cigarette, which is what probably prompted the question to Hope as they observed a coyote. The man proceeded to set an envelope on fire with his cigarette and tossed it in the coyote’s direction. The coyote quickly “pounced on it, and began drumming the flames with her forefeet while bouncing on and off the blaze until only the edges still had sparks”. The fire wasn’t out yet, so the coyote, with its shoulder, pushed the scrap of paper with embers against the ground, then stood up to examine it, and repeated this again. The fire was now out. Apparently all coyotes put out fires — small fires. Wow!!

Habitat Issues: Forest Carbon 101

We need to preserve our thickets and forests not only as habitat for our wildlife, but also to offset human carbon production caused by modern urban living, particularly our cars. This video was created by the Nature Conservancy, one of the leading conservation agencies in the US.

In San Francisco, the plan is to cut down 18,500 trees in order to return the landscape to what it was in 1776. We have photos of it back then — the landscape consisted of sand dunes, and sparse dune plants. NAP has created this type of environment on Twin Peaks which, by the way, is sprayed with potent toxic pesticides every four months to keep it this way.

Most of us don’t want our parks turned into another Twin Peaks, nor maintained artificially in this manner. Please visit the San Francisco Forest Alliance which is trying to preserve our San Francisco forests and wildlife habitat: SFForest.Net. Get involved and sign the petition!!