Tuesday, February 24, 2009

...and I feel fine...

Had an interesting conversation today on the train on the way into the City. I was told that the wolf population of the rural north-eastern United States is dramatically increasing. I wondered if it was a food-chain-related thing. Perhaps a number of good summer growing seasons had caused an increase in the number of deer which would attract wolves. My interlocutor agreed that of course this had something to do with it, but said that the main reason is the plummeting population of the rural US. Country folk went along with the trend of the late 20th century and stopped having a lot of kids, you see.

The ones they did have followed the general trend and moved to the city and as their parents die off, farms, villages and whole towns are being abandoned. A rural country drained of humans and their guns has attracted the wolves who have come over the border from the huge open and equally empty-of-humans wild spaces of Quebec and Ontario.

I commented that something similar had happened in Europe after the Black Plague. For quite a while starting in the second half of the 14th century, there were more wolves in Europe than men.

I would be very interested in having a close look at the demographics, county-by-county of these states. New York state, for example, probably has a fairly high birth rate overall, just because there are a lot of people in New York city, but the real information would be discerned in looking at the birth rates of individual counties outside the urban areas. I don't have any numbers to quote, but it is a very intriguing idea.

Of course the consequences of our self-extinction project are still under-noticed and the early signs are happening in places where even demographers tend not to bother looking. But I think we will see more of this kind of thing as our western, European-originated world continues to fade away.


Zach said...

My understanding (backed by anecdote, personal observation, and a cursory glance at the data, and the analysis of other people who actually have dug into the numbers)...

... is that it's the rural and semi-rural areas where the reproductive rate is high. Big cities survive by siphoning off population from the rural outlying areas, since they're not self-sustaining, population-wise.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a prime example -- declining and aging population of humans, expanding population of wolves. You can see the same dynamic at work in rural south Michigan, too, minus the wolves. Although we have had confirmed cougar attacks (on horses, not humans) only 35 miles out from my house in the city...


Anonymous said...

"it's the rural and semi-rural areas where the reproductive rate is high."

I well believe it, but the trouble is that even having ten kids per couple, the tiny number of people who still live in the country can do nothing to stop the general trend when 90 per cent of the population lives in cities and is not doing more than 1.3 per woman.

The fondest dreams of the environutters is soon to become our living nightmare.