A couple of weeks ago, I went to a presentation in Boulder that was led by two environmental physicists. Their talk was about the "Lord of the Rings," how it proposes a myth for our time. The presentation led to a discussion about environmental issues using Saruman's abuse of the earth as a starting point. Something was said that struck me, a quotation: "We can only hurt and abuse that which we have no relationship to." A relationship implies give and take, mutual benefit, caring about the welfare of the other, paying attention to what they are about, what they need. We were talking about our need as a culture to develop a conscious relationship to nature, to the environment and to the animals who share it with us. If we don't, we may not survive.
So I have a story about a relationship I would like to share with you, a challenge we might address as a community. Summer is now approaching in Steamboat, and soon the weekly rodeos will begin once again. They are community affairs, full of fun and excitement. Late Friday afternoon, you can join in. Nothing wrong with that, we need more of that togetherness. However, there is one aspect of reciprocity its lack of relationship borders on abuse. I am talking about the animals that take part in the activities: the bulls, and the calves, the horses used for the bucking bronco event. They have no voice in the matter. They get nothing from it, terror or rage and eventually, at best, resignation.
I have gone past the rodeo grounds during the week in the summer, and the bulls are there, the horses, too, two or three to a small pen, standing or lying down in their own excrement in the hot sun, waiting perhaps for the journey to a pasture or a stream running by and some shade to lie under, a dim memory of what perhaps once was. What will come surely on Friday night, when someone will shove them in the chute, perhaps hang a bell under their belly, then get on their back and give them the scare of their life. There will be fun and laughter side by side with all that misery.
I used to work on a ranch when I was younger, and I know the needs of cattle and horses for space, shade, green grass and quiet times. Perhaps the beginning of a relationship with the bulls and horses of the rodeo grounds would be to provide them with good pasture during the week. It would introduce some give and take in their existence, not this terrible sentence of life imprisonment and then you die. Some of the money from the rodeo profits might be used to rent the pastures. Perhaps also eventually we could come up with new events, things to do together that would be fun yet not at the expense of animals. I would like to take part in that kind of rodeo.