Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

– Frank Zappa

What is the norm? What is progress? How do they come about?  Often people are described as sheep because they run around following the one in front of them, all becoming a common denomenator and doing the same thing in a sea of sheep. Thus they become a part of the normal behavior where their view from behind never changes and their routine will always be predictable. Only when a sheep deviates from the pack and ventures into unknow territory may it discover greener grasses.

As the sheep graze along out over the landscape, they avance forward in the pursuit of better grasslands.  In their progress, gobbling up each new parcel with the passage of time, over grazing often occurs in the absence of a herder to move them along before each last blade of grass is eaten into absence. Without a herder, this progress is always the same.

Most sheep don’t realize that in their progress, they often over-consume essential natural resources, thus becoming victems of their own behaviorial  desires.  The lone sheep that braves a new world on its own often discovers more grass and a better view.

The next time you travel to your next destination to fish, hunt, take pictures, or just escape the ordinary trivial pursuits  of everyday living, look around with new eyes. Have you noticed more areas that have become off limits than what they were from the last time you were there? As land exchanges convert more public lands into private, and more private lands are being converted into just that,  by no trespassing signs, our potential recreational areas are incrementally being  diminished.

You may not have noticed. Qfter all, can you ever remember seeing the grass turn from green to brown? Its  conversion inched along right under your nose from Spring to  Fall imperceptibly changing without your notice.  Only after the fact, after the grass has turned brown, after the public lands changed into private, does your awareness change.

Often people largely chalk up  these losses as the price we pay for progress.  The worn-out  cliche, “you can’t stop progress,” is true.  At least in the sense that you can’t stop movement of time into the future. However, what progress becomes is a different matter. Changing how you look at progress can influence its outcome, but only by deviating from following the pack that is content to see the same view. As psychologist say, you can’t continue doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result. Change the behavior, change the result.

Sometimes it means maintaining the integrity of what you already have, rather than merely allowing more grounds to become paved over in the name of progress, that we can help save ourselves from blindly following those with who hold the whip and money bag.  As a society or community, if we are to advance in a direction more beneficial than the previous one, fresh perspectives about our own consumptions is essential.

In natural resource management the use of a concept called  multiple sustainable yeild is the applied science for assuring all resources into perpetuity.  Maintaining the integrity of anything requires that it remains the same and does not become something else.  Once it does, its original value vanishes.  Since every person makes a track upon the planet, each  step is connection to something and has an impact, imperceptible as it may be.

Considering current human population dynamics and our unbridled natural resource consumptions at multiple levels, it seems the time is ripe for taking those deviations from the norm. If we humans are to make a more beneficial progress, we must change our current behaviors.  Better to trade in our sheep skins for the plumage of a wise old owl.

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