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Carrying Capacity

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In Monty Caid's column encouraging the use of foods native to our area ("Go Local, Go Native," Sept. 21), a major point is missed. Our immediate area (say the area where the Wiyot and the Yurok once lived) now has a population many times that of the First Nation peoples before the arrival of those of European origin. As is the way in natural systems, the population of any given area, whether it be aboriginal humans or field mice, will stabilize at the maximum carrying capacity of the environment. So because the human population at this point is in excess of what this environment could support, say, 500 years ago, sustenance for our present population would not be possible.

The human body needs calories, above all, for survival. The areas of the world where grains were first domesticated allowed much greater population density. No such development occurred here. In fact, plant material provided a minor part of the diet, with minimal contribution to caloric needs. The principal foods of the First Nation peoples of this area were salmon, eel, deer and elk, providing sufficient calories and of course life-sustaining fat and protein. There is no way that these wild foods could provide enough nourishment for the present population.

 Yes, we have altered irredeemably our great Mother Earth. We grieve for what has been lost forever; yet it is impossible to go backwards. However, it is feasible to value our native flora whether it feeds us or not. For those interested in our local native plants, the Northcoast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society offers wonderful access to such knowledge.

Kathryn Corbett, Eureka


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