The Prairie

Once upon a time this used to be the prairie, once inhabited by buffalos and Indians, both perfectly adapted to life in this demanding environment. Freezing cold in winter and blazing heat in summer, with little shelter and few watering sources life was not easy here. Then, only some two hundred years ago, white men came and brought guns, germs and steel to this world, killing the buffalos by the millions and driving the Indians out of their home lands. Today the prairie is crisscrossed by fences, not longer an open country. Telegraph poles and roads are cutting through the land where the descendants of the Indians roam the land in air conditioned pickup trucks. But would they really want to go back to live in tents, feeding themselves from hunting, with no medical care other than a shaman?

John Day Fossil Beds National Park

John Days Fossil Bed National Park is one of the richest fossil formations in the world, documenting mammal evolution of the last fifty million years. During this time the landscape has transformed from ocean bottom to sub-topical jungle, inhabited by cat sized horses eating leaves and ferns as grass had not been yet developed. The volcanoes from the nearby ridges (including those we have been visiting already like Crater Lake and Lassen) repeatedly covered the whole landscape with ashes and lava, destroying life and thereby preserving it as fossils.
Thirty million years ago climate changes made the area dryer, transforming the former jungle in a hardwood forest, forcing plants and animals to adapt to the new environment. Still volcanic activity was strong, continuously wiping out plants and animals with lava and mudfloods, thereby preserving their traces.
Over the eons the area got still dryer, changing into a savannah, with open grasslands. Animals had to react to the changing conditions, becoming larger partly to the fact that there were no places to hide anymore. Volcanic activity ceased, allowing the erosive forces of wind and water to continue forming the landscape.

What we can learn from this history today? Change is inevitable and necessary for the development of life, forced life to the modern shapes. Those species who were not able to adapt to change did not survive (except as fossils), which might have been cruel for the individual, but did not matter anything to life and its progress as such. And this principle will hold in the future as well - question will just be if mankind will belong to the fossils or not.


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