Imagine you have been living and making a living in a particular area, like a town. It’s not where you grew up, but it’s where you moved since you left your parent’s house. This may not be the first or last place you settle down, but it’s where you’re living right now. You have a certain range where daily you don’t travel more than 30-50 miles from your house, which is the nucleus of your home range. You know the characteristics of your neighborhood fairly well. You know your neighbors. You know where to find food and where to find relaxation and entertainment. You feel your habitat is secure.
Now imagine one day your house, your neighborhood, where you find food, where you make a living, where you engage in entertainment and relaxation—all of that is destroyed. Bulldozed to the ground. Nobody explains why this happened. Your neighbors are also caught by surprise. Nobody really knows who’s responsible. All you could see were the machines tumbling your houses over, exploding cars, up-rooting backyard gardens, burning down food markets, schools, hospitals. Every entity that defined your world destroyed, and you (along with your neighbors) have nowhere to go. You are all homeless.
Now continue to imagine your homelessness and what you could do next. You could take yourself (if you only have yourself to be responsible for) or you could take your family (which makes your journey to find a new home even more desperate) and walk until you find somewhere to find food in the meantime. However, you are not the only one on this wander. Your neighbors are included too. You’re all going in a similar direction, but still splitting off, trying to see who will find habitat first.
It’s been five days, and you (and your family) are hungry. You’ve been walking and found nothing but grassy fields stretching for miles and miles severed by thin streams, forcing you to drink unfiltered, untreated water to stay alive. When you finally come across land other than field, you find a dense forest, loud from various animal calls. You’re immediately hesitant because you were taught to be cautious in this type of habitat. You were taught that this is not your habitat.
But you remain hungry and you have to at least try to see if there are any foods inside the forest. It smells lush enough. There’s bound to be something edible. It’s summer time! You enter the forest, incredibly cautious, uneasy, and feeling highly vulnerable. This place doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel like home. But you’re hungry. You don’t have any liberties to be choosy. You take your chances with exploring the thick forest.
You find a stand of shrubs bearing fruit and think “Thank goodness, food! Finally!” and gobble the food ravenously, forgetting your surroundings. BAM! Someone hits you from behind. It felt like a large claw tore the skin off your back. You lie on the forest floor, your face smeared in berry juice. You’re terrified as you see the large face hover over you and bite into your face. Now you’re dead.
You didn’t even have a chance to ask why you died. It seems to have come out of nowhere, as soon as you stepped into this new habitat. Well, this is what happens to displaced wild animals all the time. When their homes are destroyed due to, for example, deforestation and filling wetlands in order to build subdivisions or shopping centers, they essentially have nowhere to go and have no choice but to wander until they find food. However, that food is often in places considered human habitat (like in dumpsters or gardens) and by even making themselves visible in this highly dangerous area, they are showing how vulnerable going hungry makes someone. Majority of the time, when this happens to bears or mountain lions or deer or armadillos or coyotes or moose, they are persecuted and killed for no better reason other than being present in human habitat. This is the true despair of being displaced. Literally, having no place to go. Indigenous peoples of the Amazon know this all too well.