The Reward of an Ecological Education 24 May 2013
They continue to move in great waves from the tropical forests of the Americas onward to Wisconsin and beyond 45 degrees North Latitude. Warblers, vireos, flycatchers, tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks, and buntings, the deeply rich colors of the rainforest head north on featherlight wings. A wondrous diversity of sound accompanies the color. Here and there, flocks of birds bring the forest canopy and understory to life! I embrace the moment, soak it in, drink it up, and wish for time to stand still. This is my love.
Magnolia Warbler, baby oak leaves
I am an environmentalist, because I cannot imagine a life without such beauty and diversity. This is how it works, how the world is supposed to be. This beauty is here because it is right, because it has been here long before all of us. We owe it to each other and all future generations to protect it. To destroy it would be cruel and selfish. Take in the moment. Breathe in the blossoms and hold, frozen for an instant, the colors and wondrous personality of a small forest bird.
American Redstart, female
In today's day and age, a confusing fight has broken out among people. The term "Environmentalist" has been smeared and distorted beyond recognition by radio media, political debate, and fear propaganda. Take a moment to remember, like a bird following the deep genetic storybook of a migratory route, what this was all supposed to be. Environmentalism at its best is simple. It is a deeply rooted conservation ethic, land stewardship with respect for biological diversity, water protection, sustainable agriculture, and sustainable forestry. It works locally, but it thrives in branching to statewide, nationwide and international conservation cooperatives that hold true to form. Economically, environmentalism works in supporting small and local businesses and the reduction of the overall "footprint" made by each consumer.
The big idea is that we can pass a healthy planet on to our great grandchildren. Like the songbirds, we put our value in bringing our future generations the certainty of a working path. There are a million other buds and branches to the environmentalist tree, but that is the essence. It isn't fiery radical. It is how real national security comes about. It is sustainable muscle, a steady trickle of productive movement with respect for the future, a promise in the future that comes with forward-thinking and caring gestures all along the way. Environmentalism is a proud, noble, service-oriented, caring, and productive direction to take. Sure, environmental attitudes have had to become strongly political as industrialization forces impose short-sighted direction for short-term capital gain at the expense of clean water and healthy biodiversity. Like the birds, we have had to adapt our route to sudden changes on the landscape. All that is and was simple becomes a war of escalations. And politicians have made a game of it. It is time to get back to basics again, to make environmentalism attainable by the masses again. Gaylord Nelson, Rachel Carson, and Aldo Leopold had it right a long time ago.
American Redstart, after-hatch-year male on first return to Wisconsin from the tropics
Black-throated Green Warbler
Tennessee Warbler within the oak branches
Aldo Leopold wrote, "One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen." He has said it best, capturing the essence of what it is to be in love with the details in the ecological fabric, the tiny patterns that make up the larger pattern, the individuals species that make-up the whole function of each system. When you love it, you learn it. When you learn it, it becomes a part of you. When ignorance destroys it, it angers you. When ignorance angers you, you teach.
Yellow Warbler, female
Blackburnian Warbler with insect prey
Real conservationists must dedicate at least part of their lives to being teachers. We should strive daily to share an ecological education with so many others so that it is no longer so much a penalty as a reward. This would make Aldo Leopold very proud! "The reward of an ecological education is..."
Magnolia Warbler, parting shot...
All images were made with a refurbished Canon 7D and Canon 300mm f4L IS lens. To boost shutter speed a little, I shot these images at ISO 400 in natural light. A light overcast made for soft and pleasing tones of light.