I was lucky enough to visit the Florida coast last week. We were in a place known for its shells. I love just walking along the beach not only looking at the variety of shells, but also at the number of people who stopped to LOOK. I think so often in our life we don’t slow down enough to see or appreciate the small and amazing things all around us.
When I stopped to look, I found a tiny crab the size of my thumbnail skittering along the sand. I saw a small jellyfish the width of ping-pong ball. I saw unidentifiable semi-squishy things. And millions, if not billions, of shells. And what struck me the most about those shells was that each one was amazing and beautiful in its own right. Each one had been the home of a critter. What was their story? There’s a whole universe in ocean – I am grateful for my glimpse into it.
In the middle of this government shutdown over a border wall, little attention has been given to the environmental impact of said wall. Wait, I take that back. Thousands of scientists have warned our illustrious leaders about the severe impacts of a wall, yet they are not listening. But the impacts are real and the consequences are severe.
To start, several endangered species of plants and animals live along the border between the United States and Mexico; wall construction, monitoring, and maintenance will further threaten their survival. A wall would also fragment habitats, isolating plant and animal species and limiting their range and breeding. In addition, migration routes will be cut off. Walls worsen flooding. And more natural places, including many ecologically sensitive areas, will be degraded to suit human needs. Finally, dozens of the country’s environmental laws must be stomped on, shredded, or shoved aside in order to build a wall.
Among the species affected, the Mexican gray wolf. It is listed federally as endangered. They have been at risk for extinction for decades – their numbers dropped to only 5 in the late 1970s. The survivors were captured and scientists began to breed them in captivity. The offspring were reintroduced to their native ecosystem in 1998. However, as of 2018, there were only 114 known Mexican gray wolves in the wild.
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
I recently came across this quote by Rachel Carson and was struck by its truth. For me, it’s a manifesto of sorts: open people’s eyes to the wonders of nature. There are wonders at every turn. All we have to do is slow down. Stop. Look. And listen.
This picture was taken over the summer in the Colorado mountains. It is the trunk of a fallen tree and the squiggles were made by insects burrowing just under the bark. But what insect? How many? Where did they go when the tree fell? As I stared at the patterns left behind by the unknown insects, question after question filled my head. There was a whole universe in that tree.
Apparently I’ve always been a conservationist. As I helped clean out some boxes at my parents’ house, I came across one that had YEARS worth of my old school assignments. I think my mom saved everything. There were reports and worksheets and essays. Most papers I just glanced at and recycled. Yet one caught my eye: “Conservation Report.” The report was written in my fat, loopy, cursive handwriting in April 1980. I was 11. Even more interesting was the comment by the teacher: “I hope you stay concerned…”
My report had news articles taped in it. Below each article was more cursive; the assignment must have been for me to read and comment on the articles. One was about old sequoia trees, another about the loss of habitat for pandas, and another about solar power. But the one that really caught my eye was titled, “Scientists warn Senate panel of ecology disaster.” The article reported how scientists warned Congress about the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere. THIS WAS IN 1980!!! It goes on to say that “within 40 to 50 years…the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere may cause the so-called greenhouse effect to begin.” Were these people prophetic? No, they were scientists.
Even at 11 years old, I understood the enormity of the problem. I wrote, “There are many more problems than stated in the article that we have to solve, but how do you get over four billion people to realize the danger of how we’re living?”
Almost 40 years later, scientists are still sounding the warning alarms and I’m still wondering how we get people (now almost eight billion) to realize the danger of how we’re living.