The forces threatening Mother Nature's delicate balance have been at work since before the advent of humankind, but the footprint of civilization has crushed wide swaths of nature in its wake. Rachel Carson's paradigm-shifting SILENT SPRING celebrated its fiftieth anniversary last year (2012), the same year that marked the death of another noble defender of nature, Jean Craighead George. No words of praise from me or others can do justice to the impact her writings have had in leading countless readers along a path of responsible conservation of Earth's resources, especially wildlife.
|Dutton Juvenile, 2008|
|Dutton Juvenile, 2010|
Almost a decade before Silent Spring was published I recall standing with my fourth grade classmates for a choral recitation of the eloquent short poem by Carl Sandburg, Buffalo Dusk.
The Buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by the thousands and how they pawed the prairie sod
into dust with their hoofs, their great heads down pawing on in a great pageant of dusk,
Those who sawa the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.
George's text is equally eloquent in its clear portrayal of the domino effects this interference with nature generated. A cascade of negative consequences followed: plowing, farming, and predictable climate cycles of drought and flood resulted in the grasshopper plagues, erosion, and the dustbowl.
|Dial Books, 2013|
I hope these books will find their way into the hands of young readers, initiating a domino effect of positive consequences. My life has spanned the years when extinction and loss were considered inevitable and irreversible, on to years of awareness and activism on behalf of nature. Now, though, the good news contained in these portrayals has produced the twin challenges penned by Dickens: ignorance and apathy. When populations have recovered enough that states now allow hunting and trapping of wolves, when the boundaries of national parks form an unfenced border beyond which these restored species are game, it's far to easy to assume that extinction is not a concern. Our vigilance must be greater than ever. The youth of today need to read these stories of species on the brink of disappearing in order to become tomorrow's defenders of the cause to which Caron and George devoted their lives.