Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Flight Behavior, photography, ignorance, and a meadow walk aligned like personal, fated stars one day last month.
My first photography show, Flora abunda is a wildflower image exhibit at CA State Parks’ Ford House Museum. As a hobby photographer and rank amateur in biology and botany, pulling all the pieces together has been a delightful, if sometimes challenging, eye-opener. A local expert made sure my plant i.d.s were correct, and pointed out, in passing, two plants that are food sources for the immature stage of two rare and endangered butterflies: the Behren’s Silverspot and the Lotis Blue – a species considered extinct here for over 30 years.
While compiling the show, I was also writing a short article for the San Francisco Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. They wanted my thoughts on women authors such as Barbara Kingsolver, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ann Patchett who, like me, feature the environment (and related human interactions and impacts) in current novels. I’d recently read Flight Behavior and Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things back-to-back. One afternoon flower photos, Latin names, endangered lives, words and themes clogged my brain. I headed out to a nearby forest park and meadow to strain the mental debris. As I stepped out of the woods into the bright, grassland light, I had a my own “Dellarobia” moment.
Spring azure (likely). A common butterfly. Weren’t all our now endangered species once “common?” Photo: Katy Pye
A blue butterfly, barely bigger than a quarter, lit on a grass blade beside me. My feet became one with the path.
The Lotis! It’s got to be. Can’t be. “Are you?” I asked.
It took less than ten minutes to get home, retrieve my camera, and return to the spot. As I crept closer, it seemed impossible he would still be there. Ten minutes in butterfly years is probably twenty human years. He had precious little life to spend waiting for me. I’m sure I heard his rebuke at my approach.
“Finally! You people fly so slow.”
“Just give me a few seconds,” I pleaded, snapping shot after shot.
For a few hours I rode on hope he was the Lotis. Turns out he’s naught but a common variety blue. Still, my encounter proves–as if it needs proving–books fire imagination and the best ones, connection.
Six copies of Elizabeth’s Landing rolled out of our post office last week headed to the city of Progreso in the State of Yucatan, Mexico. Cultural and educational exchange–I can’t think of a better way to start 2014.
Elizabeth’s Landing boxed and ready (don’t worry, it went with the full address).
My husband supports a low-cost and extremely well-run program called the Progreso Apoyo Program (PAP).Each year (based on donation levels) it provides school-required supplies and uniforms to over 90 of the city’s poor, yet high-achieving students (grades 7-12). A separate grant program, Career Advancement Program of Progresso (CAPP)moves those who qualify on to and through college. Together, and student by student, these projects help weaken the cycle of poverty in Progreso.
Program director, Kitty Morgan, was delighted when we offered to donate the books. Kids begin learning English in 7th grade, she said, so the majority of the books will go to city schools and libraries. I was also happy for a chance to learn more about sea turtles living and nesting along the Yucatan.
Progresso, a major port with the longest pier in the world–4 miles.
Mexico’s Caribbean beaches are prime nesting habitat to most of the world’s eight sea turtle species, including the Kemp’s ridleys featured in Elizabeth’s Landing. While ridleys rarely nest along the Yucatan Peninsula, its beaches are important for hawksbill, green, and loggerhead turtles.
Protecting sea turtles and nesting sites in the Yucatan is big, particularly in the State of Quintana Roo along the “Riveria Maya” (Cancun to Tulum). Large tracts of beaches and inland wild areas are national parks, both in Quanta Roo and the State of Yucatan. Some are remote and not easily accessible. Others along the Riviera Maya face damaging impacts from exploding tourism.
Thanks to the work of organizations like Flora, Fauna, and Culture of Mexico, CEA (Centro Ecologico Akumal), andSEE Turtles, local groups educate kids, adults, businesses, and tourists about sea turtles and their environments. Every December Flora, Fauna, and Culture of Mexico and The Travel Foundation present the “Amigos de la Tortuga” awards to hotels that incorporate and champion turtle-friendly behaviors and programs within their businesses.
Successes Face Difficult Future
Despite these ongoing efforts, high tourism areas face serious problems not just for the turtles, but residents, too. A summit sponsored by CEA reports that 20 years of national and international study within the Riviera Maya area called Akumal (“place of the turtle” in Mayan), shows it at a “critical moment.” Lack of infrastructure in the face of increasing/uncontrolled tourism* is seriously degrading natural and marine ecosystems. Since 2008 “50% of the coral and 40% of the seagrass have died, and fish populations have declined by 60%.” Akumal’s community and economy “depend on the delicate balance and functionality of this ecosystem. *(tourism has grown significantly in the State of Quintana Roo in the last ten years. In 2005 there were 61,335 hotel rooms. In 2012 there were 85,141. New housing and business markets also boomed, all using resources and producing waste).
Different state, different priorities
The State of the Yucatan and beaches in the city of Progreso have a history of nesting sea turtles, too. Tourism is part of everyday life here, but the situation is very different.
“When I first visited here in 1999,” Kitty says, “high school students patrolled the beaches, marking turtle nests and handing out literature to people, living right on the beach, about what do do (and not do) if they found a nest. I was thrilled that turtles were nesting here — right in my own back yard! But no more as there are now street lights along the beach which confuse and deter the turtles (ME: beach furniture and sea walls are barriers and may not allow turtles to crawl to safe nesting spots above the high tide line, or hatchlings to reach the water).
Progreso beachfront. Wikimedia Create Commons
The few stoic creatures who do manage to nest only provide a nice meal for the 3,000+/- feral dogs in the area. Progreso’s local government cannot deal with its street dog problem. There is no dog catcher, no pound, no shelter; the dogs simply breed and suffer by the hundreds.”
Twelve years ago, Kitty helped found the only “duly registered” humane society in Progreso in hopes of educating people about the problem. This March, thanks primarily to donations from ex-pats living in Progreso, they will open a small clinic.
The other good news is, Kitty’s Apoyo Program sponsored a young woman who is now studying aquaculture. She will go on to college, maybe become another advocate for the region’s sea turtles. She’s definitely getting a copy of the book.
When I began writing Elizabeth’s Landing almost seven years ago I didn’t know whether it would see the light of day, ever be read by anyone but me, family, and a few close friends. To my great surprise, like the writing process itself, the book has become a bridge into foreign and exciting territory.
Kitty Morgan’s PAP and CAPP programs:
…are always looking for new partner donors to sponsor the children. Every cent goes to filling their school needs (books, pencils, paper, uniforms, etc.). We are constantly amazed how far she spreads the money. She does all the shopping, absorbs all administration costs, and provides each donor with basic information about his/her sponsored child. Every year my husband receives a photo and a thank you letter (translated by Kitty, if necessary) from his student, thanking him for his support and relating school progress, interests, and future plans. Kitty sends a detailed expense report on each child.
If you are interested in making a simple donation or becoming a sponsor in either education program, e-mail Kitty at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to put PAP or CAPP as the “Subject.” She will respond with more specific information on the program(s).
If you would like to support the animal clinic, mail checks or money orders (US or Canadian), payable to Protección de Perros y Gatos a.c. Apartado Postal No. 30, Progreso 97320 Yucatán, México. Any amount is appreciated, but donations of $100 US (or equivalent) puts your name, or that of a beloved pet, on a prominently displayed plaque in the clinic’s waiting room. Help a dog–save a turtle?
Traveling to the Yucatan?
Consider supporting certified eco-friendly hotels, restaurants, and tours. There are also a number of fine “volunteer tours” where you can work directly with sea turtle conservation programs.
Green sea turtle feeding. Creative Commons-Wiki
If you encounter sea turtles while swimming, enjoy them, but keep your distance. Conservation biologists note increasingly green sea turtles avoid traditional underwater grass feeding grounds where there are too many people or people too close.
Info and links to the Riviera Maya sea turtle conservation groups:
Flora, Fauna, and Culture’s, Sea Turtle Conservation Riviera Maya Tulum Program(Facebook)“…one of the oldest and largest in Mexico. It protects nesting turtles, their nests and hatchlings in 13 of the most important nesting beaches of this coast (Punta Venado, Paamul, Aventuras-DIF Chemuyil Xcacel-Xcacelit or, Xel-Ha, Punta Cadena, Tankah, Kanzul, Cahpechén, Lilies Balandrín, Yu-yum and San Juan) and many beaches located in protected areas, such as the Sea Turtle Sanctuary Xcacel-Xcacelito Park National Tulum and Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an. This means protection and monitoring of 38.5 km. beaches, in an area of over 120 km., and our base camp on the Xcacel. We annually protect an average of 6,500 nests and free an average of 500,000 baby sea turtles.”
CEACentro Ecologico Akumal: “Established in July of 1993, CEA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the ecologically sustainable development of the Cancun-Tulum corridor. CEA promotes conservation of the natural habitat and native culture through research and education.” Facebook
SEE Turtles:“…is working to protect endangered sea turtles by growing the market for conservation travel to support small conservation programs around the world. SEE Turtles also connects volunteers to conservation projects and educates students both in the US and near key turtle nesting sites around Latin America.“
Pyewacky Press will donate–
1 copy of Elizabeth’s Landing to any U.S. sea turtle conservation group’s library or store, also 1 (English language) copy to 10, non-U.S. groups. Representatives can use the Contact Me page to make a request.
Normally, internationally respected and prolific authors like Catherine Ryan Hyde have neither time, nor need to reach out to a debut, indie author like me. I’m oh so grateful Catherine doesn’t believe in “the norm” — in anything.
Catherine was my workshop leader two years ago at the Big Sur Writing Workshop. She mentored five of us for two days, lending encouragement, manuscript tweaks, and bits of industry insider advice. When I wrote to tell her I’d published Elizabeth’s Landing, she proposed an interview for her blog series, “Better Than Blurbs.” The offer meant visibility to her world of devoted readers. Yep, plug in all the clichés about head, clouds, and dancing on air. Add a teeny jolt of terror.
Perhaps unintentionally, the interview questions made me look deeper at the book’s meaning, at how key moments in my life led me to and through the writing, and how the story resolution mirrors (or does it?) today’s political reality. The perfect “debriefing” for my six-year effort. And an amazing gift.
Learn more about Catherine‘s dozens of inspiring books, a life full of writing, hiking, photography, and her often amusing, always loving animal companions, Ella and Jordan. The “Pay It Forward” movement is growing around the world. Catherine’s Pay It Forward version for young readers is scheduled to reach booksellers August 19th. It is also available for pre-order online.
PAY IT BACK
DISCOUNTS ON ELIZABETH’S LANDING (Dec. 2 to midnight Dec. 15)
A portion of book sale profits this year go to sea turtle conservation organizations whose staff shared time and expertise with me as I developed Elizabeth’s Landing.
Paperback: CreateSpace e-store (gives highest author profits = more for sea turtles). Use this discount code B9GBX97Y at check-out for 40% off the list price.
Independent bookstore: The paperback is not directly discounted, but our beloved Gallery Bookshop is offering $.99 shipping (media mail) through December 31, 2013 on all books in-stock. Any out-of-stock books are shipped free when they are restocked. (707) 937-2665. Order the Kobo version through Galleryat the same discount as the Kobo online store.
Watch this beautiful video of Lula by filmmaker, Boombaye
The Ancient Past
Leatherbacks are the largest sea turtle species (up to 6 ft long, 2000 lbs), arguably not the prettiest, but certainly the deepest divers. While not as old as sharks at 320 million years (here even before trees), leatherbacks, like all sea turtle species, are ancient creatures–over 100 million years on the planet.
Archelon skeleton, an ancient sea turtle, 80.5 million years old. Photo Wikipedia, from the Peabody Museum at Yale.
The ancient Archelon above, believed to be a direct ancestor to the leatherback, was swimming the oceans in what is now South Dakota.
Fast forward–skidding toward the cliff?
Here we sit 100 million years later, staring into the barrel of extinction for the glorious, ponderous Pacific leatherback. Important Western Pacific nesting sites have dropped 78% in 30 years. Higher global temps warm nesting sands, leading to male-only hatches.
Leatherback sea turtle Photo: Ryan Somma, Creative Commons
Recognizing the Pacific leatherback’s peril and the importance of jellyfish feeding grounds off the Golden State (a stunning 7,000-mile migration), legislators placed restrictions on fishing practices and created fishing exclusion zones along the California coast. Oregon and Washington adopted similar restrictions in an effort to protect and extend loggerhead migration and feeding territory. In 2012, California designated the Pacific leatherback our State Marine Mammal. The annual celebration day, October 15th, is a chance to remember they’re here, but more importantly to recognize their escalating decline and double down on conservation efforts. Nothing short of rapier-sharp vigilance, hard work, and strong education efforts will ensure the Pacific loggerheads’ future.
Let’s start with the fun (subtext: cheerful education leads to action).
Leatherback hatchling Photograph: Scott Benson NOAA
3) Collect and cut out the plastic! Plastic and beach debris collection is paramount to keeping litter out of the mouths and guts of sea turtles (leatherbacks are particularly prone to eating any plastic, including balloons, that looks like a jellyfish). Beach debris can block hatchlings from reaching the ocean and make them more vulnerable to predators.
A challenge: try going without plastic for 1 week. track how much and what plastic you avoided using or buying. Post what you learned here, your own blog, Facebook, etc. What can you turn into permanent changes to your plastic use? My Plastic Free Life is an encouraging and practical blog (and book) to make the shift a whole lot easier. Here are two products I’ve adopted. Eliminated plastic shampoo and cream rinse bottles and plastic floss container. Love both products.
Almost plastic free. Floss roll is in a paper box, but uses a little plastic bag inside to keep the mint oil fresher, longer. Unflavored floss and non-plastic toothbrush next on the list.
How about turtle cupcakes to give out in class with a note asking people to reduce plastic use and to learn about sea turtles. Give them a link or three to your favorite leatherback websites, photos, or articles.
6) Donate. Leatherback sea turtles, like every endangered species, hugely depend on us human beings stepping up to solve problems driving them to extinction. Species celebration days are reminders of our part and our responsibilities.
Re-post this blog or find others. Then reach deeper and farther. If petitions cross your social media or e-mail, ones asking governments to enforce turtle protection laws, please read and consider signing because…
Threats to leatherbacks (and many other sea turtles) continue to grow:
Egg and turtle predation: by humans and animals. Poaching (with increasing links to drug use and trafficking) in third-world countries tops the list of species decline. Quasi-legal egg collection is sometimes part of agreements between locals and turtle conservationists who share the eggs for mutual benefit (80%/20% for example in Guatamala). One group for livelihood and food. The other for hatch and release.
leatherback caught in long-line fishing gear. Goes from being a turtle to being “by-catch” of the fishing industry. This turtle was cut free and returned to life as a turtle. Photo by Philip Miller Creative Commons via Seaturtle.org
Beach development: Increased erosion and night lights disorient hatchlings who head toward the brightest light, their guide to the horizon and water. They end up in someone’s patio or mired in dune grass instead.
Sea Turtles Forever has “established a Sea Turtle Hotline for people to report sea turtle sightings in the Northeastern Pacific foraging areas. Please call 1-503-739-1446or e-mail us at email@example.com to report a sea turtle sighting in the Northeastern Pacific Ocean or on any Canadian, Washington, Oregon or California Beaches.”
“Did you ever hear anyone say, ‘That work had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me.’?” Joseph Henry Jackson (1894-1955) in the San Francisco Chronicle (1953)
There’s a red circle around that quote (among scores of others) in my Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. It was summer, I was fourteen and looking for light. I found it in Bartlett. Sentence after paragraph culled from its pages worked to dislodge me from childhood, discover and armor my own beliefs against perceived and real injustices, parental bans, hurts and longings. John Bartlett’s collection opened my conservative, small-town world and mind, encouraging my increasing bids for freedom.
Despite my experience, when my daughter reached pre-teens, I cultivated lots of opinions about the world around her. The one cloaking her days (or trying to) with some views, behaviors, and fads I neither shared nor approved. In a busy life of work, school, and raising her, it was easier to say, “Not for you, not now,” or “because I said so,” without much discussion. I wish she’d heard more often, “Tell me about it. What interests you?” and “This is what interests or bothers me.”
Sometimes parents, rightly, have to invoke the dreaded, “No.” As I used to tell her, “It’s part of my job.” Operating as source material for her hurt or anger was tough. Still, enough of my lines in the sand were, for lack of a better term, “right,” even by her, now adult, reflections. What I regret is not letting her stretch the leash farther, take more risks while I risked freeing more of my fears, then watched, and waited. And talked less. Maybe she could have, like me with my Bartlett’s, tested her changing world against her own thoughts, backed by someone she trusted. Someone who got out of her way as far as she needed, and no further.
There are books I don’t enjoy, some pushed at kids, or ones they seem to feed on. Ones I rail privately against. But ask a library to ban a book? Never. Not in a million, ziliion years. Growing up means finding your own way, building and knowing your own mind, owning your own life. Books support the journey. Books we cherish, ones that bore, even ones we despise. Books teach us how to stand separate and manage our part of life’s whole–our place in earth’s community. To broadly paraphrase Gary Snyder from The Practice of the Wild: we start as children at the fire pit called home, “from which all tentative explorations go outward…and it is back to the fireside that elders return.”
Here are a few of my favorite children’s/young adult books on the lists:
The Lorax, by Dr. Suess; A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein; Strega Nona, by Tomie DePaola; Where the Wild ThingsAre and In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak; Charlotte’s Web by E.B White; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George; Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson;I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou; Lord of the Flies by William Golding; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie; Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
Activist, author, and $1,000 Kohl’s Cares Scholarship winner, Cameron (Amie) Koporc has done more for sea turtles than most people think of doing in half a lifetime. Now she’s started a petition at Change.org to get legislators to make Georgia the 7th state to protect wildlife and reduce pollution by outlawing mass balloon releases.
Balloons and ribbons–beautiful killers.
A former resident of Florida, now living in the Atlanta Georgia suburb of Roswell, Amie’s learned a lot about sea turtles since her family adopted a sea turtle nest in her name as a 7th birthday present. She recently told the Roswell Neighbor news journal, “When I grow up I want to work in a rescue center for ocean animals. I just hope it isn’t too late by then.” So do I, but she’s working hard to make sure turtles and other animals remain part of the planet’s ecosystems forever.
This Blaire Wirthington photo on my website page Threats to Sea Turtles illustrates what can happen when a balloon ends up at sea. This little Kemp’s ridley was lucky someone spotted him. The ribbon or string can be as deadly as the balloons.
Ribbon trail of the balloon swallowed by a Kemp’s ridley juvenile off the Sarasota, FL coast. Photo: Blair Wirthington photo, Blair Witherington (http://myd.as/p6429)
While Amie’s petition is directed at influencing Georgia politicians, sea turtles, birds, and people everywhere are impacted by balloon trash. All states should get the message, so each one added works to tip permanent change in the right direction. As of this writing, Amie has upped her signature goal to 2500 and is 408 signatures shy. Help by adding yours.
It’s true! It’s a miracle! Okay, that’s overstating it, but how it feels after six years. An e-book version of Elizabeth’s story is available through Barnes and Noble’s Nook site. If you don’t have a Nook device, don’t worry, you can download the app for free and read on your computer or other mobile devices. Go toB&N’s Mobile Apps webpage to sign in, sign up, and connect to the right download.
If you’re the something soft and flexible, tree-based-book type person, the Print-on-Demand version will be out by June through Amazon. A Kindle version will go up about the same time, maybe sooner if I’m successful formatting it myself, as I did the Nook. Watch my Facebook Author site, Follow me here, or leave your e-mail on the Contact Me page above for updates.
PLEASE, once you’ve finished the book, leave feedback and ratings at these sites, Goodreads, Facebook it, blog it, etc., because…
A portion of all my book sale profits support worldwide sea turtle conservation and education programs. B&N has e-book gift cards. Bookstores do, too. I’m just sayin’ . . .
Flags are flying–get out your calendar. The revised book launch date at Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, CA. is June 30th, 6:30 p.m. Tux, tails, and formals optional, but my tiara’s getting steam-blasted and the side seams of my Senior Prom dress are sprung WAY out for the event.
I’m working on Grandma Linnie to do some of the catering.
Deepest thanks to everyone who has given writing help, an ear to moments of pain and joy, celebrations at key steps, and for believing all these years I really was writing a novel.
Indie publishers and indie bookstores are trying hard to work together so each can survive and grow. I’m publishing with the “big houses” (interpret at will) because it is the most direct, profitable way for me to get books into readers’ hands. Please support your local, or any independent bookstore, and encourage them to carry books you want to read. I’m working to collaborate with them, too.
Port Winston—home to sun, sand, and shopping. What’s not to like? Everything, to 14 year-old Elizabeth Barker, uprooted mid-school year to the Texas coast. When Grandpa, with more judgments than the Old Testament, pronounces her 10¢ shy of worthless and headed for trouble, Elizabeth bolts for Wayward Landing beach—the county’s last wild haven.
A chance encounter with an endangered, nesting sea turtle ignites new purpose, friendships, and trouble even Grandpa couldn’t predict. Her fight to save the Landing unearths complex family ties to the powerful developer and catapults her against those she loves. When the Deepwater Horizon oil slick threatens the turtles’ Louisiana feeding grounds, Elizabeth’s journalist mom hits the front lines. And Elizabeth’s fears and plans hit overdrive.
Elizabeth’s Landing, a compelling environmental and family saga, bridges risk and loss to hope and hearts —human to human, human to animal, human to world.
Ages 10 and up.
P.S. Turtle nesting season has begun along the Gulf coast. Info under Elizabeth’s Sea Turtles tells you the best places to visit to see turtles or hatchling releases. Donations are always welcome.
A friend and I talked recently about her 10 year-old daughter’s struggle to find an interest for her spare time. When mom said her daughter knows how to knit, an idea from the paper popped in my head.
A local animal shelter advertised for recycled, clean dog blankets and jackets to help low-income pet owners keep their animals warm through the winter. Knitters stepped forward with yarn and finished sweater projects to help out.
Maybe the idea caught the girl’s attention, maybe not, but there’s always something to do. Sometimes, the hardest thing is knowing where to start?
Canadian blogger, Maria aka, “Poutine,” created an inspiring “Lens” on Squidoo all about young people making a difference. She’s gathered stories about kids and teens who have created cool and inspiring ways to give back, right the wrongs, ease another’s pain. Some are gentle souls, quietly doing what needs to be done. Some are mighty warriors, making big noises over big issues. Most don’t stand in the media spotlight, but all resonate in the hearts of those they touch.
The site has a list of idea books. Choose one idea or combine several. Or just drink in the power of inspiration and create your own, original project. UPDATE: 11-30-13, Maria’s Squidoo page link is no longer live. Sorry! An alternative book I recommend is Do Something: A Handbook for Young Activists by Nancy Lublin. A terrific step-by-step guide for kids (and adults!) to figure out their true passions and interests, then build them into action plans for giving, action, and caring.
Squidoo was co-founded by Corey Brown, Megan Casey, Seth Godin, and Gil Hildebrand as a “publishing platform and community that makes it easy for you to create ‘lenses’ online. Lenses are pages, kind of like flyers or signposts or overview articles, that gather everything you know about your topic of interest–and snap it all into focus. Like the lens of a camera, your perspective on something.”
Check out Squidoo’s set of lenses focused at non-profits where you can collect royalties for your favs.
Update from Comments:
Woodlands Wildlife uses 100% of your donations to support the animals and birds it rescues.P.O. Box 1336 Mendocino, CA 95460
In myWorld Ocean’s Day post last June, I summarized the mounting problem of plastics in the world’s oceans. This map names the North Pacific gyre–the most infamous–but there are five, major “gyres” on the planet. The one off America’s Atlantic coast is home to the Sargasso Sea. All five gyres are growing plastic garbage dumps, creating serious problems for wildlife and ocean habitat.
Countless young people are making positive changes to our planet’s future. Yesterday, friend and fellow writer Ginny Rorby blogged an appeal to help talented and dedicated photographer, Justin Lewis and author Michelle Stauffer, realize their documentary short film and book project through Kickstarter.
But stormy days are followed by calm seas, sunshine, and now . . .
After Rain Point Cabrillo Lightstation Historic State Park Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved
Migrating Grey Whales photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved
The Greys make the world’s longest mammal migration – over 6,000 miles, Alaska to Baja, Mexico – where females give birth, nurse their young, and gather with males to breed. In early spring, they repeat the trip, babes in tow, moving slowly past us again.
Whales — one of my “winter’s here” wildlife markers.
Wildlife and Winter — Kids at Work and Wonder
Like whales here, when northern waters cool, immature sea turtles in the Atlantic migrate south, following food. Often these days, nature’s signal comes too late, or is too brief. The water turns cold too fast, leaving hundreds of sea turtles stunned on the surface. Their bodies, as if in a giant deep freeze, float almost lifeless, sometimes for months; if not rescued, these turtles will die of hunger, dehydration, or hyperthermia. Likely all three. Incoming tides and surges “strand” many, barely alive, on beaches along the coastline.
Kids are helping save them. Nine year-old Skyler Lach is a four-year veteran sea turtle spotter. “Living on Earth,” (Public Radio International) aired a wonderful story about Skyler (you HAVE to see his picture with the turtles) and his dad, Michael, volunteers in the New England Aquarium and MA Audubon Society cold-stranding rescue program. The turtles spend a minimum of several months “thawing” and rehabing at the Aquarium, then are transported and released in warmer waters off Florida or Georgia. Listen to Skyler talk about his experience and more about the project. Know what a “wrackline” is? I didn’t.
No Sea Turtles to Find?
Take heart, there’s a lot you can do for wildlife in your neighborhood and backyard.
Check the web pages linked below for details. Here are the basics:
♥ Clean up — Litter that can injure wildlife, that’s anything they can get stuck in or they might eat, but shouldn’t.
♥ Write — a politician, supporting your favorite place or wildlife.
♥ Volunteer — at a wildlife organization or your local animal shelter. Dogs and cats need love, too!
♥ Donate — Every nickel makes a difference to your favorite cause. An amazing example of what one child, backed by energized, hard-working adults, can do, is Vivienne Harr and her “Make-a-Stand” campaign against child slavery. The point isn’t how much she made, but that she cared, had an idea, and said, “Let’s go!”
♥ Learn — Spend time outside. See if you can discover one new thing about the wildness in your backyard or neighborhood. Birds are everywhere. Which species do you see often? Audubon Society now has Christmas Bird Counts for Kids (CBC4Kids), thanks to Sonoma County, CA birders, Tom Rusert and Darren Peterie. Listen to a short interview on the recent “Bird Note” podcast. National Christmas bird counts begin mid December and end the 3rd week in January. Check your local Audubon Society to see if it sponsors CBC4Kids. If not, help start one!
All of Us Together
I love what Tom Rusert said about kids and parents birding together. What about kids who don’t live with their parents? Or parents unable or unwilling to share their kid’s interests? Author and environmentalist Rachael Carson addresses this beautifully.
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
It’s true for all aspects of life. While not every child will respond if we step up to give, no child can respond if we don’t. Nothing adds perspective to how we grownups see the world — on our brightest and darkest days — than a child’s wonder.
Help a child, find an adult, change a heartbeat.
Thanks to the following organizations and sites for the tips and podcasts used here.