To grow the environment that everyone needs
You, only you, had the last of the seeds
From that Once-ler, who’d thoughtlessly hacked it all down
And run off the Lorax, and ruined the whole town.
You talked to your neighbors and made quite a fuss
“This matters! This planet. Let’s get back what was.
Clean water for fishes, a forest for trees,
With Brown Bar-ba-loots, and the buzzing of bees.”
Not everyone joined you. But some people cared.
And, working together, with no effort spared,
We established an Earth Day. What did that mean?
Protecting our planet, promoting what’s green!
On our busy to-do list, with eight shoulds and ten musts,
We made sure to start up some local land trusts
To take care of places for trees and much more–—
For turtles and foxes and kids to explore.
Is this effort completed? Are we all done?
No. Challenges linger; our race is not run.
Celebrate land trusts, the Lorax would say
To advance conservation and honor Earth Day.
by Ron McAdow
Saluting Dr. Seuss and The Lorax on Earth Day 2013
A guy from a distant galaxy walked into our office the other day. He said he wanted to sign up. He looked a little strange, but we didn’t flinch. We attend meetings of serious bird watchers—we’re hard to shock. “Sign up for what?” we asked.
“It’s Earth Day,” he said. “I want to join your land trust.”
“Okay,” we said. “That’s surprising, though. You’re from a different planet.”
“That’s why I’m here,” he explained. “My planet’s toast.”
It’s a challenge to look sympathetically into a three-eyed gaze, but we tried, and asked him, “What went wrong?”
“We didn’t know your mantra,” he said.
“‘Think globally, act locally.’ So smart.” He was a humble sort of alien. Down-to-earth.
“Excellent,” we said. “But do you really know what land trusts do?”
“Oh sure. I’ve looked at all your web sites.”
“Yes. It’s my job. I’m on a mission from my galaxy,” he said, waving his antennae.
“Many people in Massachusetts maintain and enjoy close ties to the land and the seasons. Members of many households go afield on a regular basis to harvest and gather the renewable wildlife resources.”
So stated a position paper on “furbearer management” published by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, during the debate in the 1990s on leg-hold traps. One local man who enjoyed close ties to the land and the seasons was Henry Thoreau, although he went afield for something other than mink and muskrat.
“Am not I a trapper too,” he asked his journal, “early and late scanning the rising flood, ranging by distant wood-sides, setting my traps in solitude, and baiting them as well as I know how, that I may catch life and light?”
Thoreau “trapped” with his eyes, but new technology provides excellent devices to capture “furbearers” on camera. I took up photo-trapping a decade ago when a wildlife tracker showed me otter sign, and left me wanting to see those high-spirited creatures as they went about their business.
Say you are driving along a two lane road, and you find your way obstructed—a large truck has parked where it doesn’t belong. I have noticed in myself and others a tendency to take possession of the left lane, and to expect oncoming cars to wait while I exercise an assumed right to proceed.
The catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico stems from another prerogative we award ourselves—the right to burn up fossil fuel. We all know this, but we are trapped in our way of life, which is the envy of the world, and its despair.
Americans who admit partial responsibility for the unfolding environmental disasters attempt to mitigate their personal impacts. Some take the time to hang their laundry in the sun, or they install solar panels. Others run errands on their bikes, and drive a hybrid car. They prefer locally-grown foods, try to consume less packaging, and recycle all they can. They keep their houses cool in the winter and warmish in the summer. They avoid recreations based on the use of fossil fuel.
The weather, ever-serviceable as a commonplace, becomes the principal topic of conversation when it closes our roads. When people hear that flooding would have been much worse along the Assabet River except for the mitigating effect of flood control dams, some ask, “What’s the difference between flood control dams and other dams?” The answer is that while most dams store water all the time, flood control dams only work during periods of high flow.
Over the years, residents of eastern Massachusetts have found many reasons to store water in ponds. They’ve used dams to capture nighttime flow for turning water wheels the next day. Other dams made ponds in which ice could be cut, or to supply water for drinking or fighting fires. A dam at Billerica diverted Concord River water into the Middlesex Canal, which floated freight and passengers from the Merrimack River to Boston Harbor. Long before beavers returned to eastern Massachusetts, our friendly little rivers and streams were thwarted by many dams.
At this time of autumn, leaves tumble through sunshine like feathers, flashing brilliant stained glass colors. Do you use one of those computer applications that transforms digital pictures? Some programs have a "desaturate" command. When applied to a photograph, "desaturate" changes every hue to shades of gray. That's what happens to New England between Columbus Day and Thanksgiving.
Determined to have a close look at his first northern bog, a naturalist from Georgia waded into the beaver-flooded moat surrounding a buoyant mass of vegetation in search of a moth found only on pitcher plants. His name was Henning von Schmeling, and he had come to take part in Walden Biodiversity Day.
This singular happening had begun the evening before, at Minuteman National Historical Park. We amateur naturalists watched fireflies flicker near the Old North Bridge as our leader, a professional, challenged us to rigorous observation. Instead of merely letting the silent yellow blips sooth us with recollected summer evenings, we timed intervals between flashes, referred to charts comparing the rhythms of various species, and watched as captured individuals were gently inspected, identified, and released.
It's gone. Finally, the ice that covered our ponds has melted. Without this frozen ceiling, small fish, insect larvae, crayfish, snails, and seeds become a buffet for some of the handsomest creatures on the planet—migratory ducks. These large, strikingly-marked birds are relatively easy to see in early spring if you know where to look. And they are worth looking at—they're all dressed up. Snappily-attired males hope to win the favor of a female and to help her create the next generation of their species. But you can't wait for warm summer mornings to see them—you must brave the chill of early spring, because soon they'll be far away, or dispersed invisibly into breeding territories.
Buffleheads, Ring-necked Ducks, and Common Goldeneyes are just passing through on their way to breeding grounds farther north. They have spent the winter in southern states and along the coast. Buffleheads and goldeneyes are diving ducks. They plunge below the surface to capture fish, propelled by feet placed well-astern. The drakes are garbed in waterproof tuxedos. Upon departing our region, they'll nest in northern forests—in tree cavities such as old woodpecker holes, or in nest boxes provided for the purpose. Buffleheads are so small that they might use openings carved by that colorful, noisy, medium-sized woodpecker, the Northern Flicker.
Massachusetts' climate has changed dramatically over the past twelve thousand years. Plants and animals that like cold weather pursued the ice sheet northward. As centuries went by, tundra-like conditions warmed, becoming suitable for evergreen forest, then gradually, for the trees we have today. As the vegetation changed, so did the animals that relied on it for food and shelter.
The change was great, but it was slow, which allowed plants time to travel. Plants arrived in post-glacial Massachusetts on legs and wings. Some seeds are built for flight, like maple whirligigs and the wind-catching tufts of poplars, milkweed, and cattails. Plants with tasty fruits, such as raspberries and grapes, disperse their seeds through the digestive tracts of birds. Other plants borrow the legs of mammals. They stick to the fur of passers-by, to be scratched off later, in random locations. Acorns and nuts are carried and buried by rodents too squirrelly to find everything they hide.
Alas, the pace of the modern warming trend is too rapid for such leisurely methods of migration. When experts describe the threats posed to the natural world by climate change, they acknowledge variability from year to year—but they show convincingly that the long term average has become steadily warmer, and that this must be expected to continue. Massachusetts' winters will be rainier, our summers hotter and drier. This is happening, not over millennia, but in decades.
The prospect of doing with less fossil fuel makes us writhe, like earthworms on hot asphalt. We really need some great ideas. Here's one I read online: trees that shade streets during the day and turn into street lamps at night. That's one of the improbable genetic engineering notions for the future of bioluminescence.
The experts in this field are insects. Alien, six-legged beasts whose blood isn't red; whose jaws move sideways. Some insects make honey, some make music, and some, when they want to find a girlfriend, light up their bellies.