Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.
Fowl River Sunset
Fowl River Morning
Plan some “take your breath away” moments. Shed the stress and discord of daily life and breathe in the serenity and solace offered by the natural world.
“The richest values of wilderness lie not in the days of Daniel Boone, nor even in the present, but rather in the future.” Aldo Leopold
Alligator in Monroe County Creek
Aldo Leopold, author of Sand County Almanac, the 1949 classic concerning conservation and land ethics, reminds us of the continued need to protect America’s wild places. Although current leadership equates undeveloped land with opportunities to extract and destroy, voters can speak out to defend national treasures against exploitation and annihilation. Not everyone can write a book, but almost everyone can write emails to elected officials -start today-for your grandchildren.
Read about wilderness by clicking here.
Read about current threats to wild places by clicking here.
Read about a wilderness in Alabama by clicking here.
“Biophilia, if it exists, and I believe it exists, is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms. “
— Edward O. Wilson
Camouflaged deer on a hillside in northern Alabama
Look closely near the center of the photo.
Green snake hunting among sweet pepper plants in south Mobile county
Biophilia is defined as the innate ability to relate to nature and living things. While everyone may not be blessed with this characteristic, all should develop an understanding and appreciation of how all living things are interdependent. The links below help to explain interdependence through food webs and ecosystems.
Environmental Protection Agency
Interdependence of Living Things
Human beings depend on other living things, so get emotional – we can’t live without them!
“My spirit was lifted and my soul nourished by my time in the garden. It gave me a calm connection with all of life, and an awareness that remains with me now, long after leaving the garden.” Nancy Ross
Female monarch butterfly rests on a tropical milkweed plant.
Monarchs overwinter in Mexico, journey north and arrive in Alabama in February and March. Two beautiful adventurers were spotted in a garden in South Mobile County on February 2. Landing on a bedraggled tropical milkweed, the female deposited her eggs and then continued her journey north. Learn more about these remarkable Lepidoptera at the Journey North website.
Make a calm connection with life by developing a garden attracting pollinators, including the monarch. The following links will help in making appropriate choices.
Shore Acres Plant Farm
Shore Acres, located on Bellingrath Road in South Mobile County, is a commercial plant farm that welcomes backyard gardeners. It sells a huge variety of plants and an excellent potting soil. Plan a trip to South Mobile County soon.
US Hardiness Zones Big box stores sometimes sell plants that may not be suitable for the local climate. Avoid disappointment by referring to a hardiness zone map to determine the zone in which one gardens.
“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” —David Attenborough
Lake in North Alabama
Salt Marsh in Coastal Alabama
It has been said that Sir David Attenborough is one of the most well traveled people in the whole world, second only to astronauts. Creator and host of award winning natural history programs, this nonagenarian is a perfect example of how the natural world makes life worth living. His example is one worthy of attention.
Exploration of the natural world can begin right here in the state of Alabama. Check out the links below for help in planning one’s own documentary journey. Sir David Attenborough certainly knows how to make a life worth living. So – Ready! Set! Go!
Alabama National Wildlife Refuges
Alabama Wilderness Areas
Alabama State Parks
“The term ecology comes from the Greek word oikos, and means ‘the household.’ Ecological responsibility, then, begins at home and expands to fill the entire planet.”
— Jeremy Rifkin
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines ecology as: “the relationships between the air, land, water, animals, plants, etc., usually of a particular area, or the scientific study of this.” The term, ecological responsibility, was introduced by Norwegian philosopher, Arne Naess, in 1973. This responsibility is individual and collective. Many are expanding individual choices made in consideration of the environment to include how businesses and corporations accept ecological responsibilities. Consumer preferences are given to those making positive steps. Click here to read about an example of positive steps in a recent CNBC article.
A January 15, 2019 article, “A New Tactic In The War Against Plastic Waste,” aired by NPR (National Public Radio), highlights the work of Filipino community activist, Froilan Grate. Years of work to rid his community of plastic trash made him realize that the responsibility to prevent the overwhelming plastic pollution of his community and the oceans (8 million tons per year) lies with the corporations utilizing plastic packaging. The shaming of these global corporations through “brand auditing” or identification of the trash producers led to a summit invitation in Washington DC. Click on the article title to read this compelling story.
Ecological responsibility is not just an individual mandate for the future of the planet, it is a corporate mandate as well. Make consumer choices to reinforce that corporate mandate.
“The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world.”
― Alexander von Humboldt, Works of Alexander von Humboldt
This petite hummer looks like a chubby little fellow. But looks are deceiving-it weighs less than two pennies! It has fluffed its feathers to capture air to maintain warmth during cold weather.
Most hummingbirds visit feeders during the warmer months, but a few hardy souls visit during the winter months. Many of these late comers are not commonly seen in the local area. While this encourages hummer fans to keep their feeders out, fans must remember to keep the feeders clean and filled with fresh sugar water.
The feeder pictured is dishwasher safe, and holds about a cup of liquid. The guiding factor in choosing a feeder is how easy it is to clean. Learn everything necessary about feeding hummingbirds at hummingbirds.net.
Camera bugs should hang feeders in locations for perfect shots as well as avoiding disturbance of the subjects. The pictured feeder hangs on an east facing porch. Hummers are known to return to the same feeder every year at the same time of the year.
Click here to learn more about hummer visitors in Alabama.
“Environment is no one’s property to destroy; it’s everyone’s responsibility to protect.” Mohith Agadi
Clinging to a snag in a saltmarsh in coastal Mobile County, an egret surveys his kingdom. (Look for tiny white dot in the middle of the picture.)
Daily choices have consequences for the environment. For example, runoff from lawns and gardens can carry toxic chemicals that harm wildlife in the above saltmarsh. Herbicides and pesticides should be used judiciously, if at all. Look for environmentally friendly choices and read all labels carefully.
One may say, “I don’t live near a saltmarsh, so what does that have to do with me?”Everyone lives in an area of land called a watershed, meaning that all water that flows across or under that area travels to the lowest body of water. For a large part of Alabama that body of water would be Mobile Bay. So one doesn’t have to live near Mobile Bay to affect it.
Too many of Alabama’s citizens are not aware of something called non-point source pollution. NPS is water and air pollution that comes from many sources (diffuse or dispersed) such as runoff. A more easily identified source of pollution is called single source, such as a pipe from a factory. A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look at this article to help identify common non-point sources .
An example of a watershed can be found at this link. It’s not an Alabama watershed, but you’ll get the idea. The next time you’re out and about, look for those signs that identify the creek or stream to where the water flows in an area. These signs are little reminders that all water travels to larger and larger bodies of water and eventually into saltmarshes, bays, gulfs, and oceans-even the water in storm drains goes there too. So you see, we all have a responsibility to protect the environment, because we all affect the environment.
“Our challenge for the future is that we realize we are very much a part of the earth’s ecosystem, and we must learn to respect and live according to the basic biological laws of nature.” Jim Fowler
Great blue heron hunting in salt marsh in South Mobile County
The great blue heron certainly understands the need to preserve wetlands. In a wetland, this marshland king finds food, water, shelter, and space in a suitable arrangement. In other words, a wetland is a habitat or home for this heron and countless other living things.
Wetlands are the third most productive ecosystem in the world, surpassed only by tropical rainforests and coral reefs. While everyone should be appreciative of wetland benefits, coastal residents should be especially appreciative due to its sponge-like characteristic which contributes to the reduction of flood damage. Refer to the NOAA website to gain a greater perspective of the benefits of coastal wetlands, the need for preservation, and how individuals can help. This a must read for coastal residents!
Well, what is this ecosystem thing? Are there many ecosystems or just one as Jim Fowler’s quote may suggest? Check out this easy-to-understand explanation at ESchoolToday.
It is time for a field trip! Visit a wetland, observe this wondrous ecosystem, and communicate to legislators Jim Fowler’s advice, “we must learn to respect and live according to the basic biological laws of nature.” There are far too many powerful agents, acting through hubris and financial greed, arguing otherwise. The future belongs to you, your children, and your grandchildren. Help make it bright and healthy. Would anyone want something less?
“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery not over nature but of ourselves.” Rachel Carson
Monarch on tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica
According to a news article published in Cottage Life magazine in 2017, Jennifer Tremeer of the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory attributes the drastic decline in the monarch butterfly population to the planting of genetically modified crops resistant to herbicides, habitat loss, and severe weather. This pollinator population, tracked by scientists since 1994, teeters on the verge of extinction. While some may see the loss of one species as a triviality, the reality is this species is representative of all pollinator species that may face the same fate. The US Fish and Wildlife Service reminds us that these diminutive creatures pollinate 75% of the food we consume, including chocolate and coffee! Well, that’s certainly worth one’s attention!
Remember John Muir’s observation, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” Individual efforts to help the monarch can be accomplished through avoiding the use of pesticides, planting milkweed plants, found at local garden centers; and by maintaining wild milkweed varieties in the landscape. Milkweed serves as the host plant for monarch caterpillar larvae as well as a nectar source for adult monarchs. Learn more about this fall visitor by clicking here.