Okay, we all know that the ‘sappy’ articles arrive during the holiday season. But when you truly think about it, it’s those sappy articles that remind us of how lucky we are to be alive, to be celebrating yet another close to yet another year that was filled with (hopefully) happiness and triumphs found along the way.
And there are triumphs. There are things that we, as a country, can be extremely proud of – especially when it comes to the protection and hard work that many are doing in ALL industries in order to save our environment. There are so many that stand out, it’s almost impossible to list each and every one. So we are going to use a mish-mosh, so to speak, of the beauty that was saved over time.
When a list comes out called, The Endangered Species List, and animals are actually erased from that awful list that once had them on the verge of extinction; or, when National Parks find the money they need to recover, rebuild and even create wetlands for the fish and the vegetation that’s needed in order for the ‘Circle of Life’ to operate; or, even when the pictures that remind one of Ansel Adams appear on the internet beside a ‘Merry Christmas’ card to every one of a person’s friends and/or colleagues – all of these things remind us that we are in one truly magnificent world that we’re continually trying to bring back to life and protect, so that our children’s children can enjoy it just as much as we have.
As we look at the news and see our ladies and gentlemen still risking their lives across the globe, or we watch other countries and their people suffer as the world around them tumbles down, we look at those pictures with absolute anguish. We look at those humans, sites, locations – ancient history that hangs in the balance on a daily basis – and yell or pray, depending on the day.
So for just a second, as the snow falls and the trees and lights go up around the neighborhood, I want us to enjoy the beauty of the tiny harp seal, the mammoth polar bears, the elk and deer wandering in the snow-capped mountains, and that still stunning sight of the bald eagle as it soars above our heads, constantly watching out for our welfare as we move forward in an uncertain world. (Pictures that perhaps, if we’d continued along a certain track, would never have been able to be enjoyed).
I mention the eagle simply because of the love I happen to have for that creature and the triumph it found back in 2007 when it was taken down from that Endangered Species List. America is young – younger than those nations battling on our television sets. And although we do not need a history lesson as to why we became what we became – we can look back on the long history of the bald eagle that grew to become our trademark.
Before settlers sailed to our shores, the bald eagle may have numbered over half a million. They were known to have inhabited large rivers and lakes found within our boundaries, and could be located in approximately forty-five of the lower forty-eight states. They were known to congregate on the lower Hudson, and the sky was filled with their beauty along the coast of Maine.
But as the human population grew, the eagle population faltered and slowly declined. Humans hunted and fished in order to feed their families, leaving food for the eagles in short supply. As houses became a necessity, natural habitats were destroyed, taking away the places that eagles needed in order to nest and hunt. It took until the 1930s for people to determine that the bald eagle population was diminishing and the Bald Eagle Act was passed in 1940 – hopefully in time to stop our trademark that stood for every one of the fighters and survivors in the United States, from being erased.
Pesticides and DDT were the next issues that came into being. The pesticides were all of a sudden being sprayed on plants that were eaten by the prey of the eagle, causing the eagles eggs to either crack or simply not hatch – never creating a new bald eagle that was sorely needed. And up until 1953, bald eagles were killed in Alaska for fear that the salmon population was in danger from their presence.
Over time, however, truly dedicated people and organizations came together and worked hard to help the bald eagle nation as it was officially declared an endangered species in 1967; a move that was considered ‘landmark legislation,’ as it was one of the most important wildlife conservation laws in the world. Everyone should be aware that there are only a handful of animals that have been able to fight their way off the list, but it should come as no surprise that the heroic bird was one of them.
As we continue on into 2013 to fight for everything from sharks to the Bengal Tiger, to working our tails off to build new wildlife preserves and parks that will enable whole habitats to come back into being, we need to take these holiday moments to shut off the television set, put down the newspaper, go outside and simply enjoy. We need to take a long look at the stunning landscapes that surround us and remember that there is always something worth fighting for.
And, by the way, you’re all doing a great job!