I just read a very interesting article in this month's Smithsonian called How Mrs. Edge Saved the Birds. In addition to being another story about an unsung woman whose efforts began or effected a historical change, it occurs right here in Pennsylvania at a place I was introduced to by my dear wife Nora.
While I can neither confirm nor deny the rumor that one of our children was conceived within the park itself, Nora and I visited Hawk Mountain Sanctuary a number of times while dating and in our early married life, yet I was totally unaware of the history of the place and the efforts by Rosalie Edge to create it. Suffice it to say that without Mrs Edge, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary may never have existed, along with the movement to protect birds in general, and raptors specifically.
What also struck me, (well perhaps reminded me, is a better word) about the article is the good that can be accomplished by privileged people who are able to see beyond their own personal desires. I say reminded me because it is no secret that I am not a fan of the rich. For a multitude of reasons, ranging from economic to social to political, I too often see those with hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars, as one of the major reasons why capitalism and our obsession with money may prove to be our fatal flaw. This is not to say that the human trait that is manifested by an over consuming desire to accumulate possessions would not lead to the failure of any economic structure, capitalism, socialism, communism, whatever, just that uncontrolled selfishness in whatever form, seems to be a prescription for a failed society. (Hence my dislike for the America First mantra popularized by the former president.)
Yet this article about Mrs Edge demonstrates that good had be driven by someone of wealth and influence. That perhaps it isn't the actual money that spoils the person but the nature of the person applying that money. And so, in this case, Mrs Edge helps short circuit, not only the fashion of the times which led to the deaths of millions of birds so that woman could have pretty feathers on their hats, but she imagines and makes real a place where natural bird migratory routes could be identified and saved from development, thereby providing both human and avian the opportunity for a pleasant and safe experience.
I think that one of the big ideas behind Earth Day and the environmental movement in general that critics often miss, is that a respect for our planet and for all the species that exist can lead very easily, very naturally, to a respect for each other as well. Put it this way, are we less likely to dehumanize those who are different from us, less likely to engage in violence against each other, if we have established and internalized a deeper respect for all life to exist on our planet? Does a connection with the natural world which presumes all life is precious, make us less likely to heap violence and hatred on each other? Is the understanding that diversity, true diversity in nature and humanity, may be one of the driving forces of the Creator?
At lease to me, a person who values an old tree about to be destroyed for a shopping mall parking lot, may be less likely to use violence to address conflict. Conversely, those who see no value in the natural world other than what resources can be ripped from it, or how much money can be gleaned through its one time use, seem more likely to dismiss the belief that all life, even human life, is important, perhaps even more likely to apply violence before exhausting all other possible choices.
As we emerge from the COVID pandemic to once again enjoy nature, and as we celebrate Earth Day 2021, I encourage you to not only read this article, but perhaps even investigate some less widely known environmental achievement near your own community. Humanity is a part of the natural world, not above it, so when we value nature, we value ourselves.
Happy Earth Day!