Environmental issues in America are often thought to be politically motivated. With 23 species of animals and plants recently declared extinct, it seems more likely that protecting the planet is a human issue. Aside from environmentalists, many world religions embrace this idea and believe that humans are the custodians of the Earth. Buddhists believe that harming other beings creates bad Karma and will cause the offender to be reborn as a lesser being. In the Judeo-Christian Bible we are told “God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress and keep it”. As stewards of the planet, Jewish followers are encouraged to I’vadah ul’shamrah, “to till and to tend.” Similarly, the Qur’an calls on its followers to amend their actions so that harmony and balance between humans and the land and sea can be restored. In short, religions of the world believe when there is harmony between the individual and the environment, society will prosper. Native Americans believe that humans are interconnected not only with each other but with all living things. Knowing these very similar beliefs of cultures all around the world we can see our compassion must extend to all living things.
In addition to the 23 species recently extinguished there are almost 40,000 more currently in danger of becoming extinct. The elimination of any species limits our planet’s biodiversity. The term biodiversity (from “biological diversity”) refers to the variety of life on Earth. It includes every living thing. Biodiversity provides essential ecosystem functions such as soil fertilization, nutrient recycling, pest and disease regulation, erosion control and crop and tree pollination. It also supports an ecosystem’s ability to provide and purify water and reduces a community’s vulnerability in the face of natural disasters. Additionally, people have deep emotional connections to the wild world. The presence of wildlife brings us joy and enriches us all. Each extinction makes our home a lonelier and colder place for us and future generations. The good news is that it is within our power to change our actions to help ensure the survival of all species and the health and integrity of ecological systems. Ways that we can promote local biodiversity include:
- Supporting Local Farmers: Regularly buying from small local farmers helps to keep dollars in the local economy and supports agricultural efforts to conserve biodiversity.
- Saving Bees: Planting nectar-producing wildflowers in your backyard, or even building bee boxes for local bees to call home and not using pesticides that are harmful or deadly to bees can help save them.
- Swap Out Plastic: Purchasing a reusable water bottle and coffee mug and using canvas bags will protect marine life.
4) Planting Local Flowers, Fruits and Vegetables: Seeking advice from local nurseries will help preserve native species.
5) Taking Shorter Showers: Biodiversity depends on the abundance of local fresh water. Taking five-minute showers and turning the water off while washing your hands, doing the dishes, or brushing your teeth are all easy ways to conserve water.
6) Respecting Local Habitats: Protect local biodiversity by sticking to the walking path or hiking trail when walking outdoors. Help your children and pets do the same!
7) Knowing the Source of Purchases: When buying products, look for labels such as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or Rainforest Alliance Certified. Both organizations are committed to the conservation of the Earth’s resources.
If you would like to get motivated to protect our environment or simply love wild animals you can check out these materials from the library:
- Out of Africa (FIC DIN/DVD): In describing her experiences managing a coffee plantation in Kenya during the early part of the twentieth century, the author provides insight into the nature of African life.
- Where Things Come Back (YA FIC WHA): Seventeen-year-old Cullen’s summer in Lily, Arkansas is marked by his cousin’s death by overdose, an alleged spotting of a woodpecker thought to be extinct, failed romances, and his younger brother’s sudden disappearance.
- Born Free (DVD): Classic film about a game warden and his wife who adopt Elsa, a lion cub, whom they later must set free.
- March of the Penguins (DVD): Penguins in the Antarctic, every March since the beginning of time, begin a quest to find the perfect mate and start a family. This courtship will begin with a long journey – a journey that will take them hundreds of miles across the continent by foot, one by one in a single file.
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (DVD): The crew dutifully returns to Earth to face charges for crimes committed in the course of rescuing a resurrected Spock, but while en route, they learn that Earth is being ravaged by a strange alien probe demanding a response from a life form that no longer exists.
- Whale Rider (DVD): The Whangara people believe their ancestor Paikea was saved from drowning by riding home on the back of a whale. The tribal group has since granted leadership positions to the first-born males, believing them to be descendants of Paikea. But then a young mother dies in childbirth along with her newborn male son. His twin sister survives and the little girl, Pai, shows that she possesses a natural leadership ability.
For some local Florida animals try:
1) Cat Tale : The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther (599.7524 Pit): With novelistic detail and an eye for the absurd, Craig Pittman recounts the extraordinary story of the people who brought the panther back from the brink of extinction, the ones who nearly pushed the species over the edge, and the cats that were caught in the middle.
- Florida’s Famous Animals: True Stories of Sunset Sam the Dolphin, Snooty the Manatee, Big Guy the Panther and Others (591.9759 God): Captivating stories of thirteen real-life creatures that have made news around the state.
- Hoot (J Fla FIC HIA/DVD): Roy, who is new to his small Florida community, becomes involved in another boy’s attempt to save a colony of burrowing owls from a proposed construction site.
Would you like to support Highlands County Libraries? I have good news for you. The Avon Park Friends of the Library BLOW OUT BOOK SALE has been extended! Each Friday between the hours of 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM you can purchase any hardcover book for only 50 CENTS! While you’re there, consider becoming a Friends of the Library member for only $10 per year. Your annual membership includes 12 free books!
To learn more about the Heartland Library Cooperative visit us at www.myhlc.org or follow us on Facebook at the Highlands Board of County Commissioners page!