Personal Inquiry Blog

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

"Wiggling" and "Weaving" while walking

I walk to school in the morning. It's a mile and a half as the owl flies and I realized that I do a great deal of "wiggling" and "weaving" during that walk. Normally it takes 20 minutes--I keep a good pace but don't hurry. It's a time to wake up, think about the day ahead and then mull things over. Maybe it's the movement that sort of juggles things around in one's mind. For me, it's not usually a time when I get new ideas. If I'm working on a quilt, it's a time for me to find a way around a problem area or refine an idea that's already percolating. (Julia Cameron has written an entire book about how walking helped her get past writer's block.) My favorite time of the walk is when I cross through the Wabash campus and aboretum. It's beautiful and peaceful. The squirrels are working already and the birds are calling to each other and most students are still in bed. Now, the reason for this pleasant diversion is that this morning as I was crossing the campus, I was mulling over something I read last night in a great book called Owls of the World. The chapter was called "Conservation" which is something of an old-fashioned word these days. (My grandfather was a Conservation officer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.) The really interesting point that the author made was that we really need to think beyond just conserving a species in the old sense. Animals evolved because of changes in their environment. They adapted or they died out. Of course, in this day and age, we have the ability to change the environment much faster, but that doesn't mean that animals aren't trying to make the changes. The author went on to point out that one of the jobs of ecologists is to study animals in their habitats and look for these changes. Then it occured to me that the little article I read about the burrowing owls using cow dung to attract dung beetles is an illustration of a modern adaptation. Cows weren't here before Europeans came to this country so the owls using cow dung is (in evolutionary terms) a really new behavior. The other responsiblity of ecologists is to try to safeguard habitats so that we give the animals time to make changes. So ecology is a changing and evolving thing. We can't really stop progress, we just have to buy these animals a little more time. I realized that I had a very conservative idea of what ecology was. I was thinking of it as much more like maintaining the status quo. Ecologists are really saying, "We know things are going to change and that some of that change is good, but let's consider all the ramifications that will result from this change." I am so grateful for all these folks who rehabilitate animals, go to schools to present programs or host field trips and camps to educate people, talk to farmers, put up nest boxes, and lobby Congress. And for those of us who care, I want to provide some suggestions of ways we can help and things that we can do to be more mindful (as the Buddhists say) of our actions. I'm now going to try to figure out Inspiration so I can put some of my information into graphic organizers.


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