IS THE TIME TO MAKE YOUR RESOLUTIONS
by Whit Gibbons
January 4, 2004
has come to make 2004 resolutions, and the environment should be a major
topic on everyone's list. Anyone who gives any thought at all to the issue
knows that having healthy ecosystems increases our chances of having healthy
lives, both physically and mentally. Some, maybe most, of us thrive on
having the natural world intact, and nothing is wrong with challenging
others who are not helping keep it that way. The following resolutions
will be easy to carry out.
1. A straightforward
resolution that could actually have an impact is to take a stand on environmental
issues by writing letters, a process made even simpler these days with
email. You have a wide choice of appropriate audiences, and your opinion
may actually result in influencing one or more of them. Write the editor
of your local newspaper expressing your views on an environmental matter
of local, regional, or national concern. Or let the editor know that you
appreciate the newspaper's publishing a particular story on an environmental
an elected official. Check to find out how your congressional representatives
have voted on environmental issues and tell them that you support strong
protection of natural habitats. Small wetlands are still underappreciated
by a few, as witnessed by the Supreme Court's environmentally unfriendly
5 to 4 ruling in 2001 that limited the protection of wetlands not connected
to waters having interstate commerce. Let your representatives know that
if they have recently championed the protection of these isolated wetlands,
which harbor some of the highest wildlife productivity in the country,
their support is much appreciated.
to support environmental education. What better group to support than
children? You can assist education in many ways, such as by donating your
time or supplies to a school science program that focuses on ecology.
Ask a teacher what might be most needed: a book on natural history, a
bird feeder and seed, an aquarium for the classroom?
4. In the
spirit of environmental education, a clear target is yourself. Resolve
to take a long walk through local woods, around a lake, or to a state
park this spring for the sole purpose of appreciating a clean environment.
Observe plants and animals, including insects, small flowers, and mushrooms.
Have a friend accompany you. You may be amazed at how much exciting life
is all around you, and you might become more appreciative of what it takes
to keep it all with us.
5. In addition
to a walk, resolve to watch an animal, other than a bird, in your yard
for several minutes, until it does something you have never seen before.
Nothing against birds, but most people already watch birds and need to
learn to look at other animals as well. In fact, pick an invertebrate
animal such as an insect or spider. Just watch it to see what it does.
a wetland habitat and spend at least an hour looking at the plants and
animals that live there. Isolated wetlands that may even dry up in the
summer are great places because of their extremely high productivity.
A stream or a river can also be a fascinating place if you stay around
long enough to see what's there. While you are there, consider how many
lives depend on the environmental quality not only in the water but also
7. Identify a tree, shrub, or other plant in your yard or neighborhood
and read about it. Encyclopedias, nature magazines, and books are obvious
places to look, as well as reputable Web sites sponsored by universities,
museums, or government agencies. You will appreciate the entire species,
and the specimen in your yard or neighborhood, for the rest of your life
if you become familiar with its ecology, geographic range, and overall
to follow through with these suggestions. Or create your own environmental
resolutions. Developing and maintaining an appreciation of the environmental
integrity of your community will almost certainly lead to a greater interest
in the environment of your state, the county, and the world. And your
interest may influence others. And so on and so on.
If you have an environmental question or comment, email