Extinctions & Recoveries;
Pollution & Climate Change;
Finding Environmental Solutions;
Earth, A Fragile Paradise
Whale Mother and Baby. Photo by Max Lissenden from Unsplash.
Earth, a Fragile Paradise
In the early days, Americans
burned whale oil in their lamps,
wore fragrances made with ambergris,
(a waxy substance produced in whale intestines),
and laced themselves into corsets
stiffened with whale bones.
Whales, once threatened by hunting…
became popular attractions
for the eco-tourists of today!
Racism, genocide, and greed
decimated the bison,
mainstay of Native Americans
living on the Great Plains.
Hunters killed them for their hides,
leaving carcasses to rot on the plains.
drove Native Americans onto reservations.
brought bison to near extinction.
Some bison today are domesticated;
others roam free in National Parks.
Whims of fashion:
egret feathers adorning ladies’ hats,
alligator shoes and luggage,
elephants, slaughtered for ivory tusks,
baby seals, annihilated for their skins,
glamorous women in leopard coats,
fashionable men in beaver hats.
Many species, once threatened, now recovered;
battles to save leopards and elephants…
Appetite for wild meat is threatening
many species, including humans.
Diseases cross over from animals to humans:
ebola virus, thought to have originated
in bats, chimpanzees, gorillas, and antelopes;
bats in animal market blamed for Covid pandemic;
AIDS reportedly passed
from chimpanzees to humans.
A desire for exotic pets
brought many alien species
to Florida’s Everglades National Park…
abandoned when they grew too large,
escaped, or were released into the wild.
One species is hunted there once each year…
Burmese pythons, grown enormous
preying on deer and alligators!
Everglades rabbits, easy prey for pythons,
soon disappear when reintroduced.
Sadly, prolific pythons may be permanent
American Bison. Photo by Jonathan Mast from Unsplash.
Extinctions & Recoveries
Relentless hunting famously
caused the extinction of the dodo bird.
Some American birds have also disappeared.
Carolina parakeets no longer inhabit
the Eastern United States.
Passenger pigeons are gone forever,
Ivory-billed woodpeckers are no more.
The American flamingo and the wood stork
have re-established themselves
in the United States
after being absent for many decades.
Whooping cranes are still hanging on,
supported by conservation efforts.
White-tailed deer were reintroduced
into Shenandoah National Park.
Predators that used to
control deer populations are gone.
Feeding programs now prevent deer
from starving in winter
or being shot in cornfields outside the park.
Wolves, a bounty on their heads
for preying on livestock,
long absent from some of their range…
successfully reintroduced a few years ago
to Yellowstone National Park,
restored the balance of nature.
Monarch butterfly numbers dwindling,
Milkweeds and wildflowers vanishing
along monarch migration routes.
Pollution bleaching coral reefs,
habitat of marine animals and fish.
Wetlands, nurseries for sealife,
disappearing due to development…
Just a few examples of many animals
endangered by human activity!
Great Egret Family. Photo by homecare119 from Pixabay.
Pollution & Climate Change
Bald eagles, emblem of the United States,
barely escaped extinction.
In the years after DDT was banned,
bald eagles repopulated their former range
and can now be sighted
in every American state except Hawaii.
Ugly faces of pollution:
animals foraging in landfills and garbage dumps,
sea turtles entangled in plastic debris,
seabirds coated with oil, fish whose mercury content
makes them dangerous to eat,
microplastics in the food chain, now found in fish
and in humans who eat them.
Red tides, massive algae blooms in oceans,
blue-green algae blooms in rivers.
Toxic overgrowth, caused by pollution,
results in massive fish kills,
deaths of dolphins and endangered manatees.
Aerosolized red tide neurotoxins cause
respiratory irritation and illness in humans.
Exposure to blue-green algae
may result in permanent liver damage.
Everglades, stressed by climate change,
recent hurricane damage…
small communities struggling to rebuild.
Everywhere in Everglades National Park
staff gauges indicate water levels,
warn about effects of rising water.
Just a few more feet of water,
and beautiful mangrove forests,
home to alligators, dolphins, birds, fish,
and endangered manatees,
will be gone forever!
is melting arctic ice at an alarming rate,
stranding polar bears on shrinking ice floes.
Can they survive global warming?
Can life on earth survive?
Polar Bear Cubs at Play. Photo by Hand Jurgen from Unsplash.
Finding Environmental Solutions
Zoos, once prisons
for kidnapped animals,
have become a refuge
for endangered species.
Captive breeding programs seek to
re-establish animals in the wild.
Shrinking habitat is being augmented
by setting aside land
for wildlife parks and preserves.
Magnificent animals of Africa and Asia,
tigers, snow leopards, and elephants,
require large territories.
Preserves protect them from extinction.
Tourists on safari now hunt with cameras.
Poachers are punished.
Villagers are compensated for livestock
killed by protected predators.
Europeans take great pride
in preserving vintage varieties of livestock,
cultivating heirloom flowers, fruits, and vegetables,
maintaining animal preserves.
Florida panthers, symbols of Florida,
inbred and endangered,
were infused with new genes
from Texas pumas, a closely-related species.
Florida panthers require large territories.
Land has been set aside;
tall fences now protect panthers
from collisions with cars.
Unlike reclusive Florida panthers,
adapted to living near humans,
are frequently seen strolling through
Blackouts on Florida beaches
protect sea turtles during nesting season.
Manatee zones shield
manatees from boat propellers.
Many programs rescue
injured manatees, sea turtles, and birds.
What’s it all about? Photo by Chen Lei from Unsplash.
Earth, a Fragile Paradise
Earth is a fragile paradise…
experiencing both environmental
degradation and preservation;
some people destroy; others rescue, restore.
Life on earth is threatened.
Working together, people may yet
save this fragile paradise!
Copyright © 2023 by Cheryl Batavia
Please Note: This post was written from my own experiences in Florida. I learned about environmental topics from news and documentaries, and I did some basic research while writing poems about Florida animals. I am not a scientist, just a retired elementary school teacher who cares about the environment.
It’s a big world! Please feel free to provide additional information from your experiences and perspective in the comments. Thank you. 🙂
Let’s Celebrate Earth Day All Year Long!
Earth Day, April 22, 2023