Environment Wade's World

            Pearl River      Paddling a canoe on a bayou regularly, year in, year out, one season after another, some might think is boring, but they would be wrong.  There will be more ducks some years than others, and they will breed and nest in different places along the bayous.  Some years there will be alligators around every turn, sometimes sunny on a bank in early spring.  Other years I’ve felt lucky to sight a couple over an entire year.  Nutrias seem everywhere some years and out of sight others. There are regulars I’ll see frequently, spotting the same Louisiana blue heron pair, snowy white egret, and kingfisher over and over, like we’re buddies.  This time of year, the iris come out, and they are everywhere, including where over almost five years I’ve never seen them.  The bayou and the surrounding marsh are always changing, sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse.

Nature is always calling, but sometimes we don’t hear.  I thought about that recently when talking to photographer Benjamin Dimmitt who had photographed the impact of climate change on the wetlands at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s Gulf Coast, 70 miles north of Tampa.  The time dated photos in An Unflinching Look:  An Elegy for Wetlands are disturbing.  Over the decades the cypress and other trees disappear and only some dying palm trees seem to stand sentry over the funeral march, as salt disturbs this spring fed wetlands.   Five years paddling on this bayou and seeing the annual changes makes we wonder, and fear, about the changes that may come to this marsh and waterway on the banks and under the water that depend on it.

In the same way Dimmitt documents the wetlands, I was also struck by what an enthusiastic advocate Warren Carlyle IV was for the often discounted and little loved octopus.  I met him when he was tag-teaming with Sy Montgomery on a book called Secrets of the Octopus that she had written and he had contributed notes on different octopusesHe had become a superfan and volunteered to use his skills in promotion and fashion photography to the cause of octopuses.  He founded something called OctoNation which has been a hit on social media with merch galore.  There are 300 kinds, and they are in all of our waters.  As dreary and deadly as Dimmitt’s photos had been, the dramatically colorful and lively pictures of octopuses were the opposite.

Nature is calling for both protection and promotion.  It’s a fine balance, easily tipped over, but Dimmitt, Carlyle, and Montgomery have all heard the cries and answered the call.  We all need to go and do likewise.