“I urgently appeal…for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all…We require a new and universal solidarity…All of us can cooperate as instruments of god for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.” — Pope Francis, #14 in the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si, On Care for our Common Home
Each year when I spend a few weeks in the Adirondacks in upstate New York, I am struck by three things: the vibrant “secret” lives of all the wild things that go about their business even when we humans aren’t watching them, the sense of peace that comes when immersed in a place of wild beauty and quiet solitude, and the constant tension between the wilderness regions and the ever-present human thirst for development and the most modern comforts — wifi, air conditioning, indoor plumbing and a permanent end to flies and mosquitoes. In search of those comforts, too often we destroy the very nature that all human life depends upon for clean air, pure water, and a life-giving healthy environment to sustain all posterity.
Pope Francis has challenged the modern world to take on the severe problems of climate change and environmental degradation that are largely caused by human activities — the ever-more-urgent quest for development and the conveniences of modern life. His new Encyclical Laudato Si poses questions for discussion and action that we must address. I am reading the encyclical while here in the Adirondacks for my customary summer “escape” from routine, and in the next several weeks I will reflect on passages in the encyclical through my blogs on the Adirondack Chronicles.
Sunday was gray and rainy when I stopped along the shore of Little Tupper Lake, a great example of how smart state policy preserves wilderness in the face of the urge to develop. I saw three loons playing on the water, joyful in the rain, and with a long lens and the shield of brush along the road, I was able to get close enough for a few quick snaps before they held a caucus and decided to swim away.
Yes, loons are very smart ducks and they do have ways of communicating. They dislike humans, a trait they share with most wildlife.
Little Tupper Lake and thousands of acres of wild forest around it used to be owned by a wealthy private family, the Whitney family, prominent in many industries including finance, horse racing, railroads and logging. In the late 19th Century, industrialization nearly destroyed the Adirondack wilderness with wildfires caused by sparks from railroads, extensive logging and mining operations. The “Forever Wild” act of the New York Legislature mandated that the state lands would remain, literally, forever wild, with no roads, no motors, no clearing after storms, just as nature intended. New York State constantly adds land to the Adirondack Forest Preserve, and the state bought the Whitney tract in the late 1990’s, adding a vast wilderness area to the “Forever Wild” forest and lakes now abundant with loons and other wildlife. I think Pope Francis would approve!
So would these forest creatures….