Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This I Believe

"Never has the need for personal philosophies of this kind been so urgent." Edward R. Murrow, 1951.

As a secondary gifted instructor, I was always trying to uncover meaningful activities for my students: activities that they could take with them into the real world, that had to potential to guide them down the path, and to help them regain their balance when necessary. This is where the "This I Believe" project hit the mark.

In 1951, Edward R. Murrow created a unique radio broadcast where well-known, as well as ordinary, people from around the nation and world took the time to reflect upon and write down their core values and beliefs. These were then condensed down to a 350-500 word essay, and delivered on radio by the individuals who wrote them.

The project was revived by NPR and is still going strong at the This I Believe website. Guidelines are archived there, and one can still submit their essay. Collections of essays are heard on NPR, found on CDs and logged in books.

When a teacher gives an assignment that requires a great deal of difficult critical thinking and personal insight, it is always best to join the students in the process. This guarantees that they will put the necessary time and effort into the process. And so, I offer my "This I Believe" essay. It has everything to do with what I do and who I am. It is a starting point for me as I begin a year-long process of reflection: in hopes of discovering my own voice within the conservation movement.

This I Believe Essay

written on December 3, 2008

I am thrilled by the sight of birds.
I’ve looked for birds all across America and abroad, and I’ve actually fit my curious pastime into every family vacation. I have birded in Scotland, where the islands are covered with magnificent sea birds, and in Costa Rica, where a plethora of distinct habitats provide countless avian niches. I bird in ordinary places, too. Each trip to the grocery store or the mailbox is an adventure, adding excitement to my life.

But that does not tell the whole story. I have discovered that birds have become an integral part of my belief-value system, adding purpose to my life.

I believe that the more we open our minds to learn about and care for the bird species that inhabit every corner of the earth, the more likely we are to open our minds and hearts to all forms of life on Earth, including the lives of our own human brothers and sisters.

I could tell you that the tiny warblers migrating through the Ozarks each spring are jewels that display every color of the rainbow in shimmering iridescence and striking brilliance. It's the same with our fellow humans, whose cultures, religions, customs, and lifestyles are also precious gems, mirroring Nature and painting the Earth in rainbow hues.

I recently became part of an effort to train environmental leaders for the future through TogetherGreen, a nationwide National Audubon Society program funded by Toyota Motors. Our grant resulted in G.L.A.D.E., the Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems. The avian connection with the academy is the drab, secretive Swainson’s Warbler, whose numbers have plummeted in the White River watershed of southwest Missouri after its Giant Cane riparian home has been destroyed by human activities.
During the academy, “green” leaders in grades 10 and 11 are restoring Swainson’s Warbler habitat by replanting Giant Cane in strategic locations. These teens practice a science that places great value on a drab, secretive, brown bird, and they take significant action to provide proper habitat for it. The Swainson's Warbler is hardly a poster species for a great environmental movement, but that is just the point.

I believe that a society that teaches its children to care for and value inconspicuous species will reap the rewards in positive, altruistic adults that value each other and all life on Earth. Mahatma Gandhi once said the “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated". Jesus of Nazareth asserted: “as you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.”

So, the Swainson’s Warbler, along with countless other threatened and endangered species should be placed on the human species’ “least of these” list. After all, we share the Breath of Life together with all living things, including all the warblers and all the humans. Each has a necessary niche; to gain nourishment from and to give support to all Life surrounding it.

Life is a miraculous gift and a wise teacher. Nature provides infinite examples that can guide us to a sustainable future: a future that will nurture many generations of our grandchildren. It will take a great deal of human ingenuity and humility, but, rest assured, it is possible if we come together, and then, display our finest feathers.
I believe, like my beloved birds, that we can fly with grace and beauty, to a high precipice, where we can look out upon the whole Earth and cherish the gift of life with which we alone have been entrusted.

*photo of Swainson's Warbler from birdspix.com


Marvin said...


Jochen said...

Hi Greg!
Now that you are back (wow!!), I am away... Great new design!!

Cheers, Jochen

Greg said...

Thanks, guys! @Jochen, it's hard to keep it going..... even now, I having a hard time getting back into writing, but it's great to know someone is out there checking on my blog! More to come! You better make a comeback, too!

Debra said...

Dear Greg...I love what you have expressed here about sharing the breath of life with all living things...it is the one truth I always come back to. It expresses the connection we have with all life. The same creative spark exists in all of us. And although some consider it odd that I should move a small snake, fuzzy caterpillar or whatever to safety, I do consider them to be a part of me through that spark of life & breath. If they are "the least of these" then I must be also if you consider the scope of all of creation!

Greg said...

Thanks for the kind and insightful words, and I wholeheartedly agree. Hope you come back here often! And I think you should start a blog!