Environmental awakening

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(HOST) In response to listeners’ queries, commentator Ruth Page has been reflecting lately on how her concern for the environment developed.

(PAGE) Listeners sometimes ask how I became so interested
in the environment, as they know I was a city kid who lived in big cities for years. It took me a bit of time to figure it out myself, but
I think I credit my brother for first awakening my interest in the earth and the life on it, as well as the cosmos.

He was four years older than I, and I looked up to him and, as a kid, was inclined to think him perfect. We spent our summers in the country during the 20’s and at a lonely spot on the south Jersey shore in summer.

In the country, I remember finding Bob in the midst of a field of sheep, just sitting. Not moving. I watched. After a time, the sheep ignored him and cropped grass right up to his feet. They let him touch and pet them. I was impressed by his patience, but at a deeper level I understood why he felt his patience was well rewarded.

At the seashore we all walked the beach a lot. On moonless nights the sky was so strewn with stars we could spend hours
on our backs, just looking up. Sometimes we saw what we called “shooting stars.” Bob sometimes murmured what he knew about the apparent infinity of the universe.

He was the first from whom I learned to consider the apparent vastness of space; and that the starlight came from so far away,
it was OLD. We were looking millions of years back in time: those stars might really look quite different at present; some might even be gone.

We were seeing light not just far away in space, but far away in time. We discussed whether there might be life on other planets. We met myriads of creatures along the shoreline and in tidal pools and gullies; many were gone in later years, so we saw extinctions happen.

In high school, though we lived in a madly busy suburb, our
walk to school was through a lovely woods. I liked to see the
trees change, the painterly molds on the rocks, squirrels scrap-
ping and birds flying and calling. It felt homelike. So without any sound knowledge of nature, I certainly knew we were all part of it, and found it thrilling.

Just think! It took every plant, every earth-bound animal, bird and fish, plus everything visible in the vast skies, to make our home.
It was a great mystery, but I had a spiritual stirring in my insides in realizing I was a tiny scrap in so immense a dwelling.

I loved it all; I didn’t want to lose any of it. Ultimately, I appreci- ated the wonderful vitality and complexity of the environment, and began to grasp the desperate seriousness of humankind blindly changing nature’s components with no idea of the outcome of our meddling.

This is Ruth Page in Shelburne.

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