One way to enjoy nature is to photograph it. Ron Marquart is a nature photographer who lives in Boise, Idaho and photographs images of the natural life and scenic beauty around us. A sampling of images includes birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, insects, spiders, snails, flowers, trees, rocks, barns, windmills and scenic views. Several years ago I decided to create an Internet website* of my images with a brief natural history to educate people about the beauty and importance of the diversity of life. For me, nature photography is its own reward. For those who want to buy my images, this is an extra reward not expected. These images are available for sale as color prints.

Over the years it has been difficult for me to put into words the way I feel about nature photography. I discovered a poem printed in a newspaper by the U.S. poet laureate Ted Kooser. The following poem by Kentucky poet/farmer Wendell Berry puts into words what I could not:


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

It's an exciting adventure being in our natural areas to record on film the wonder and beauty of nature. I am, however, filled with deep sadness by the degradation and loss of our native forests, grasslands, wetlands, sagebrush lands, deserts, lakes, and free-flowing rivers. Increasing extinction of species caused by activities of an increasing number of people shows that we are not making enough effort to share the Earth with our native plants and animals, and this diminishes us all. This loss of biodiversity and fragmented ecosystem decay speaks disgracefully of our stewardship with nature.

Before documenting the biodiversity crisis, let me begin by quoting the best summary I've found concerning the present condition of life on Earth. In the preface of his recent book Life in the Balance: Humanity and the Biodiversity Crisis, Niles Eldrege tells us:
"Life is beautiful. The living world surrounds us, and we human beings are a part of it. We depend on the living world for our food and medicines, the oxygen that we breathe, and the elements that form our bodies. Earth is our home, and all Earth's species are our family, for we have evolved along with every other living thing.

Yet all is not well with life on Earth. We are losing roughly 30,000 species of plants and animals a year as ecosystems are disturbed and individual species are overhunted or overharvested. We need to ask ourselves, What does the living world mean to us? Why should we care if ecosystems degrade and species are lost? What is causing species extinction? And what can we do to stem the tide of this latest crisis in the living world?"