The Solution

Terry Tempest Williams in her book, An Unspoken Hunger, 1994, offers a solution by telling us what we should not do when she writes poetically about love and love of wildlands in her celebration of the Winter Solstice at a wetlands preserve in Utah:

"…But what kind of impoverishment is this to withhold emotion, to restrain our passionate nature in the face of a generous life just to appease our fears? A man or woman whose mind reins in the heart when the body sings desperately for connection can only expect more isolation and greater ecological disease. Our lack of intimacy with each other is in direct proportion to our lack of intimacy with the land. We have taken our love inside and abandoned the wild…
The Winter Solstice turns in us, turns in me. Let me plant my own prayer stick firmly in the mud of this marsh. Eight hundred acres of wetlands. It is nothing. It is everything. We are a tribe of fractured individuals who can now only celebrate remnants of wildness…
Wildlands' and wildlives' oppression lies in our desire to control and our desire to control has robbed us of feeling. Our rib cages have been broken and our hearts cut out. The knives of our priests are bloody. We, the people. Our own hands are bloody…
…says D. H. Lawrence. 'Oh, what a catastrophe for man when he cut himself off from the rhythm of the year, from his unison with the sun and the earth. Oh, what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was made a personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising and setting of the sun, and cut off from the magical connection of the solstice and equinox. This is what is wrong with us…'
The land is love. Love is what we fear. To disengage from the earth is our own oppression. I stand on the edge of these wetlands, a place of renewal, an oasis in the desert, as an act of faith, believing the sun has completed the southern end of its journey and is now contemplating its return toward light…"

In his article "Saving Our Future" in WorldArk magazine (May/June, 2004) Dr. David Suzuki, a scientist and professor emeritus of Sustainable Development Research at the University of British Columbia, offers solutions for the human condition and quality of life on Earth:

"All these resources that we take for granted have to come from somewhere. Human ingenuity has helped harness them, but they all still come from one place—the Earth. The oil coal and gas that heat our homes, power our vehicles and industries, and provide the electricity for our lights all come from nature. It took millions of years for these fossil fuels to form, and once we use them up, they are gone for good.

Energy isn't the only resource we depend on nature to provide. We also depend on nature's services to clean our air and water, keep our soils fertile and our climate stable. We depend on nature to absorb our wastes and provide food, medicines, recreation and inspiration. We depend on nature for our health, well-being and quality of life.

If we want future generations to have the opportunities that we have had, we have to change. We are consuming too much, too fast—especially in developed nations. According to University of British Columbia professor Bill Rees, if everyone in the world used the same amount of resources as we do in North America, it would require the resources of four or five more Earths! The path we are currently on is clearly unsustainable. Our planet simply isn't big enough to provide the resources for, and absorb the wastes of, 6 billion people living as we do in North America.

Does this mean that to become a sustainable society North Americans will have to accept a lower standard of living and reduced quality of life? No, not at all. Why? Well, the reason North Americans (and many others in the developed world) consume so many resources is not because it is necessary to do so to have a high quality of life, but because we have become complacent. We live in a land of plenty, so we assume 'there's plenty more where that came from.' As a result, we have become very wasteful.

To become a sustainable society, we must stop wasting our resources. That means letting innovation drive efficiency. It means encouraging the switch to renewable energy resources, like wind and solar power, that don't pollute our air or change our climate. It means encouraging public transportation and better fuel efficiency. It means designing our cities better and using the best possible agricultural practices. By becoming smarter and more efficient in the way we use resources, we will actually improve our quality of life. In other words, sustainability means doing things better, not doing without.

Unfortunately, developing nations will be least able to adapt to this changing world. Already, these nations bear the brunt of natural disasters. Such disasters are already on the increase, and scientists tell us that extreme weather events are expected to become much worse as climate change progresses.

For humanity to chart a course to a sustainable future, we must address these inequities. To ignore them will condemn a good portion of the world's people to a continued cycle of poverty, which breeds unrest, contempt and violence. This will further degrade local ecosystems and cause political instability. No single country can achieve sustainability in such a world. Rather, a sustainable and just future for humanity requires countries to work together to alleviate poverty, improve sanitation, medical care and education, and promote the transfer of locally appropriate, efficient technologies that will benefit developing nations.

With an estimated population of 9 billion on Earth by 2050, time is running out for humanity to develop sustainable practices that will enable society to thrive, while protecting the natural systems on which we ultimately depend. It is not an impossible task, but it will take a new vision of the future and a concerted global effort from our leaders, our neighbors and ourselves.

Here are ten simple things we can do to protect the environment:

    1. Reduce home energy use by 10 percent.
    2. Choose an energy-efficient home and appliances.
    3. Replace dangerous pesticides with alternatives.
    4. Eat meat-free meals one day a week.
    5. Buy locally grown and produced food.
    6. Choose a fuel-efficient vehicle
    7. Walk, bike, carpool or use public transit.
    8. Choose a home close to work or school.
    9. Support car-free alternatives.
    10. Learn more and share with others."

     Dave Foreman, a leading conservation activist, in his recent book, Rewilding North America, 2004, tells us he is not optimistic about modern society, but he has hope. Many people have hope, but hope is not a plan. He is director of the Rewilding Institute located in Albuquerque, New Mexico and offers solutions by having both hope and a plan. He has a visionary policy and strategy for mitigating the biodiversity crisis and fostering a better quality of life for this generation and future generations based on the science of conservation biology. Here are some excerpts from chapter 15 of his book:

"The point of religion, society, ethics, and good manners is to check those parts of human behavior that harm the community. Aldo Leopold believed that history could be seen as a progressive extension of ethics to include more and more people in the community. He wrote: 'All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts… The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land… In short, an land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow -members, and also respect for the community as such.'

Moreover, much of the damage we do to Earth comes from our seemingly inherent inability to plan more than a couple of decades into the future and our inability to fully understand the consequences of our actions. Perhaps our shortsightedness can be explained in evolutionary terms. Thinking is a function of our brain. Like any other organ, the brain is a product of evolution. Given short individual life spans and slow ecological change for most of our evolutionary history, we should not assume that our intelligence is adapted to long-term thinking and prediction of the effects of our actions. In 1992, J. T. Heinen and R. S. Low proposed that 'humans have evolved to be concerned primarily with short -term costs and benefits on a restricted temporal and spatial scale.'

How then do we act according to our ethics? How then do we begin to behave in keeping with the recognition that our actions have long-term consequences? How do we become responsible?

I think that the best way to act according to our ethics is to consciously act according to our ethics. For example, I am finding that my memory fails me more and more as I grow older. Therefore, I compensate for my weakening memory by consciously helping it with reminders and by making notes for myself, or by doing things as soon as I think of them instead of thinking I'll remember to do them later. Consciously, deliberately, physically acting to heal ecological wounds may be a way to overcome the gulf between a land ethic and land caring. Assuming that we have to thoughtfully work to practice our ethics toward nature may lead to better behavior. We might be able to practice our land ethic only by consciously practicing it. Physically restoring streams, pulling exotic weeds, helping with native species reintroductions, closing harmful roads—such actions may be how we become consciously responsible. We need to create a hopeful vision for the future and consciously work to gain it, not naively assume that humans will unconsciously move in the right direction.

I am not optimistic. I think that the exuberant optimism that drives modern society is irrational. But I do have hope. Tom Butler, editor of Wild Earth, writes that 'hope is natural. To early hominids…who constantly faced an inconsistent ability to exploit food resources, hope would have been a powerful advantage. It might have been a key factor in getting through the hungry times. Hope is wild.' Conservationists can rewild nature only if they are lifted up by wild hope.

Since around 1990, conservation biology has wrought a revolution. The goal for nature reserves has move beyond protecting scenery to protecting all nature—the diversity of genes, species, ecosystems, and natural processes. No longer are conservationists fulfilled with protecting remnant and isolated roadless areas; more and more we have come to agree with Reed Noss, who says, 'Wilderness recovery, I firmly believe, is the most important task of our generation.'

Wilderness and wildlife, both as natural realities and as philosophical ideas, are fundamentally about human humility and restraint. Remember that in Old English wil-der-ness means self-willed land and wildeor means self-willed beast. Our war on nature comes from trying to impose our will over the whole Earth. To develop and practice a land ethic, we must hold dear both wil-der-ness and the wideor. Only by making the moral leap to embrace, celebrate, love, and restore self-willed nature can we stop the war on nature and save ourselves. Recycling, living more simply, and protecting human health through pollution control are all important. But it is only by rewilding and healing the ecological wounds of the land that we can learn humility and respect; that we can come home, at last. And that the grand dance of life will sashay on in all its beauty, intergrity, and evolutionary potential.

Aldo Leopold (considered to be the "father" of wildlife management) in his book, A Sand County Almanac, 1949, offers a solution in his quote on a land ethic:

"…an ethic is simply this: quit thinking about descent land-use as solely an economic problem. Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise…"

Edward O. Wilson in his book, Nature Revealed, 2006, pp. 618-629 gives the following solutions:

  “...A more powerful, global conservation ethic should be cultivated.  The endemic plants and animals of each nation should be treated by its citizens as part of their heritage, as precious as their art and history.  When national leaders such as former president Daniel Oduber Quiros of Costa Rica have the courage to advance the preservation of ecosystems within their domains, they should be accorded international honors up to and including the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of the very great contributions they make, not just to their own generation but to generations as far into the future as it is possible to imagine.

     To put the matter as concisely as possible, biological diversity is unique in its importance to both developed and developing countries and in the cost-effectiveness of its study.  The United States would do well to seek a formal international agreement among countries, possible in the form of an 'International Decade for the Study of Life on Earth,' to improve financial support and access to study sites.  To spread technical capability where it is most needed, arrangements could be made to retain specimens within the countries of their origin while nationals are trained to assume leadership in systematics and the related scientific disciplines.

     In Physics and Philosophy, Werner Heisenberg suggested that science is the best way to establish links with other cultures because it is concerned not with ideology but with nature and man's relation to nature.  If that promise can ever be met, it will surely be in an international effort to understand and save biological diversity.  This being the only living world we are ever likely to know, let us join to make the most of it.”

     Michael Novacek's book, Terra, 2007, pp. 345-354 gives examples of  faulty thinking, already working solutions, and suggests future solutions:

     “...History shows that people have made war over gold, oil, and water; they may do so over biodiversity.

     This is not a very uplifting prospect, but neither I nor other scientists who have studied the modern ecosystem as it has evolved over the past 100 million years can see a way of opting for less alarming scenarios.  I can understand that none of us necessarily wants to hear this message.  But we must guard against denial and passivity, which will lull us into ignoring the carnage that is engulfing life on this planet.  In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Sir Lancelot, on an ill-conceived mission of rescue, goes on a rampage at a wedding, slaughtering many of the guests.  Standing amid the corpses and the moaning wounded, the royal father of the bride entreats the remaining survivors:  'This is supposed to be a happy occasion.  Let us not bicker and argue about who killed who.'  The absurd proclamation reminds me of the exuberant, Panglossian statements of world leaders who praise our thriving economies and our beautiful Earth, with nary an expression of concern about the dark side of the future and nary a finger pointed to the source of the darkness, ourselves.

     When the signs of the times became clear more than a decade ago, many of us suspected that some of the doom and gloom might be overwrought.  We convinced ourselves that the negative trends would be mitigated by complex factors we would come to understand or that conservation awareness and action would improve matters.  One area of skepticism concerned climate change, for evidence seemed too sketchy to allow a clear look into the future...Those early-warning signals have been, if anything, reinforced...What we are dealing with is not science fiction.  It is the reality of here and now.  It is science fact.

     Still, human ingenuity, commitment, and shared responsibility have great potential for ensuring more positive prospects.  History has demonstrated our capacity for improving situations; think of those Romans who centuries ago constructed an elaborate, superbly functional sewage system in their polluted city.  Do current positive efforts indicate a clear possibility that we can at least slow biological decline and environmental degradation?  I shall say yes, but with a caveat:  our recent efforts, however meritorious, must become more intensive and global; they must be implemented from the top down and given higher priority and more investment.  We know which recent and current efforts to conserve water, restore forests, ban hunting of threatened wildlife, manage fisheries, arrest the invasion of alien species, curb pollution, and control the release of greenhouse gases are successful.  They should continue and proliferate...

     Most disconcerting is the potential loss of key species in ecosystems that we have simply neglected, the lost little creatures, including, of course, insects...The scientifically based conservation agenda needs to embrace all of diversity beyond the familiar flora and fauna that occupy most of our attention.

    Meanwhile, the creatures that humans do recognize and cherish have yet to run the gauntlet successfully.  The precarious situation for the few tigers scattered about Asia will not improve until we enforce, rather than simply proclaim, the interdiction of the trade in traditional medicines derived from their body parts.  The reserves established for such large animals are laudable, but most of them are not big enough to support populations sizable enough to secure a healthy evolutionary future of the animals.  Creating corridors lacing through human-dominated regions to connect wildlife reserves and nature preserves is a welcome idea, and it has caught on in South Africa, in the areas around the coral reefs of the Bahamas, in the borderland between Vietnam and Laos, and the Rocky Mountain corridor stretching from Alaska to Colorado.  These causeways for wild species are and will be controversial; they disrupt the master plans for housing tracts and highways and are often inconveniences for the people near them; they also curtail activities, including hunting and fishing, that many believe are their birthright or, in some places, their means of survival.  But connecting reserves with these lifelines is a genuine necessity to keep the otherwise dismembered parts of our ecosystem functioning.

     Obviously, these necessary actions concern land use.  If land is given over wholly to industry, agriculture, or human habitation and, worse, is “used up” and left barren, polluted, toxic, or otherwise unproductive, the planet as we know it will not survive.  But by now we know land use that sustains ecosystems is possible and that it confers a triple reward to the environment, society, and the economy.     There are the coffee farms I've mentioned, planted near forests and benefiting from wild pollinators, which increase coffee yields.  There is New York City's purchase for a billion dollars of watersheds in the Catskill Mountains that naturally purify water, instead of building a filtration plant that would have cost six to eight billion dollars plus annual operating costs of three hundred million...Safe habitats for birds control caterpillar pests and raise production in European apple orchards.  There are plans for reflective roofing, green space, and increased shade to cool urban “heat islands” that will lower the energy costs of a city like Sacramento by twenty-six million dollars per year and reduce peak ozone concentrations by 6.5 percent...

     ...All these are good starts, but we have a long way to go.  Jonathan Foley and other scientists have argued that a more global strategy of land use must distinguish among three options.  Option 1, to preserve natural ecosystems, would maximize all the benefits we expect from ecosystems—water filtration and flow, biodiversity and habitat health, mediation of infectious diseases, good air quality, forest production, and carbon sequestration--but of course does not provide food crops.  Option 2, to develop intensive croplands, is the converse and fails to provide the ecosystem services under Option 1.    

Option 3, to develop croplands mixing agriculture with natural components, would provide crop foods and restored ecosystem services.  Though its productive capacity will not equal that under Option 2, it does provide a good deal of the other aspects of the natural habitat we value.  We need to shift away from a strategy that is on the whole still directly converting Option 1 to Option 2 landscapes.  It is Option 3 we should aim for.  The fate for the remainder of what we call natural ecosystems will depend on our adopting it and, at the same time, securing as much natural habitat as possible from any kind of conversion.  With a global human population that will increase by 2.6 billion by 2050—100 million more than the total population of the planet in 1950—some of these natural habitats will invariably be lost.  To lesson the blow, Option 3 land conversion should be widely adapted to serve both humans and the nature we are part of.  Catskill...watersheds, organic coffee farms, bird-friendly apple orchards, and urban green spaces point the way...

     ...Climate change, in combination with habitat fragmentation and other human-induced factors, leaves the deepest mark on our modern ecosystem.  Bleaching coral reefs and withering plants in South  Africa are just a taste of what is in store for the biota.  Any measure of success depends not only on international cooperation but also on the leadership of those nations and economies most empowered to do something.  Unfortunately, such leadership is dismayingly erratic or absent.  It is no secret that the United States and a few other powerful nations refused to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol.  Moreover, countries like China and India undergoing rapid development were exempted from sighing on.  Given the huge contributions those two nations are now making to the environmental degradation of the planet, such an exemption was outrageously shortsighted.

     As of 2007, the holdout nations have yet to take major steps.  Many U.S. leaders, including President Bush, now more openly acknowledge the problem but do not explicitly accept the measures recommended by the Kyoto Protocol, stating that countries like China and India are unjustifiably exempted.  China, for its part, did issue in June 2007 a strategy to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gases, but it rejected mandatory caps on emissions, which it thought might constrain the country's explosive economy.  Its leaders also continued to maintain that compliance with the Kyoto Protocol was the responsibility of those countries that produced the majority of greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution.  Unfortunately, that rationale, based on prior history, will soon be irrelevant:  China is projected to surpass the United States by 2009 or 2010 as the world's biggest source of greenhouse gases.

     When it comes to implementation, many administrations still apply a strategy that ignores the problem because of the scientific debate concerning aspects of the predictions for change.  Any technical disagreement is an excuse to dispense with the whole matter.  Appropriate funding for research of environmental urgency is hence marginalized by continued subsidies of massive and wasteful agriculture and tax breaks for industries tied to traditional, rapidly depleting, and polluting energy sources.  In order to bolster its case to constrain environmental regulation, certain federally supported projects, including oil drilling, pipelines, and power plants, the U.S. government in 2005 enlisted David Legates, the head of the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Delaware, Newark, and a well-known skeptic of the scientific evidence for global warming.  Legates claimed that data for the rise in temperature over the twentieth century were biased by measurements taken near unnaturally warm urban centers, that Greenland was actually cooling, coral bleaching was a beneficial response to environmental change, and droughts during the twentieth century were relatively benign.  Scientific work published at that time and certainly since then has thoroughly debunked these claims.  The recorded rise in temperature over the last century, for example, clearly takes into account any bias from the urban heat effect.  That Greenland is cooling is outrageously wishful thinking, given the striking new data on the melting ice cap and sliding glaciers.  Coral bleaching has been directly linked to the extinction of species.  As for droughts being benign, tell that to Mongolian herdsmen or, worse, the millions of suffering people in sub-Saharan Africa.

     Following the release in early 2007 of the IPCC report, and at least a recognition by President Bush and other once resistant world leaders that climate change was a problem in need of a solution, the tide may be turning.  Yet Bush was among those who rejected aggressive programs for the control of emissions offered at the June 2007 Group of Eight conference.  The lack of action for more than a decade since the warning signs emerged has seriously narrowed our window of opportunity.

     This skepticism and indifference to the wreckage around us and the delay in response to the problem are the source of some dire warnings by influential people.  In a rare public appearance in June 2006 at a news conference in Hong Kong, the cosmologist Stephen Hawking, perhaps the best known scientist alive today, emphasized that the world as we know it is facing imminent catastrophe in the form of global warming, nuclear war, or genetically engineered viruses.  He called upon society to plan for a serious expedition to settle a hospitable planet in a distant star system sometime this century.  I am not one to decry the importance of space travel and colonization as part of our future, but I hope that the awesome investment required for such an enterprise isn't substituted for the investments we can and must make here on Earth to improve the situation.  I would rather stand and fight than cut and run.  And the examples of progress related above show that, with due commitment, we can fight successfully.

     What is the future for Terra?...

I have tried to show, on one hand, the marvelous intricacy and sustainability of life and living processes and, on the other, their susceptibility to unexpected shocks that leave Earth utterly and irrevocably changed.  Perhaps this simple lesson from the past is enough to make us skeptical about an endowment; it is a legacy, and we may or may not continue to fulfill it.  As Darwin maintained, there is no optimal goal or guarantee of everlasting success.  As evolution goes, much of the future may be out of our hands.
Still, we find ourselves in an extraordinary moment, a species with a profound knowledge of its past, with a huge ambition for change, and with a disturbing ability to radically transform the water, land, air, and life of an entire planet.  By scientific consensus, we are our own destroyers, our Vishnus and asteroids.  But science tells us we also can be our own benefactors, as seen in the work of a few, whose efforts should be an inspiration to all of us.”

In this excerpt from his essay “Biophilia and the Conservation Ethic”, 1993, pp. 652-654, Edward O. Wilson presents the challenges to understanding the immense impact the loss of biodiversity has on humanity:

     “...In addition to the well-documented utilitarian potential of wild species, the diversity of life has immense aesthetic and spiritual value.  The terms now to be listed will be familiar, yet the evolutionary logic is still relatively new and poorly explored.  And therein lies the challenge to scientists and other scholars.

     Biodiversity is the Creation.  Ten million or more species are still alive, defined totally by some 10 to the 17th power nucleotide pairs and an even more astronomical number of possible genetic recombinants, which creates the field on which evolution continues to play.  Despite the fact that living organisms compose a mere ten-billionth part of the mass of earth, biodiversity is the most information-rich part of the known universe.  More organization and complexity exist in a handful of soil than on the surfaces of all the other planets combined...

     ...Other species are our kin. This perception is literally true in evolutionary time.  All higher eukaryotic organisms, from flowering plants to insects and humanity itself, are thought to have descended from a single ancestral population that lived about 1.8 billion years ago.  Single-celled eukaryotes and bacteria are linked by still more remote ancestors.  All this distant kinship is stamped by a common genetic code and elementary features of cell structure.  Humanity  did not soft-land into the teeming biosphere like an alien from another planet.  We arose from other organisms already here, whose great diversity, conducting experiment upon experiment in the production of new life-forms, eventually hit upon the human species.

     The biodiversity of a country is part of its national heritage.  Each country in turn possesses its own unique assemblages of plants and animals including, in almost all cases, species and races found nowhere else.  These assemblages are the product of the deep history of the national territory, extending back long before the coming of man.

     Biodiversity is the frontier of the future.  Humanity needs a vision of an expanding and unending future.  This spiritual craving cannot be satisfied by the colonization of space.  The other planets are inhospitable and immensely expensive to reach.  The nearest stars are so far away that voyagers would need thousands of years just to report back.  The true frontier for humanity is life on earth—its exploration and the transport of knowledge about it into science, art, and practical affairs.  Again, the qualities of life that validate the proposition are:  90 percent or more of the species of plants, animals, and microorganisms lack even so much as a scientific name; each of the species is immensely old by human standards and has been wonderfully molded to its environment; life around us exceeds in complexity and beauty anything else humanity is ever likely to encounter.

     The manifold ways  by which human beings are tied to the remainder of life are very poorly understood, crying for new scientific inquiry and a boldness of aesthetic interpretation...”biophilia hypothesis” will...call attention to psychological phenomena that rose from deep human history, that stemmed from interaction with the natural environment, and that are now quite likely resident in the genes themselves.  The search is rendered more urgent by the rapid disappearance of the living part of that environment, creating a need not only for a better understanding of human nature but for a more powerful and intellectually convincing environmental ethic based upon it.”

Lester R. Brown in his book, Plan B 3.0 Mobilizing to Save Civilization, 2008, pp.164-174; pp.283-287, by the Earth Policy Institute tells us about two primary ways, and other urgent efforts that must be accomplished if we are going to protect the earth's biodiversity and save civilization:

     “Protecting Plant and Animal Diversity

     The two steps essential to protecting the earth's extraordinary biological diversity are the stabilization of both the human population and the earth's climate.  If the world's population increases to 9 billion by mid-century as projected, countless more plant and animal species may simply be crowded off the planet.  If carbon dioxide levels and temperatures continue to rise, every ecosystem will change. 

     One reason for our goal of stabilizing population at 8 billion by 2040 is to protect the earth's rich diversity of life.  As it becomes more difficult to raise land productivity, continuing population growth will force farmers to clear ever more tropical forests in the Amazon and Congo basins and the outer islands of Indonesia.

     Water management at a time of growing water shortages is a key to protecting fresh water and marine species.  When rivers are drained dry to satisfy growing human needs for irrigation and for urban water, fish species cannot survive.

     Perhaps the best known and most popular way of trying to protect plant and animal species is to create reserves.  Millions of square kilometers have been set aside as parks.  Indeed, some 13 percent of the earth's land area is now included in parks and nature preserves.  With more resources for enforced protection, some of these parks in developing countries that now exist only on paper could become a reality.

     Some 20 years ago, Norman Myers and other scientists conceived the idea of biodiversity 'hotspots'--areas that were especially rich biologically and thus deserving of special protection.  The 34 hotspots identified once covered nearly 16 percent of the earth's land surface but, largely because of habitat destruction, they now cover less than 3 percent.  Concentrating preservation efforts in these biologically rich regions is now a common strategy among conservation groups and governments. 

     In 1973 the United States enacted the Endangered Species Act.  This legislation prohibited any activities, such as clearing new land for agriculture and housing developments or draining wetlands, that would threaten an endangered species. There are numerous species in the United States, such as the bald eagle, that might now be extinct had it not been for this legislation.  And now this act is seen by some conservationists as a potential leverage point in battling global warming because of the need to protect species particularly threatened by warmer temperatures, including coral and polar bears.

     The traditional approach to protecting biological diversity by building a fence around an area and calling it a park or nature preserve is no longer sufficient.  If we cannot stabilize human numbers and stabilize the climate, there is not an ecosystem on earth that we can save.

     As a species, humans have an enormous influence on the habitability of the planet for the millions of other species with which we share it.  This influence brings with it responsibility.

     Planting Trees to Sequester Carbon

     As of 2007, the shrinking forests in the tropical regions were releasing 2.2 billion tons of carbon per year.  Meanwhile, expanding forests in the temperate regions were absorbing 0.7 billion tons of carbon annually.  On balance, a net of some 1.5 billion tons of carbon were being released into the atmosphere each year, contributing to global warming.

     The tropical deforestation in Asia is driven primarily by the fast-growing demand for timber.  In Latin America, by contrast, it is the growing demand for soybeans and beef that is deforesting the Amazon.  In Africa, it is mostly the gathering of fuel-wood and the clearing of new land for agriculture as existing cropland is degraded and abandoned.  Two countries, Indonesia and Brazil, account for more than half of all deforestation.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also high on the list, is a failing state, making forest management difficult.

     The Plan B goals are to end net deforestation worldwide and to sequester carbon through a variety of tree planting initiatives and the adoption of improved agricultural land management practices. Today, because the earth's forests are shrinking, they are a major source of CO2.  The goal is to expand the earth's tree cover, growing more trees to soak up CO2.

     Although banning deforestation may seem farfetched, environmental reasons have pushed three countries—Thailand, the Philippines, and China—to implement complete or partial bans on logging.  All three bans were imposed following devastating floods and mudslides resulting from the loss of forest cover.  After suffering record losses from several weeks of nonstop flooding in the Yangtze River basin, Beijing noted that when forest policy was viewed not through the eyes of the individual logger but through those of society as a whole, it simply did not make economic sense to continue deforesting.  The flood control service of trees standing, they said, was three times as valuable as the timber from trees cut.  With this in mind, Beijing then took the unusual step of paying the loggers to become tree planters—to reforest instead of deforest.

     Other countries cutting down large areas of trees will also face the environmental effects of deforestation, including flooding.  If Brazil's Amazon rainforest continues to shrink, it may also continue to dry out, becoming vulnerable to fire.  If the Amazon rainforest disappears, it would be replaced largely by desert and scrub forestland.  The capacity of the rainforest to cycle water to the interior, including to the agricultural areas to the south, would be lost.  At this point, a fast-unfolding local environmental calamity would become an economic disaster, and because the burning Amazon would release billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere, it would accelerate global warming.

     Just as national concerns about the effects of continuing deforestation eventually eclipsed local interests, now global interests are beginning to eclipse national ones as deforestation has become a major driver of global warming.  Deforestation is no longer just a matter of local flooding, but also rising seas worldwide and the many other effects of climate change.  Nature has just raised the ante on protecting forests.

     Reaching a goal of zero net deforestation will require reducing the pressures to deforest that come from population growth, rising affluence, the construction of ethanol distilleries and biodiesel  refineries, and the fast-growing use of paper.  Protecting the earth's forests means halting population growth as soon as possible, and, for the earth's affluent residents who are responsible for the growing demand for beef and soybeans that is deforesting the Amazon basin, it means moving down the food chain.  A successful deforestation ban may require a ban on the construction of additional biodiesel refineries and ethanol distilleries...

     ...there are already many tree planting initiatives under way that are driven by a range of concerns, from climate change to desert expansion, to soil conservation, to making cities more habitable.  These include the worldwide initiatives in many cities, the Great Green Wall being planted in China, and the Saharan Green Wall of Africa, as well as a big push to expand tree plantations within a number of countries.  

     The Billion Tree Campaign was inspired by Kenyan Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, who had earlier organized women in Kenya and several nearby countries to plant 30 million trees.  The United Nations Environment Programme, which is administering the Billion Tree Campaign, reported as of October 2007 that it had received pledges to plant a total of 1.2 billion trees by year end.  Of that total, 431 million already had been planted.  Among the leaders are Mexico, which pledged to plant 250 million trees, and Ethiopia, which promised to plant 60 million trees to commemorate its millennium celebration.  Senegal signed up for 20 million trees.

     Some state and provincial governments have also joined in.  In Brazil, the state of Parana, which launched an effort to plant 90 million trees in 2003 to restore its riparian zones, committed to planting 20 million trees in 2007.  Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, mobilized 600,000 people to plant 10.5 million trees in a single day in July 2007, planting the trees on farmland, in state forests, and on school grounds.  If the goal of 1 billion trees is reached and half of them survive, these trees would sequester 5.6 million tons of carbon per year.

     Independent of the Billion Tree Campaign, in September 2007 New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced an impressive package of steps to cut carbon emissions, including expanding forested area by 250,000 hectares (617,000 acres) by 2020.  This would roughly total some 125 million trees, or 30 for each New Zealander. 

     Many of the world's cities are planting trees.  Tokyo, for example, has been planting trees and shrubs on the rooftops of buildings to help offset the urban heat island effect and cool the city.  Washington, D.C., is in the early stages of a campaign to greatly restore its tree canopy.

     An analysis of the value of planting trees on the streets and in the parks of five western U.S.  cities—from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Berkeley, California—concluded that for every dollar spent on planting and caring for trees, the benefits to the community exceeded two dollars.  A mature tree canopy in a city shades buildings and can reduce air temperatures by 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit, thus reducing the energy needed for air conditioning.  In cities with severe winters like Cheyenne, the reduction of winter wind speed by evergreen trees cuts heating costs.  Real estate values on tree-lined streets are typically 3-6 percent higher than where there are few or no trees...

     The Earth Restoration Budget

     Although we lack detailed data in some cases, we can roughly estimate how much it will cost to reforest the earth, protect topsoil, restore rangelands and fisheries, stabilize water tables, and protect biological diversity.  Where data and information are lacking, we fill in with assumptions.  The goal is to have not a set of precise numbers but a set of reasonable estimates for an earth restoration budget...

     ...It is decision time.  Like earlier civilizations that got into environmental trouble, we can decide to stay with business as usual and watch our modern economy decline and eventually collapse, or we can consciously move onto a new path, one that will sustain economic progress.  In this situation, no action is a de facto decision to stay on the decline-and-collapse path.

     No one can argue today that we do not have the resources to eradicate poverty, stabilize population, and protect the earth's natural resource base.  We can get rid of hunger, illiteracy, disease, and poverty, and we can restore the earth's soils, forests, and fisheries.  Shifting one sixth of the world military budget...annual expenditure of $190 billion,...to the Plan B budget would be more than adequate to move the world onto a path that would sustain progress.  We can build a global community where the basic needs of all the earth's people are satisfied—a world that will allow us to think of ourselves as civilized.”


     In his book, Plan B 3.0 Mobilizing to Save Civilization, 2008, pp. 285-287, Lester R. Brown answers the question he is frequently asked—What can we do about it?

     “What You and I Can Do

     One of the questions I am frequently asked when I am speaking in various countries is, given the environmental problems that the world is facing, can we make it?  That is, can we avoid economic decline and the collapse of civilization?  My answer is always the  same:  it depends on you and me, on what you and I do to reverse these trends.  It means becoming politically active.  Saving our civilization is not a spectator sport.

     We have moved into this new world so fast that we have not yet fully grasped the meaning of what is happening.  Traditionally, concern for our children has translated into getting them the best health care and education possible.  But if we do not act quickly to reverse the earth's environmental deterioration, eradicate poverty, and stabilize population, their world will decline economically and disintegrate politically.

     The two overriding policy challenges are to restructure taxes and reorder fiscal priorities.  Saving civilization means restructuring taxes to get the market to tell the ecological truth.  And it means reordering fiscal priorities to get the resources needed for Plan B.  Write or e-mail your elected representative about the need for tax restructuring to create an honest market.  Remind him or her that corporations that left costs off the books appeared to prosper in the short run, only to collapse in the long run.

     Or better yet, gather some like-minded friends together to meet with your elected representatives to discuss why we need to raise environmental taxes and reduce income taxes.  Before the meeting, draft a brief statement of your collective concerns and the policy initiatives needed.  Feel free to download the information on tax restructuring in this chapter from our Web site to use in these efforts.

     Let your political representatives know that a world spending more than $1 trillion a year for military purposes is simply out of sync with reality when the future of civilization is in question.  Ask them if $190 billion a year is an unreasonable expenditure to save civilization.  Ask them if diverting one sixth of the global military budget to saving civilization is too costly.  Introduce them to Plan B.  Remind them of how we mobilized in World War II.

     Make a case for the inclusion of poverty eradication, family planning, reforestation, and renewable energy development in international assistance programs.  Urge an increase in these appropriations and a cut in military appropriations, pointing out that advanced weapons systems are useless in dealing with the new threats to our security.  Someone needs to speak on behalf of our children and grandchildren, because it is their world that is at stake.

     In short, we need to persuade our elected representatives and leaders to support the changes outlined in Plan B.  We need to lobby them for these changes as though our future and that of our children depended on it—because it does.

     Educate yourself on environmental issues.  If you found this book useful, share it with others.  It can be downloaded free of charge from the Earth Policy Institute Web site.  If you want to know what happened to earlier civilizations that also found themselves in environmental trouble, read Collapse by Jared Diamond or A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright.

     If you like to write, try your hand at an op-ed piece for your local newspaper on the need to raise taxes on environmentally destructive activities and offset this with a lowering of income taxes.  Try a letter to the editor.  Put together your own personal listserv to help you communicate useful information to friends, colleagues, and local opinion leaders.

     The scale and urgency of the challenge we face has no precedent, but what we need to do can be done.  It is doable.  Sit down and map out your own personal plan and timetable for what you want to do to move the world off a path headed toward economic decline and onto one of sustainable economic progress.  Set your own goals.  Identify people in your community you can work with to achieve these goals.  Pick and issue that is meaningful to you, such as restructuring the tax system, banning inefficient light bulbs, phasing out coal-fired power plants, or working for 'complete streets' that are pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly in your community.  What could be more exciting and rewarding?

     The choice is ours—yours and mine.  We can stay with business as usual and preside over an economy that continues to destroy its natural support systems until it destroys itself, or we can adopt Plan B and be the generation that changes direction, moving the world onto a path of sustained progress.  The choice will be made by our generation, but it will affect life on earth for all generations to come.” (The Earth Policy Institute web site is:  www.earthpolicy.org.)

The following is my effort to develop a position statement on conservation:

By Ron Marquart

With over 7 billion humans overpopulating and over consuming on Earth, non-human native species need priority over humans for our own sake.  An eminent conservationist tells us:  “The collective needs of non-human species should take precedent over the needs and desires of humans” (Reed Noss).    We are so dependent on the Earth's Tree of Life family of plants, animals, fungi and microbes that our quality of life is now at stake; our needs and interests depend not only on domesticated life, but especially on the fate of native wild species because the genes of domestic life evolved from wildlife genes.  One of many ways humans have disrupted natural-functioning ecosystems is the introduction of exotic species (e.g. cows in the Americas) that usually always adversely affect native species.  We are now in an accelerating biodiversity crisis of the sixth major mass extinction of life on Earth.  This extinction is different than the other previous five mass extinctions over the last half billion years; the 6th is caused by a single species—us.  We must stop destroying nature and killing wildlife for its unsustainable extrinsic (money) value and short-term worth.  We must celebrate life's intrinsic long-term value for its own sake; a value of inherent qualities of non-human species, independent of human wants and desires.  We must use restraint and share the Earth with all life forms.  Our neighbors to the north have stated:  “Wildlife, in all its forms, has value in and of itself” (Canadian Parliament's Species At Risk Act, SARA).  The people in the United States of America need to understand the cultural, traditional conservation values for conserving our wildlands heritage, and the best available science of conservation biology for conserving native plant and animal wildlife biodiversity (variety of genes, species and ecosystems).  This understanding and knowledge will provide a reasonable basis to convincingly establish an ethical obligation for good conduct in doing the right thing to preserve our wildlands and biodiversity.

My experience as an amateur naturalist and photographer tells me that an increasing number of people causes a deterioration and loss of our country's native forests, grasslands, and floodplains and that in turn causes a loss of our native wildlife biodiversity. Too many masterpieces have already been destroyed forever. I'm convinced it's true that "there are two ways to have enough – either you get more or you need less!" If the number of people is eventually maintained at a sustainable level, and we need less, there will be hope for our biodiversity of masterpieces. I hope my images bring the beauty of nature that surrounds us into people's lives and inspire someone to help preserve what's left of our remaining natural heritage.

One way to help protect and preserve wildlands and wildlife is to join conservation clubs working to protect our natural heritage. I am convinced that all native plants and wildlife creatures large and small have intrinsic value for their own sake, and must be allowed to exist. The well being of functional ecosystems and the human condition are at stake. The preservation and recovery of the least human-disturbed natural areas as wildlands is more urgent than ever (see my “ A Conservationist Philosophy” in the philosophy section of this website). The passage of the Endangered Species Act and the Wilderness Act are most important in an effort to mitigate the present 6th major mass extinction and biodiversity crisis of life on Earth caused by us. Here is a list of some smaller conservation clubs that are not as well known as popular larger organizations, but are just as (or more) effective at being good stewards of our Mother Earth. Some are up and coming young clubs with the potential of doing great work in conserving our wildlife and wildlands neighborhood.

-- Friends of the Clearwater is a non-profit organization defending the Wild Clearwater Country in the northern region of central Idaho's Big Wild.  These wildlands contain many unprotected roadless areas and wild rivers that provide habitat for biological diversity of numerous native rare plants and animals.  Friends of the Clearwater protects these areas, restores degraded habitats, preserves populations of native species, recognizes national and international wildlife corridors, and works to end industrialization on public lands.  They defend this bioregion through a Forest Watch program, litigation, grassroots public involvement, outreach and education.

-- The Turtle Conservation Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving what's left of our native reptiles and amphibians. This includes preserving and restoring their natural habitats, hands-on rehabilitation and release of those injured or displaced by development, or carelessly taken from the wild for commercial exploitation in the pet and food trade. Through advocacy, research, and education we hope to enhance the quality of life for people and nature. Membership is $15 per year. You will receive our conservation booklet, annual report, newsletters, and a free poster. Join by contacting Angie Byorth at her phone: 1-402-450-4024 or Email: nebraskaturtlelady@hotmail.com.

-- Defenders of Wildlife is a nonprofit national educational organization dedicated to the conservation of all forms of wildlife. Located at 1101 Fourteenth St, N.W., Suite 1400, Washington, D.C. 20005. Phone 202-682-9400. Website: www.defenders.org.

-- Environmental Defense is a not-for-profit membership organization incorporated by the laws of the state of New York . The "e" from the name is their logo as a symbol of Earth and of recurring themes in their work -- environment, economy, equity, and empowerment. Located at 257 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10010. Phone 1-800-684-3322. E-mail: members@environmentaldefense.org.

-- American Rivers, founded in 1973, has a mission to protect and restore America's river systems and to foster a river stewardship ethic. Located at 1025 Vermont Ave., N.W., suite 720, Washington, D.C. 20005. Phone 202-347-7550. FAX: 202-347-9240. E-mail: amrivers@amrivers.org. Website: www.amrivers.org.

-- Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the world's natural resources and ensuring a safe healthy environment for all people. Located at 40 West 20th St. New York, NY 10011. Phone 212-727-2700. E-mail: nrdcinfo@nrdc.org.

-- The Alaska Wilderness League is a non-profit organization that supports legislative and administrative initiatives to protect Alaska's lands and waters, promotes national and local recognition of Alaska's spectacular environment through public education, strengthens grassroots activism on behalf of Alaska's environment, and provides leadership within the environmental community on selected issues. Their current projects are the permanent protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the sustainable future of Alaska's Rainforest. Located at: 122 C Street, NW, Ste 240; Washington , D. C. 20001. Tel: (202) 544-5205. Website: www.alaskawild.org. Email: info@alaskawild.org.

-- Alaska Conservation Foundation works to protect the integrity of Alaska's ecosystems and to promote sustainable livelihoods among Alaska's communities and peoples. This is their mission. ACF raises and strategically grants charitable funds and offers technical support to non-profit groups or individuals whose work promotes their mission. Located at: 441 West 5th Ave., Suite 402; Anchorage, Alaska 99501-2340. Tel: (907) 276-1917. Website: www.akcf.org.

-- Native Forest Council is a nonprofit organization founded by business and professional people alarmed about the willful destruction of our national forests. They believe a sound economy and a sound environment are compatible, but current public land management is devastating to both. Their mission is to provide visionary leadership and to assure the integrity of public land ecosystems without compromising forests or people. Located at P.O. Box 2190, Eugene, OR 97402. Phone 541-688-2600. FAX: 541-689-9835. E-mail: info@forestcouncil.org. Website: www.forestcouncil.org.

-- The Western Watersheds Project has a mission to protect and help in the recovery of western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation. It is a non-profit conservation group founded in 1993 with field offices in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Arizona and California. WWP is headquartered in Hailey, Idaho and manages the Greenfire Preserve near Clayton, Idaho. They work to influence and improve public lands management in 8 western states with a primary focus on negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250 million acres of western public lands. Located at: P.O. Box 1770, Hailey, Idaho 83333 (Jon Marvel, executive director and Katie Fite, biodiversity director). Website: www.westernwatersheds.org. Phone: (208) 788-2290.

-- The Rewilding Institute is a small nonprofit working for the network of those who love wild things. Their mission is to develop and promote the ideas and strategies to advance continental-scale conservation in North America. Especially, the need for large carnivores and a permeable landscape for their movements. The Institute offers a bold, scientifically-credible, achievable and hopeful vision for the future of wild nature and human civilization in North America. The Rewilding Institute Website (www.rewilding.org) is an essential source of information about integration of traditional wildlife and wildlands conservation with conservation biology to advance large landscape-scale conservation. They explain key concepts, provide access to important papers, books and many groups working on continental-scale conservation initiatives in North America. Dave Foreman is a co-founder of The Rewilding Institute, POB 13768, Albuquerque, NM 87192.

-- The Center for Biological Diversity has a mission based on the conviction that the well being of humans is deeply linked to nature—to the existence of the vast array of biodiversity of wild animals, plants, fungi and microbes on Earth. Biodiversity has intrinsic value and because its loss impoverishes society, they work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. They do so through science, law and creative media with focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species (including people) need to survive. They think that those who come after us need to inherit an Earth where the wild is still alive.  Because unsustainable human population growth and overconsumption are the root causes of environmental destruction, they have launched a new campaign—7 Billion and Counting. In 2010, they created the Endangered Species Condom Project. They are the only conservation group with a program project to take on the human overpopulation issue! They have given away 100's of 1000's of condoms to 1000's of volunteers for free distribution to raise awareness of the public. The solution to overpopulation is written on the inside cover of the colorful endangered species condom packets. Located at: P.O. Box 710, Tucson, AZ 85702-0710. Phone: (520) 623-5252. Toll-free: (866) 357-3349. Fax: (520) 623-9797. Website: www.biologicaldiversity.org.

-- Wilderness Watch is America's only conservation group dedicated to keeping wild the lands and waters in the nation's 110 million-acre National Wilderness Preservation System. There work is guided by the visionary 1964 Wilderness Act. They are convinced that wilderness is defined by two primary characteristics. First, it is a place where nature is free to exist as it did in ages past, self-willed and untrammeled. Second, it is a place where humans are free to roam on foot through nature in its wild condition, to experience a feeling of solitude and self-reliance found nowhere else. Help ensure that America's Wilderness remains full of mystery, adventure and biological wealth by joining them at www.wildernesswatch.org. Phone: 406-542-2048. Address: Wilderness Watch, P.O. Box 9175, Missoula, MT 59807

-- Great Old Broads for Wilderness is a conservation group that uses the activism of elders to preserve and protect wilderness and wildlands. Their vision is for wild places to have the respect and protection that will preserve them for future generations. Older women who love wilderness conceived this conservation group to give voice for millions of older (and not so able) Americans who want to protect their public lands as wilderness. They bring knowledge, commitment, voice and humor to protect our last wild places on Earth. They have more than 4,500 members, and you do not have to be female, old or even great for that matter to join! But you must be ‟bold” for wilderness. Join them in their adventure. Wilderness needs your help! Find a Broadband (chapter) near you at http://greatoldbroads.org/get-involved/broadbands/ or consider volunteering to start one! Website: www.greatoldbroads.org.

The private sector is making a wonderful effort of stewardship on private land that fosters restoration and protection of habitats to conserve native plants and animals. R.E. "Ted" Turner and his son, Beau Turner, are in the forefront of this conservation biology project. In June 1997, their family formed the Turner Endangered Species Fund (TESF) and Turner Biodiversity Divisions (TBD). Their projects involve private citizens, universities, nongovernmental organizations, state, and federal agencies.

They believe the extinction crisis is caused primarily because of a habitat loss crisis mostly on private land, in the name of development and economic growth. As the largest private landowners in the U.S. (1.7 million acres), they want to demonstrate that it is possible for threatened and endangered species to coexist on private land through the science of conservation biology. The Turners are committed to the idea that the solution to the extinction crises depends on the genius and determination of people. According to Beau Turner: "We are determined to contribute by establishing a new measure for conserving the wonderous diversity of life on Earth."

One of the greatest threats to the Earth's ecosystems is poverty.  Mohammed Eunice, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has been fighting poverty for over 30 years.  He discovered that by giving micro-credit to people (mostly women) of loans less than a $100 that people will gladly start sustainable businesses and practice a higher quality of  life by bringing themselves out of poverty.  Empowering women appears to be the way to a better quality of life and hope for a sustainable, peaceful world.  Here is one of several websites to get involved in helping developing countries out of poverty:  http://www.kiva.org/

And last, but not least, support Planned Parenthood!

-- Planned Parenthood believes in the fundamental right of each individual to manage his or her fertility, regardless of income, marital status, age, national origin, or residence. They believe that reproductive self-determination must be voluntary and preserve the individual's right to privacy. This will contribute to the enhancement of the quality of life, strong family relationships, and population stability. Toll-free phone 1-888-751-8284. Website: www.plannedparenthood.org.

Other important ways to be good stewards of our natural resources are: conserve water in your home and yard, landscape wisely by growing native plants, help prevent flooding and protect rivers and streams by not building in the floodplain, never pour unwanted chemicals on the ground, clean up after your pets, maintain and pump your septic system regularly, use non-toxic environmentally-friendly products, recycle used oil and antifreeze, drive the car less often, ride the bus, walk or ride a bicycle, maintain a compost pile, and above all, get actively involved and protect our natural areas.

ANGELIKA T.L. BYORTH: Nebraska photographer a hardworking, humble hero
Posted from the Daily Nebraskan Issue: 9/12/05

Angelika T. L. Byorth
Graduate education and German student

Who are your heroes?

I'm inspired by artists who never give up and by those who never sell out. There's one such true artist right here in Lincoln . Maybe you know him. He shed blood, sweat and tears for decades, creating thousands of intriguing memorable and sometimes hauntingly beautiful nature photos while people ignored his efforts.

The hardworking man held down a day job, believing his photo-art would never garner a wider audience here in Nebraska, let alone in the country. Yet he continued to toil away at his passion, doing it only for himself and the Goddess of Nature. Next year, the persevering and unassuming Ron Marquart will retire and begin to collect his Social Security.

But he won't have time to be idle.

Perhaps because Marquart's images became so free of an artist's ego and therefore touched by true genius, they suddenly attracted attention and awards. This recognition came not only from Nebraska but also from a national front.

For two years in a row, Marquart's entries at the state fair have won "Best Nature Slide Photo," and magazines like Nebraska Life and Outdoor Nebraska have featured his winning works. Soon after, the Crane Meadows Nature Center near Grand Island started to exhibit Marquart's nature images.

Most recently, a breathtaking photo of Honeycomb Buttes in Wyoming's Red Desert won a contest sponsored by the National Landscape Conservation System. You can find the photo at www.wilderness.org.

For countless other visual pleasures and stunning, award-winning photographs of our natural environment, visit Marquart's "Natural Images" Web site at www.mnimagesonline.com.

Intrigued by his emerging success, I asked Ron Marquart for an interview, and he gracefully obliged.

Byorth: What sets you apart from other nature photographers? What is special about your approach?

Marquart: I do not photograph landscapes, plants or animals. I photograph Light. The greatest artist of all time is Light, and I try and capture the beauty of the great artist with my camera. Light produces some of its best works of art during the crepuscular hours, which is the time during twilight of sunrise and sunset. There is magic in the air during this brief dance of Light which lasts for only a few minutes.

Byorth: By being there, during those few minutes, is this how you catch the essence of natural things?

Marquart: My sense is that there is no essence of anything. The science of nature tells us that everything is in constant change, including reflections of Light. The only constant thing is probably the speed of Light. All I can do is hope to be there at the right time and in the right place so as to capture the artistic and ephemeral beauty of the great artist Light.

Byorth: What is the strategy you use to create your successful images?

Marquart: I work hard on three things: Photograph Light, Be There and Luck. When I concentrate on the Light that surrounds a subject rather than on the subject as an object, the quality of my photographs improves dramatically. I have to travel into nature often and just be there to get good pictures.

Byorth: What about this Luck thing?

Marquart: Sometimes lots of effort, excellent equipment and frequent travel into nature are not enough. Many times just being lucky makes all the difference in getting that outstanding photograph. Being prepared and being ready with good photo equipment greatly helps improve the chance for good luck.

Byorth: What motivates you?

Marquart: I hope that my images of nature will increase awareness and appreciation of the beauty of nature. I also want to draw attention to the fact that our earth is presently in a major biodiversity crisis. Too many plants and animals have already been lost forever. The home page of my Web site, www.mnimagesonline.com, documents this and offers solutions to curb the crisis.

Byorth: What keeps you going?

Marquart: The hope to make a difference through my photo-art.

And I hope that when the emerging new Nebraska talent in nature photography receives his first Social Security check next year, he will blow it all on rolls upon rolls of the finest quality film this little planet we call Earth has to offer.

* I want to acknowledge the hard work of my son, J.R. Marquart, whose expertise in web design put together the technical aspects of this website.