"A Century of Commitment to Research, Education and Conservation"

President's Message by Daniel C. Leete - June 2019

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening to you. I am smiling to myself as I write that first sentence in this newsletter because I just realized I am incredibly lucky to know so many dedicated people living in different time zones across the United States who all get up every morning willing to advocate for keeping this amazing planet we all live on in good shape. I need to remind myself daily that thousands of people on any given day are working hard to support so many different environmental, political and social causes. I don’t know about you, but I believe when people come together to think, create, problem solve and vision together the spirt of group engagement helps all of us stay more committed and connected. I need to feel passionate in order to stay resilient. I also need to know I am not alone in doing the work that I do.

Today I owe a thank you to my wife for once again reminding me that environmental advocates like myself can turn people off when we try to do our work alone or when we only talk to others about the dire situation our natural world is currently in. And while I do believe it is dangerous for any of us to turn a cheek or stay in denial about the changes on the planet that are frightening, dangerous and devastating to witness, I also know there is also much to celebrate.

Like all of you I am confronted with witnessing the destruction that takes place as we (as a 21st. century human species), attempt to confront massive, complex and sometimes unsolvable global natural resource issues. Anyone reading this newsletter could most likely name the actual friends, neighbors, relatives and animals in their lives that have suffered terribly this past year in floods, fires, hurricanes tornadoes, blizzards, strange storms and overly warm dry spells. It is hard to watch, witness and emotionally digest this type of upheaval on such a consist basis. So honestly, even though I am naturally more positive than not, I sometimes feel more than just worried about the state of our planet. Sometimes, especially when I am tired or discouraged, I feel downright depressed and hopeless about the world we live in. However, if I dare to listen closely to myself, I recognize it is actually human nature to worry, ruminate and talk about any and all of the problems in our lives. When I was much younger I constantly thought I needed to have a constant positive attitude about anything and everything that happened in my life. I was a born fixer and motivator- or so I thought. I was actually known as the “positive mental attitude” guy. What I have come to learn as I have aged and hopefully grown a bit however, (mostly the hard way), is that I can not fix everything just because I want to. I have to accept how little control I actually have. I need to be able to hold the dark and depressing news that assaults me and all of us. We suffer as a species and apparently I don’t get out of that suffering by masking my fear. As I enter my seventh decade I have come to accept what I can not fix, change, impact , or do. I have learned to hold this attitude of acceptance, however, while simultaneously paying attention to what is still important, worth fighting for and downright miraculous every day. My wife, a strong advocate herself, calls this the “both/and” approach toward life.

So today while reading some dire and substantiated research about the overall decline in almost all non-human species in 2019, I had to feel what was heartbreaking to me and at the same time hold on to some great news. My young grandson called me. He, in his grandfather’s footsteps, had learned to love bird watching this year. He is only seven but he is already a bird lover and an outdoor enthusiast. A few weeks ago after I sent him a used copy of an adult bird book he used his own money to buy me a new hummingbird feeder. My wife had taught him to search birds with real binoculars outside his third floor apartment window. He loves hummingbirds and he knew I needed a smaller, newer hummingbird feeder so he bought me one. He is in his first Cub Scout pack this year and his father is really loving the ways as a 40 something father he now gets to relive our scout days. When I opened my e mail and saw the recent picture of my grandson marching with his scout troop in the big Rose parade in Portland, Oregon, it brought a huge smile to my face. This kid is already hooked on birds, fish, scouts, biking, hiking, swimming, camping, and yes loving his computer games. The birds on our thirty acres, although in serious trouble as a species, are still adding color, sound and sensation in my life every day. And although I hate the fact that my neighbor burns unseasoned wood that sends pollution thru my windows and drives my wife crazy, I enjoy sharing fresh, succulent rhubarb from my garden with him.

So thank you for listening to my philosophical rambling. Really what I want to say in this newsletter is simply this. Take time this week to remember you are not alone in supporting the causes that are important to you. You can accept both the suffering and joy that life brings you even on the days you feel exhausted, overly stressed, frantically busy and overwhelmed. I hope today you can sit somewhere outdoors, settle in, and make peace with all of it. Thank you for keeping my spirits buoyant. You all keep me resilient in different and fascinating ways.