Sunday, March 27, 2011


I sat down to write a letter today. In the district where I teach, the school board has to cut a big chunk of the district’s budget, and I could potentially lose my job. The other second grade teachers and I decided to write a letter to give the board members our two cents, and I volunteered to take the first crack at putting something down on paper. I like writing letters because it is a solitary activity, and I can take my time doing it, considering each word before putting it in its final resting place. I want to do more than write letters, however. I want to be the one standing up at a school board meeting, voicing my opinion eloquently and forcefully. Unfortunately, it’s not who I am and it’s a fault in myself – this fear of confrontation - that I dislike immensely. It’s what makes me a poor environmentalist and a poor vegan, too. Both of these avocations (or lifestyles - whatever you want to call them) need people who can speak out, change minds, and inspire their fellow humans to alter how they do things in order to move our world towards a place that is better for every living thing on it. When I went vegetarian, I said I would keep it to myself, and just talk about if someone asked me. When I started my career working at a nature center, I told myself that education was how I would do my part for the environment – that by teaching people about the natural world, I could bring them to a place where they would make positive decisions on their own – but both of those ideas were cop-outs. They were passive reactions to problems that need active solutions. Not that education or quiet examples are bad or unnecessary components; they are wonderful things, but I’ve never bought the adage that, “If you can reach just one person, it’s worth it,” not when it’s possible to do so much more. On top of that, I often found that when it came to the people who attended my nature programs, I was usually preaching to the choir. There’s a long way between being a quiet example and being an overbearing proselytizer, and I need to find something that’s comfortably closer to the latter, somewhere that is more effective than where I am now. More importantly, I need to find the courage to open my mouth, especially if I want Violet to be someone who’s confident enough to speak her mind when it’s appropriate or necessary. I’d like to be a good example of how to do this, so here’s a small step in the right direction: Spring is here, although the warm weather is not. Migrant birds are already arriving, and setting up territories. Winging in from southern states and even as far as away Central and South America, birds like the Scarlet Tanager and the Blackburnian Warbler will soon be setting up nests in a tree not far from your house. The problem is that every year across the United States, an exotic predator unnecessarily kills 500 million songbirds. The worst part? These deaths could be avoided because the exotic predator is the house cat. Cats kill more than a thousand times the number of birds killed by power-generating wind turbines, and all that needs to be done is to keep cats inside. Such a move benefits the cats, too – indoor cats have an average lifespan that’s twice as long as outdoor cats. There are many websites devoted to the benefits of keeping cats inside (and the dangers facing outdoor cats). Here's a good one from the American Bird Conservancy:

127 days old


  1. But there IS something to be said about the person who quietly goes about their own business of living according to their beliefs. Here are two stories that immediately come to mind:

    STORY #1: After several years of watching me hang laundry, Rob started doing so as well, and he thnaked me for NOT trying to convince him to do it so that he could come to the same decision on his own terms.

    STORY#2: My first year of teaching in fifth grade, one of my students was a quiet, sweet girl who played by herself at recess for many weeks, and I started to wonder if and how I should intervene. I never did, and soon after, other good-natured girls started to gravitate to her and her gentle ways.

    That being said, the world needs all types, the vocal promoters and the quiet examples. They are both powerful, I suppose.

    I could go on for hours about a whole host of things your post makes me think about!

  2. What a thoughtful post...on so many levels. I do agree with Amy that a quiet person can change others by example. At the same time, if your voice wants to be louder, the world can always use more powerful voices on the side of good.

    Now, about that photo. I LOVE this picture! Violet has the most curious look on her face, as if to say, "I'm surrounded!"

    As a person with both indoor and outdoor cats, I have some thinking to do.


  3. MJ - What does "Aho!" mean? IS it good or bad?

    Amy BG - Please don't think that I am down on quiet examples - I've tried to be one my whole life, but I do these things I do because I want to see the world change, and in my nearly 15+ years of being a quiet vegetarian/vegan, I feel I have only had a notieceable effect on one person, in terms of moving them towards making a change in their own life. Linda, on the other hand, who has been vegan only for a few years, puts herself out there more and really engages people, and she has already gotten a few people to think abmake a change or at least think about it. I don't want to be one preachy, but at the same time, I want to have more confidence in my position and be able to project how wonderful it can be.

    Amy LV - I agree, it does take all kinds - I've just been one kind for a long time and another kind is getting restless, maybe even impatient, wanting to come out. And I'm glad I got you thnking - that's one!