Earth Day passes without much fanfare. Is the public tiring of being hit daily with images showing environmental destruction and human carelessness? Are they becoming numb to the constant barrage of sensational headlines, the pleading by those voicing for one cause or another?
Well, environmental destruction and a group of vocal activists were who led the crusade to bring America’s oldest state park, Niagara Falls State Park under State protection.
Honestly, it only takes a walk in a protected place to appreciate that these places exist – because people who were moved made them happen. I took a walk at Niagara Falls State Park yesterday and it brought to mind what was the driving force behind creating state and federal park systems. A little history…
In the early 19th Century, the natural beauty of Niagara Falls began to decline as wealthy industrialists built factories along the river to harness its power. By the late 1860s, a small group of environmentalists, concerned over the river’s declining flow, created the Free Niagara movement. The Niagara Appropriations Bill of 1885 was signed into law creating the Niagara Reservation. The leader of the Free Niagara movement was America’s first landscape architect and visionary, Frederick Law Olmsted. A State Park was born.
Today, like years ago, images showing the effects of environmental devastation are powerful, but do they make people care? Or has it made people feel that there is little they can do to help today?
Professionally done photos accomplish half the message by identifying the problem and its importance, not what people can reasonably do to help. People have to take that action on their own.
Photography has been an effective tool for a very long time to bring attention to environmental issues. Photos give prominence to fragile landscapes, and horrify us in destruction. Thought-provoking images show human impact on our planet. Many photos of our area made worldwide news.
It is home to Love Canal and Bloody Run. These places are the result of the factories and mills built along the river so long ago. Niagara Falls was saved, but it was a while before there was restrictions on land dumping and discharging of factory waste into the river.
“In 1989, the International Joint Commission which oversees all aspects of the great lakes condemned the Federal and State Governments for not doing enough to implement a zero discharge policy. With all the toxic waste that has been poured into the Niagara River during the past 100 years, it would take approximately 200 years for the river to rejuvenate if all chemical contamination could be put to a complete end.” (source)
If you are interested in the environmental impact of the Niagara Region, see the above link. It has the time line from the 1600’s until now.
It seems like creative people are individuals involved in lobbying for environmental conservation. Here are two famous photographers that really made a difference in conservation.
William Finley, a pioneering conservationist from the early 1900s, used his images of birds to convince President Theodore Roosevelt to create the first National Wildlife Refuge System in the U.S.
Ansel Adams a number of years later, created epic black-and-white images to convey the idea to conserve America’s great spans of wilderness. Adams worked with the Sierra Club and used images from his book, Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail to help build protected lands. He traveled to Washington, D.C. in 1933 to lobby in favor of the Kings River National Park Bill. The bill was passed in 1940, with Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House.
When you walk in a park next time, think about how it came about. Saving the natural habitat for wildlife is what I see as most important, but people benefit as well. There will always be more and more places in need of protection.
I am going to another State Park tomorrow with the Audubon Society to look for migrating birds along the Niagara River. It should be fun, but being at the river yesterday, I only saw two Cormorants make a flyby. Maybe a group of birdwatchers will increase the variety. More eyes in the sky…
Just one more species needing our help to save its habitat.
The Cornell Ornithology website posted this video on the Gunnison Sage-Grouse. It is a declining bird of the western sagebrush, restricted to seven isolated locations in Colorado and one tiny population in Utah. In early 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed it under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Take three minutes and watch here. The really beautiful images start at one minute in as the male courts his prospective mate.
SORRY ALL – Like Another Blogger, my blog decided to just not let people comment. I think I fixed it! The post is getting more views than usual and not a comment? WP , I have a bone to pick.