Don Torino Bonus Column: Eternal Optimism

Common Yellowthroat Credit: Fred Nisenholz

Common Yellowthroat Credit: Fred Nisenholz

We’re very happy to have a bonus second column today from our friend Don Torino at the Bergen Audubon Society. It’s a very heartfelt piece about the everyday challenges of being an environmentalist and the small things that keep us going. Enjoy!

They say to be a conservationist one must forever be an eternal optimist. Anyone that pronounces themselves an environmentalist knows all too well that, to carry on the day-to-day conflicts and struggles that at times seem to be overwhelming, we must have faith that in one way or another we can change the world for the better.

I am sure that somewhere deep in my heart, between the frustrations, public indifference and exhaustion, that is what must be driving all of us to continue. Nevertheless there are those times the undying hopefulness begins to fade and even dwindle into the defeats of the day .

Some days it may be the climate deniers or just the homeowner that demands a chemical loving lawn that makes me wonder if anyone is listening. Other times it’s an unrestricted and uncaring developer building on our fast disappearing New Jersey fields and forests. Even the side of the road milkweed weed wacker causes me to throw up my hands.

Sometimes it’s the endless newspaper headlines that tell about attempts to turn back the clock on clean water or endangered species laws in Washington. It could even just be my neighbor who asked me how to get rid of his squirrels that causes me to hang my head in frustration. Some days I wonder if there is anyone else out there paying attention, and more than anything where we should turn or if it is possible to progress from here.

But today, as I was rushing off to another meeting, wondering what I would say and whether it would really matter, I got my answer. As I was opening up my car door, almost oblivious to the world around me, I noticed a slight movement in a nearby shrub. I hesitated for a second, ready to ignore the ever so gentle flit. I was just about in the car when, just then, there it was: a tiny Common-Yellowthroat warbler burst on a branch about 3 feet from my head.

It took a few seconds to figure out what I was and went right back to feeding in my almost miniature Meadowlands backyard. It brought an immediate smile to my face but more than that I was now sure that we had made things better and could improve the natural world even more.

There was no longer a doubt. If this little bird could find my humble backyard on its long and arduous migration from Canada to Central America, then what we have done has made a difference and reminded me there is much more to be done.

This tiny bird is why I am a conservationist and why we all do what we do. Sometimes even environmentalists need to stop once in a while and smell the roses or see the birds right in front of us. Thanks little bird. Have a great journey and I’ll see you in the spring.

One thought on “Don Torino Bonus Column: Eternal Optimism


    Bravo Don Torino….we need more people like you….and I too loved to see the
    beautiful bird, Common Yellowthroat…Thank you so much…Anne Fleisher (mostly a
    backyard birder)


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