The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

April 15, 2013

Carol Stark: Conservationist's 'epiphany' could be yours as well

Haven’t decided how you are going to commemorate Earth Day on April 22?

Maybe the late Aldo Leopold can provide some inspiration, even some 65 years after his death.

The documentary “Green Fire,” the story about the life of this great conservationist will be shown from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 21, at Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center.

While I’ve written twice about “Green Fire” and have urged you to take the opportunity to see it, I’m making this third pitch because you will also have the opportunity to hear from Susan Flader, a professor emerita of history at the University of Missouri-Columbia who has written several books on the career and thinking of Leopold.

I met Flader last year when “Deadline in Disaster,” the documentary detailing the work of The Joplin Globe in the wake of the 2011 tornado, was shown at the university. A thoughtful woman, she was genuine in her concern for Joplin’s future as it moved forward in rebuilding.

Her book, “Thinking Like a Mountain,” is the back story of Leopold’s essay written after shooting a wolf and watching it die.

“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes — something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view, ” Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949.

Flader calls this moment the dramatic arc of the “Green Fire” film.

“It’s Leopold’s epiphany. An acknowledgment of the implications. The slow process of changing one’s mind,” Flader said.

The history professor has taught American and world environmental history and the history of Missouri and the American West. In addition to “Thinking Like a Mountain” and “The River of the Mother of God,” both based on her studies of Leopold, she has also written books about sustaining forests and Missouri’s legacy of state parks and historic sites.

Flader, who was only 7 when Leopold died, has met his wife, all of his children and other family members of the renowned conservationist.

The event is free, and children 12 and older are encouraged to attend with their parents.

It’s an opportunity to learn more about the land and the cycle of life.

Congratulations to another conservationist

In his own way, Noppadol Paothong has documented nature through his photography in the same way Leopold did in his essays.

The former Joplin Globe photographer’s work has most recently resulted in the book “Save the Last Dance,” the story of the disappearance of the prairie chicken.

Nop is now a photographer for the Missouri Department of Conservation and his work has been the subject of many awards.

On Friday, Nop added another item to his biography. He became a U.S. citizen. We know that Nop is very proud of Thailand and his family who still live there.

But we are happy that he and his wife, Monica, and daughter, Eva, are making their home in Missouri. It is a better place because of him.

Carol Stark is editor of The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to her, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email cstark@joplinglobe.com.

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