This is Father’s Day in the U.S. so Happy Father’s Day to all involved. It is also Nature Photography Day, an annual event sponsored by the North American Nature Photographer’s Association, which has as its purpose to: “promote the enjoyment of nature photography and to explain how images have been used to advance the cause of conservation and protect plants, wildlife and landscapes locally, and worldwide.” (From the web site link here). Photography was used from nearly the moment of its invention (which is a moment hard to pin down) to build an awareness of our environment, or components of the environment, that so many can’t witness. It remains an important calling, even in an age in which we are inundated by images. So many of those images don’t tell a story, of any sort. It really is the story that counts.
As luck would have it, I had a chance (with family) to spend some time roaming around the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. This is the site at which the famed Lost Colony story unfolded. You may know the story, and I won’t recount it in any detail, but in essence, a group of English colonists were left on Roanoke Island in the late 1580’s to establish a business oriented settlement on behalf of the English Crown and associated entrepreneurs such as Sir Walter Raleigh. They were stranded and did not receive resupply for over three years. When the English returned after the three-year delay, the colony was gone. There was no sign of violence, or mass illness. The buildings were taken down (not torn down) and the only clue remaining was the name “CROATOAN” carved into a tree. To this day, a satisfactory theory backed by evidence regarding what happened has eluded scholars. Visiting sites like this is always an education. I was struck by several key points. First, the colonists had to find a way to live in harmony with their surrounding. They had to get along with the native Americans (who were already angered by previous unsatisfactory contacts) and they had to live off the land, off of nature. Sadly, they were ill-equipped to do either. Their ranks were staffed with those ready to exploit the environment, not come to terms with it: the military, miners, loggers, etc. Farmers and craftsmen were lacking. The colonists were prepared to exploit an environment that was simply not going to yield, for many reasons. Sound familiar?
The colonists at that time were surrounded by lush maritime forests, as well as the familiar marshes and bodies of water we associate with the region. Many of those forests included the famed “live oak” tree that is iconic to the south. You will recognize them by their outward growth and the elaboration of their large branches into nearly a humanoid form. Old forest growths of these trees were nearly all taken throughout the south for ship building and lumber. The live oak is a very strong tree (used in the construction of Old Ironsides, the U.S.S. Constitution, for instance).
So now in a few places you can find these wonderful trees. These shown here are obviously not four hundred years old, they’re quite a bit younger but this will give you some idea of what those forests were like. Away from preserves such as this, the live oak is still threatened by development.
Conservation doesn’t have to be an all or nothing pursuit, though it is often thought of as such by some.