Posts Tagged ‘save what’s left’

The sun comes up. We draw the drapes. The room is hot. We switch on the air conditioning. Rain falls, unheard, washing away poisons sprayed on manicured lawns. The sun goes down. We flip on a lamp. Venture forth from the cocoon, look to the stars for guidance as our ancestors did; city lights have washed them away. We look to screens and machines to guide us. Everyday life in our civilized world. Nature is the name of a program on television. Nature, always, yields to the superiority of Technology.

And yet…and yet…as biological beings, there remains a yearning in our cells for the sensations found only within the natural world. Perhaps because of the salinity within our cells, we feel a particular longing for the ocean, for the smell of salt on a cooling breeze, the sound of waves calming our caffeine-drenched heartbeats, far horizons which rest our aching eyes, primeval crunch of sand beneath bare toes. We crave it all; we know it will restore us.

In Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, author Richard Louv explores in depth and detail what we lost when technology disconnected us from the natural world of our ancestors. “Nature deficit disorder” is the term he coined to describe what this loss has done to our children. One chilling fact: the Center for Disease Control has linked the rise in childhood obesity to the amount of time children spend watching television. Louv’s books criss-cross the globe on a thoughtful journey to meet a fascinating array of very different people who have dedicated their lives to one overarching objective: salvation of the fast-disappearing natural world. Through their stories, along with discussions of scientific research, we discover how Nature provides therapy, healing, and harmony. Lack of Nature, we learn, actually makes us sick; but we may have already suspected that. Louv takes us down the road to despair but then lifts our sad hearts with realistic optimism, workable projects, doable ideas, provides in-depth resources and contacts.

In one sentence from Last Child in the Woods, Louv crystallized for this writer much of what Wildlife Research Team has been working toward these past twenty years: “People are unlikely to value what they cannot name.” I have to agree; we care most deeply about who and what is familiar to us. When people venture forth in our canoes, they learn, first-hand, that great value resides in the waters which surround and snake through South Florida. WRT’s principal mission has always been to reconnect people with Nature, in a hands-on, primary experience, so that they understand for themselves its importance.

Our early-morning Stress-Relief excursion was one of Dr. Tom Kazo’s most beloved ideas. He knew that watching the sun rise over the ocean restored the soul, and was keen to share this wonder with everyone. No one who took him up on this ever regretted it.

Here in South Florida, most of our waterways eventually lead to the sea, and so are tidal-influenced. Yet that term baffles the average person. So to teach the tide, when we launch our canoes, we have a child push a stick into the area at the water’s edge. When we return, and the water has either left the stick high and dry, or crept toward the top, the child exclaims, “Who moved my stick?” Sometimes it takes a bit of persuasion for him or her to be convinced that it was the pull of the moon which moved the water! It’s always gratifying to see that look of understanding sweep over a young face. You hope that they are sensing, perhaps for the first time, the authentic power of Nature, power beyond the control of humanity.

Tide's Out, We're Walking This photo was taken during our NOAA-funded habitat restoration project at Matheson Hammock Park, which is world-famous for its tidal flats. It was a long walk indeed out to where the water was deep enough for paddling! But by the end of our workday, the water was deep enough to paddle right up to the launch site.

Tide’s Out, We’re Walking
This photo was taken during our NOAA-funded habitat restoration project at Matheson Hammock Park, world-famous for its tidal flats. It was a long walk indeed out to where the water was deep enough for paddling! But by the end of our workday, the tide had come in, and we could, as planned, paddle right up to the launch site.

Citizen Naturalists: The Missing Link

Our Dr. Tom was a wildlife ethologist whose life’s passion was the rewarding study of animal behavior. We’ve helped scientists with studies of horseshoe crabs, manatees, and water quality. In our Canoe View Classroom, teachers and students have enjoyed hands-on lessons in wildlife research. Yet our canoes and volunteers have so often been asked to instead accomplish cleanups or habitat restoration projects; at least we are sure we have saved the homes and lives of innocent wildlife. But cleanups are not enough—people need to learn about the habitat they are rescuing. So when Louv introduced the term, “Citizen Naturalist,” in The Nature Principle, I felt a missing link drop into place. “In every bioregion, one of the most urgent tasks is to rebuild the community of naturalists, so radically depleted in recent years, as young people have spent less time in nature…To be a Citizen Naturalist is to take personal action, to both protect and participate in nature.” He goes on to list many exciting projects taken on by volunteers from all walks of life, who have eagerly provided solid and important data to scientific institutions in several countries. “So let’s increase the number of front-line citizen naturalists, who count, chart, map, collect, protect, tag, track, heal, and generally get to know countless species of plants and animals in the wild, in the elfin forests of their own backyards, or the woods, or the great national parks, or at the end of an alley in an inner-city neighborhood.”

Tide's In, We're Paddling This photo was taken from the same place as the previous one, but turned in the opposite direction. This is what happens when we can pick the best tide for an event, so that our volunteers can paddle right up to the launch/take-out site.

Tide’s In, We’re Paddling
This photo was taken from the same place as the previous one, but turned in the opposite direction. This is what happens when we can pick the best tide for an event, so that our volunteers can paddle right up to the launch/take-out site.

Or, Mr. Louv, how about along the rivers, canals, ponds, lakes, mangrove creeks and coastal fringes of South Florida? For it is within that delicate interface wildlife clings to the last remnant of habitat, there that pollution from pesticides and soil from erosion wash into the water. For twenty years, our Team has been a guardian of that fragile boundary. Now we can take a step further, teach our people about it, and help to satisfy that yearning.

So this is official notice of Wildlife Research Team’s new mission: to develop an active corps of canoe-savvy Citizen Naturalists! We are seeking sponsors to support this exciting new program, and partnerships with some of the excellent environmental educators in our community.

Can you help us? Can we help YOU?

Stay tuned!

With joyful anticipation,



Read Full Post »

Kicking off a blog is no easy task. I wish we could start in the middle. You know what they say about first impressions. Well, might as well launch!

Wildlife Research Team, Inc. is a nonprofit, 501©(3) environmental education organization with a unique twist: we use canoes for all of our projects and programs. Human-paddled canoes, no motors (that’s cheating!). We are located in South Florida, where there are plenty of places for us to wet our hulls.

There are thousands of places to explore Florida from a canoe, and we look forward to paddling all of them. Sometimes we may paddle in the Everglades, sometimes Biscayne Bay, maybe down in the Keys, or up north a bit in a spring-fed crystal-clear river. We also do urban canoeing, such as in the Miami River, keeping a close eye on the freighters on that busy working waterway. That’s our “Drug Boats to Tug Boats” tour.

We’ve been around since 1993. My name is Donna Kazo, and I am one of the two co-founders. In a later post, I will tell you more about the main founder, Dr. Tom Kazo, the guy with The Dream.

The canoe is a very humble vessel, very ancient. Yet for us, it does a superb job bearing some very large dreams, magnificent goals, while teaching life-changing lessons. We really enjoy changing people’s perspectives with a simple canoe excursion. We help people find adventure in their own neighborhood. We show them how wildlife habitat still exists along the shorelines and that they can have a part in saving what’s left.

My personal view, taught by experience, is that canoeing is a metaphor for Life itself. At times you may be uncomfortable in your canoe, perhaps fighting the wind and tide, wondering where the next bathroom is located, feeling a blister emerging on your hand, hoping a jetski doesn’t run you over, aggravated with yourself that you didn’t bring enough water, or other typical annoyances.

Yet! There always will be a reward if you stick with it, and simply pay attention to your surroundings. Some of our unexpected gifts have included sneaking up on an eagle wading at the river’s edge, a huge stingray surfacing and leaping twenty feet in front of our bow, or a manatee swimming right next to our canoes, close enough to touch. This is pure serendipity. Pure reward for perseverance.

What’s even better is knowing that each time Wildlife Research Team’s “trademark” black canoes are on the water, our people will leave that area a bit better than when we found it. You see, we are very widely known for our waterway and coastal cleanups. You can stow a heck of a lot of trash in a canoe which floats on just a few inches of water. We get into places where nobody else can.

It’s just who we are: our members cannot bear the thought of leaving marine debris behind. Not only is it unsightly, but frequently it’s dangerous to wildlife. We’ve extracted miles of fishing line, rope, zillions of plastic bags… you name it, we’ve pulled it out of the habitat.

Please check out our website, www.wildlife-research-team.org to learn more. I will soon be back to share more with you, and as always,

We hope to see YOU in a black canoe!


Read Full Post »