Readers Respond to the April 2020 Issue

Your feedback on our 50th anniversary issue showcasing success stories in conservation

Half a Century

Congratulations on (and thank you for) producing 50 years’ worth of fascinating and important stories (April 2020). I was struck by these two sentences in your story about elephants (“Mind Craft”): “It’s still a very emerging field—addressing conservation from a behavioral perspective. But I think it’s going to yield more effective conservation efforts in the long run.” Then I turned back to your story about mountain gorillas (“The Comeback”), where the effective conservation effort is based on human behavior “of community engagement and cooperation.” Let’s combine animal “behavioral perspective” and human “community engagement and cooperation”—and really make a difference!

— Mary Oberst | Portland, Oregon

Beloved Primates

I believe that Dian Fossey would have been very pleased with “The Comeback.” The author, Mark Jenkins, and the excellent photography of Neil Ever Osborne, especially the two-page photo of the silverback, Agahebuzo, are to be commended. I have been a member of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund for years, actually “adopting” a silverback named Kirahure. The work of all the people at the Rwanda research center Fossey founded, Karisoke, in preserving the mountain gorillas is highly valuable. Thank you for the excellent article.

— Ed Rothermund | Exton, Pennsylvania

Backyard Sanctuary

Douglas Tallamy’s plan (“Wild Man,” April 2020) sounds like a fine idea and may be practical where the “Wild Man” himself lives, but I think it’s a different story in the arid mid-continent areas where the majority of the land is given over to agricultural production and urban lawns are already small. Salt cedar and Russian olive are extremely prevalent and “pull them out” is not a practical option.

— Ken Brown | Alva, Oklahoma

Humans are the worst invasive species of all time. When we remove ourselves, as in Chernobyl, all sorts of wildlife prospers.

— Andy Rudin | Philadelphia

Tidal Power

If a pandemic scares you, then you should be terrified by real climate change, which will generate agrarian and other economic disruptions, wars and a certain deterioration of life as we know it. “Surge Engine” (April 2020) restored my hope for a future in which we can all survive and have a chance at self-actualization. Hats off to the two Jasons [Hayman and Clarkson] and Sustainable Marine Energy.

— Bob Harman | Lake Villa, Illinois

Finally, a power-producing technology that seems to avoid most of the pitfalls of other power generators: It is reliable and predictable, doesn’t mess up the local wildlife, and doesn’t create a new problem of how to dispose of its tools when they are used up (for instance, batteries, spent uranium, etc.). I sure hope SME and Plat-I are successful!

— Gail MacLean | Norwalk, Connecticut

Revisiting Limberlost

After reading “The Legend of Limberlost” (March 2020) by Kathryn Aalto, I opened my Kindle and downloaded all the works by Gene Stratton-Porter. I am still reading A Girl of the Limberlost and am in awe of the natural world of the Limberlost brought so vividly to life. I wonder if that book inspired my grandmother, Letha Stanley Morrison, to become a nature photographer and naturalist. Letha in turn inspired me, I inspired my two children, and now my grandchildren are active in protecting our planet.

— Jean Morrison Walton | Dallas

“The Legend of Limberlost” is perhaps the most touching article that I have ever read in Smithsonian. It captured the person of Gene Stratton-Porter as I never understood her before. The descriptions of the birds, the insects, and her caring for the hawk are excellent. Now I want to go to the Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve to see it for myself.

— Terry Finch | Sumrall, Mississippi

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your tribute to Gene Stratton-Porter, and look forward to sharing it with friends. However, the sidebar entitled “Speaking Out” left out a prominent voice in American nature essays: Ellen Meloy was a prodigious talent—her writing, her art, her appreciation of the sublime and ethereal, and her attention to detail cannot be forgotten. I heartily recommend her books Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild and The Last Cheater’s Waltz: Beauty and Violence in the Desert Southwest. Meloy died young but left us a legacy that exhorts us to preserve and protect what we can before it’s too late.

— Liz Bengels | New York

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