More information about H. Patricia Hynes
Lost Woods is organized into four parts which progress from the threshold of Carson’s writing career to the conclusion of her life. Part 1 offers a story she wrote for publication as a teenager and early writings of the 1930s and ‘40s, including a few preludes for Under the Sea-Wind, field notes from watching the fall migration of hawks, an imagistic portrait of an island on the Sheepscot River in Maine, and a section from a Conservation in Action publication on the national wildlife refuge at Mattamuskeet, North Carolina published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There are a few observations that I came away with that I will share below.
First, Carson at 15 wrote a story for a children’s magazine about a day in May when she went off early with her dog, lunch and canteen, a field notebook and a camera to search out and photograph birds’ nests with their eggs. In “My Favorite Recreation,” she recounts a day full of adventure, tracking the familiar songs and warning calls of low-nesting birds to their nests; and it is replete with descriptions of successful finds. She returns home late in the day “gloriously tired, gloriously happy.” I finished this story, which is so pungent with happiness, with a longing for children today – particularly girls-- to have the same kind of secure freedom alone in nature; the same capacity to be so curious, informed, stirred and overjoyed by nature; and the same access to physical activity and outdoor life that characterized Carson’s youth in rural Pennsylvania. The loss of “nearby nature” in cities and suburbs, the immense pressure of the market on teenagers to seek happiness in consumer products and body image, and the epidemic of overweight among children because of inactivity and poor nutrition – all greatly magnified since Carson’s childhood -- need the counterweight of the simple (yet elusive) path to joy that she knew and sojourned as a child.
Are there successful programs that readers are familiar with which have as their purpose to cultivate a knowledge and sense of wonder about nature for children, particularly those in cities and suburbs?
As an editor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carson instigated a 12-part series on the national fish and wildlife refuge system that would constitute a nature guide and source of popular education in ecology for each refuge system. Her style in this richly informative booklet is that of a skilled teacher, providing first a background of cultural history and geography and then a catalogue of the birdlife of the refuge. She employs the Socratic Method, posing questions and using answers to explain the “scientific” management of the refuge for the purpose of maximizing the marsh food supply for waterfowl. She observes, as a sidebar, that that Mattamuskeet country has cachet among geese hunters far and wide for its wealth of waterfowl.
Upon finishing Carson’s essay about Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, the following questions posed themselves. Why would the Fish and Wildlife Service manage the refuge so to increase its natural capacity for wildlife, as she described? Was it because other unpreserved refuges were endangered by development, and, thus, these management techniques would create more habitat capacity for wildlife? Or was it to sustain better recreational hunting opportunities for hunters? Or both? If it was the latter (and it is alleged that the strong lobby of sports hunters was a considerable force in the creation of early wildlife organizations and early government refuge and national park initiatives), then has the advancement in environmental ethics since Carson’s time posed a challenge to the preservation and management of wildlife refuges for the recreation of sports hunters?
It would be especially beneficial to learn from staff of the Fish and Wildlife Service their thoughts on conservation and management of wildlife refuges for recreational hunting. Should we distinguish between hunting for sustenance, hunting for control of wildlife populations, and hunting for sport on publicly managed and conserved land?