Sacrificing for fashion

dressing for dinner sm

One only has to look at the annals of history to see the changes in fashion. Styles have dictated the lives of both men and women for as long as we have chronicled human accounts.  Hemlines have gone up and down, fabrics have gone from cotton to synthetics, and all the while we have been addicted to what the fashion designers have charged as “in style.” However, our intentions of being “fashionable” have created a negative impact; our desire to look our best has often been at the expensive of the most vulnerable creatures that share the planet…the animals.

The use of bird feathers in fashion had become an established trend for women in Europe and the United States. The millinery industry in the past centuries supported and encouraged what was vogue. In the 1880s on average, the millinery trade’s demand for plumage and skins resulted in the destruction of as many as fifteen million American birds annually, from songbirds to waterfowl.

Around 1900 it could be said to be the pinnacle of glove-wearing. To satisfy all the varieties from evening gloves, winter gloves, and even driving gloves, they were made from wool, cashmere, silk, kid, doeskin, and cape (a sheepskin leather) for both men and women.   The 1600s was nothing short of devastation for beavers; Europe had all but extinguished their population. Its fur was used to fashion hats and trim coats. Hunters turned to North America to supplement the appetite of the fashion mongers creating the beaver to become nearly extinct here too.

Boots, shoes, belts, jackets, coats, handbags, hats and wallets produced from reptile skins were supplemented for the fashion industry. By the 1950s, demand for hides and uncontrolled hunting in the southeastern United States had almost wiped out the species of alligators.  Even the whales were not left behind. In the 19th century, “whale baleen” (the plates in the whale mouth used to sieve food) was an important fashion tool. Flexible and strong; dried baleen was used in the manufacturing of “tight structure” in clothing, such as corsets.  And we all know the impact furs have had on the extensive array of animals; seals, fox, vicuna (relative to the llama), otters, spotted cats (such as jaguars and tigers).

Sadly, the list goes on and on. So the next time you are in the Florida Everglades consider yourself very lucky if you happen to see a Roseate Spoonbill. Although it is slowly making a come-back, it is a rare site since its ancestors’ beautiful feathers once adorned so many hats.

Today’s esteemed thinker is not relegated to one person in particular, but to those who uphold and protect the Endangered Species Act of 1973. When it was passed by Congress “it recognized that our rich natural heritage is of “esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value to our Nation and its people.” The law prohibits any action that causes a “taking” of any listed species of endangered fish or wildlife. Likewise, import, export, interstate, and foreign commerce of listed species are all generally prohibited. The act provides a program for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals and the habitats in which they are found.

Esteemed thinker: Dian Fossey

gorialla baby

Popularity is not always an indicator of the best nor should we assume that the most popular were raised to the top on account of an even start. An example of what one may considered “a staked deck” is the phenomena of voting for your favorite singer or dancer via social media (which includes television). Isn’t it likely that the winner may indeed have generated their own pool of supporters who may have “turned the tide”?

So it is here where I take us to the animal kingdom where there are animals that have always been considered ‘the most popular’. The giraffe, the tiger, the lion, the elephant, the gorilla, and of course the ever-adorable panda are just among the few that lead the pack in popularity. Even the dinosaurs, which have never been seen nor heard by anyone, ranks highest in the list of “favorites”. So why is it that the tapir, a most unusual looking fellow, the mountain bongo (a fancy looking antelope), or the red river hog (who makes a pig of himself at night) haven’t been able to tip the scales in their direction of popularity.  Perhaps it just might be that they need to get a new “press agent”!

Dian fossey  Today’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker: Dian Fossey, (1932-1985) American primatologist, zoologist, and naturalist was born in San Francisco, California. She is noted for her tireless and heroic struggle to preserve, protect and study the mountain gorilla.

Fossy grew up aspiring to work with animals however, after changing her major in college, she earned a degree in occupational therapy. Working in this field for several years, her restless spirit and affinity for animals drew her to the continent of Africa. In 1963, after taking out a bank loan and spending all her savings, she traveled to Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and the Congo. In her travels she meets the renowned archeologists, Mary and Louis Leaky. It is here where Fossey learns of Jane Goodall’s research with chimps, which was at this time in its infancy stages.

Dian Fossey founded the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda’s Virungas Mountains in 1967 with a main goal in mind: to protect and study the endangered mountain gorillas. Fossey not only observed and studied, but she lived a secluded life among the mountain gorillas. She brought over thousands of hours of new information to the scientific community.

In 1983 she wrote and published her autobiography Gorillas in the Mist. Fossey’s research and conservation efforts for the endangered gorillas of the Rwandan mountain forest from the 1960s to the ’80s brought her life to a tragically early end when she was murdered presumably by poachers.

I now bring to the profound words of the late Dr. Dian Fossey; a simple lesson for all of humanity.

“When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.

 

 

Charles Waterton and preservation

dodo Such a fragile world we live in; so fragile that what was once thriving can disappear forever. Let us take for example the Dodo Bird. Though it is often thought of with a chuckle; for its name sounds rather silly…its existence was once quite real. A rather large bird of about 3 feet tall, it lived comfortably near Madagascar on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. It was first documented by the Dutch when they inhabited the island as a penal colony in the 15th century. As history recalls, it had no natural predators and as such was fearless of humans. Being that they were flightless, they were also easy prey… as one can see where this is leading …. seafarers who used the island as a stop-over point came ashore hungry and along with the animals brought to the island, the poor birds had little chance and have been extinct since the last one in 1681.

We know that the world revolves around progress in many forms; and as we take this into account there is a positive mindset … humans need to be respectful of the world and its creatures. But in spite of this positive attitude…unfortunately, the number of species around the world that are threatened or endangered continues to climb; just as some species have been delisted for a variety of reasons … This month the Grey Wolf was removed from endangered status … however this delisting has become a contested debate for many environmental groups that maintain a continued need for its protection.

The bald eagle is a true success story for recovery… flourishing in numbers, whereby after having been nearly eradicated, in 2009 it was delisted from the Federal Endangered list and does not need protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Sometimes an animal goes off and on a list; such as the Grizzly bear. By 1975 most had disappeared from the lower 48 states mainly due to habitat destruction, roads and reduction of large wildland areas. But thanks to Endangered Species Act protections, the Yellowstone grizzly bear population increased from around 224 bears in 1975 to 582 in 2010. Henceforth, it was delisted in 2007. But then a “grizzly” turn- of- events took place due to more habitat loss and global warming, relisting the poor animal in 2010, and then declared recovered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011.

And then there are some species that no longer exist in the wild; such as the Catarina pupfish of Mexico and the Hawaiian crow, also known as the Aumaka….which perhaps actually makes them extinct. It is no wonder that the sight or sound of an animal in the wild makes us sigh with awe; from the flutter of a yellow tail butterfly, the hovering of a dragon fly over water, to that “once in a while” lucky glimpse of a wading heron; who else but Mother Nature and her family could offer us such life…

Charles waterton 2 So today I bring back Charles Waterton, English naturalist and explorer whose words dating back to 1824 are significant and profound. I invite you to find a few moments and as you are reading be heartened by his insight that still hold so true today. From his book Wanderings in South America, allow me to make room for Mr. Waterton as we interrupt his thoughts about Philadelphia.

“…The extensive squares of this city are ornamented with well-grown and luxuriant trees. Its unremitting attention to literature might cause it to be styled the Athens of the United States. Here learning and science have taken up their abode. The literary and philosophical associations, the enthusiasm of individuals, the activity of the press and the cheapness of the publications ought to raise the name of Philadelphia to an elevated situation in the temple of knowledge.

From the press of this city came Wilson’s famous Ornithology. By observing the birds in their native haunts he has been enabled to purge their history of numberless absurdities which inexperienced theorists had introduced into it. It is a pleasing and a brilliant work. We have no description of birds in any European publication that can come up to this. By perusing Wilson’s Ornithology attentively before I left England I knew where to look for the birds, and immediately recognised them in their native land.

Since his time I fear that the white-headed eagles have been much thinned. I was perpetually looking out for them, but saw very few. One or two came now and then and soared in lofty flight over the Falls of Niagara. The Americans are proud of this bird in effigy, and their hearts rejoice when its banner is unfurled. Could they not then be persuaded to protect the white-headed eagle, and allow it to glide in safety over its own native forests? Were I an American I should think I had committed a kind of sacrilege in killing the white-headed eagle. The ibis was held sacred by the Egyptians; the Hollanders protect the stork; the vulture sits unmolested on the top of the houses in the city of Angostura; and Robin Redbreast, for his charity, is cherished by the English:
No burial these pretty babes
Of any man receives,
Till Robin-red-breast painfully.
Did cover them with leaves…”