A Message From Our President, August 2021

by Scott Hudson

Thoughts on Resilience

“My heart is moved by all I cannot save.
So much has been destroyed.

I have cast my lot with those
who, age after age, perversely,

with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.”

“Natural Resources” by Adrienne Rich in The Dream of a Common Language, 1993

I’m learning, slowly, about resilience. Here are a few somewhat-jointed bits that have been on my mind. Adrienne Rich’s poem reminds me of a point in my Master Naturalist basic training where Sam Kieschnick, our TPWD Chapter Advisor, talked about our role as Master Naturalists. I wish I had the quote, but the picture I took away was change coming about as we keep engaging with others in outreach and in conservation efforts.

That makes me think of how you continue to make progress on so many NTMN fronts. I see it first-hand in several projects I visit – Spring Creek, Twelve Hills, Brookhaven, Texas Discovery Gardens – and know from the reports that you’re doing so much more. Hats off to all of you who keep on casting your lot to reconstitute the world.

Persevering with your work through the sort of year-and-a-half we’ve had demonstrates resilience. Which brings up another sort of resilience: a mutating virus that keeps exploiting weaknesses in its host and in the defenses we mount. Know that your board is keeping a watchful eye on CDC and local COVID guidance. Thank you for your patience as we work through reopening practices that protect health and safety and offer some flexibility. As always, please participate at the level you are comfortable with.

I truly appreciate the good work of our Programs Committee, providing opportunities to learn each month and having the foresight to set this year’s theme on Survivors. Who knew we’d have so much need to be reminded about resilience in nature? Thinking back over the 2021 sessions so far (more to come!) there is a cumulative impact in seeing so many examples of adapting and thriving in the face of change.

Most recently we’ve seen Brandon Belcher demonstrating very active prairie management, e.g., plantings, scheduled mowings, and prescribed burns. And Kenneth Mayben showed a range of stream restoration from more passive management like altering grazing to surprisingly quick, entirely hands-off recovery.

All of these speak to capacities inherent in these systems. In discussing management approaches the ecologist C. S. Holling defined resilience as “a measure of the ability of these systems to absorb changes…and still persist.” I’m encouraged, seeing so many nearby examples. Holling also discusses stresses that exceed a system’s resilience. Time and effort will tell how this plays out with global questions we face, like our unintended experiments with overfishing and polluting oceans, and with climate change.

In the meantime, every outreach effort, every bit of habitat restored, every fallen tree that brings stability and new growth, every Monarch caterpillar you’ve saved, matters.

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