Luminary naturalists have come and gone, so many before my time of course. I'd like to have known more of them. I'm thinking of John James Audubon, the great explorer and painter of birds, because he was born on this day in 1785. He explored more naturalness on foot and horseback than I will ever know, finding new birds and shooting them for art subjects, scientific specimens, and dinner. He didn't have a car, binoculars, or camera. I marvel at his accomplishments and can only try to comprehend his pioneering.
There is no wilderness left, in fact no unimpacted nature of the kind Audubon knew. I cannot venture anywhere on this planet without finding direct or indirect evidence of industrial technology. Humans have been everywhere, leaving chains of disruption or destruction, such as a thickening atmospheric greenhouse layer and warmer climate, even in the heart of vast preserves. Moreover, I rely on binoculars, cameras, and cars, whose manufacture and use bring more repercussions for the Biosphere than Audubon's spyglass, shotgun, and horse. And there are many more like me compared to Audubon's day. I am part of the concern!
Yet nature is only injured, not dead as some declare. All life changes nature, but modern humans have a destructive heritage, aided by the power of fossil fuels. Even my prehistoric ancestors were such devastating predators by dint of brains and tools that they caused or contributed to extinctions -- a unique role for any actor. And now technology disrupts the Biosphere with extinction rates unheard of in ancient times. But nature is not dead, fortunately, or we would be too, for we are irrevocably bound to it. Nature remains the only model against which we measure humanity's increasingly lonely trail out of the wilderness.