Flying just ahead of me along the path, a white-lined sphinx moth zips a few inches aboveground, pausing on small plants to drink dew. It ignores the first possumhaw flowers. It too is an annual first, a dawn and dusk flyer that sandwiches its role in the play of life -- its ecological niche -- between the day and night niches of other nectar feeders. It is an edge inhabitant in both time and space from boreal Canada to tropical Central America; and, like other natives that live life on the edge, it is quite tolerant of change compared to the many species extirpated by suburban sprawl.
Once we had a group of property owners interested in conserving the ravine but couldn't agree on methods, because we'd have to give up a few personal rights and resale value -- or so some of us thought. And our city refused to create an ordinance to protect the forest that brought us all here. Fortunately, my planned-unit development had already agreed to protect its ten wild acres, two other owners expressly saved twelve adjacent acres, and the city has about three disjunct forested acres in a park, but the total is a paltry fifteen percent of the wild landscape.
My suburb has only two-hundredths of a wild acre per human resident to supply necessary natural goods and services such as oxygen, climate moderation, and water renewal. We can't do these things ourselves, certainly not without great expense; and, behind closed doors and windows, equipped only with electronic messengers, we forget or never learn about our need for wildland. We require about five wild acres per person in my town, based on a calculated wildland to human ratio that depends on regional climate (more land per person if cooler and/or dryer, less if hotter and/or wetter), and this morning's white-lined sphinx reminds me of that need.