Learning from Nature While Saving the Planet Too
Showcase interviews conservationist Reed Tollefson

The Audubon Kern River Preserve in Weldon, CA, was one of the first ten sites in the U.S. recognized as a “Globally Important Bird Area” with 339 bird species recorded there. Reed Tollefson has served as its manager since 1997 and, before that, worked with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Because nature and writing go hand-in-hand – everything from journaling to travel to descriptive literature to advocacy – we asked him for his thoughts on the subject.

Showcase: What can a writer learn from nature?

Reed:  Nature’s inspirations are probably limited only by our own inquisitiveness and willingness or ability to spend time in observation. From Neanderthal cave paintings to Aesop’s fables and writings of your own Jack London to contemporary authors like Jared Diamond or John McPhee it is clear that if we are willing to be inspired by nature there are no bounds to what can be learned.

Showcase: Do you have favorite nature writers? Who, and why?

Reed: Jared Diamond because he brings historical, cultural and social information to bear on current issues and concerns of great importance. John McPhee for his insightful analysis of human endeavors in the face of natural events and processes is a source of great enlightenment as well as chagrin.

Showcase: Do you have special places in the preserve where you go for inspiration?

Reed: Migrant Corner when waves of migrating birds from the tropical forests and southern deserts come across this riparian forest canopy and flower-covered hillside.  Just one patch of earth where brilliant travelers like tanagers, warblers and grosbeaks are following the blush of spring growth as it advances across the face of the continent.

Plenty of writers care about protecting the planet, but they don’t know what to do about it. What do you suggest? Any particular publications? Blogs to contribute to?

Reed: Just keep showing up and trying to do your best.  Pace yourself for the long haul and take good care of yourself first.

Showcase: What areas need the most help?

Reed: Your neighborhood. Kids.

Showcase: Can you think of other opportunities for aspiring nature writers?

Reed: Get out in nature. Bring a friend or some kids.

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