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Lions Roar : November 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2011 59 AS A YOUNG GIRL, I ran my own animal rescue program. After storms in the summer, I would search for baby animals that needed my protection. I would carry home mice, squirrels, or birds and nurse them with a rag dipped in milk. Then I’d con- struct little homes for them from shoeboxes, and, every now and then, I would be able to save an animal and release it into the wild. I talked to animals and watched them closely. They taught me a great deal. Most children are gradually educated away from this deep connection to animals, but I resisted that with every fiber of my skinny, feral being. I named each little starling or field mouse and also all the calves, pigs, and rabbits that my father raised for food. I still give names to the wild animals that come around on a regular basis. Our resident mallards are Cinnamon and Mint. The possums under our juniper bush are Blinky and Sparkle, and our skunk is Fragrant. My great-grandparents homesteaded in the Nebraska Sandhills and I grew up in Beaver City in southwest Nebraska. My husband’s great-grandparents were sodbusters and early settlers of our state. My children and grandchildren grew up in Nebraska and live here today. The landscape of this state is etched across my heart. In my childhood, the water and air were clean and the land was healthy for plants, ani- mals, and people. When my brothers and I went fishing, the rivers and lakes were full of fish. Over the decades, I have seen the quality of life diminish for all of us, but especially for children. My grandchildren do not have the natural riches that I once could find outside my front door. Now my state is threatened by the pro- posed TransCanada XL Pipeline, which is routed across our great underground lake, the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies water for MARY PIPHER lives on a boat-shaped piece of land in Nebraska. On snowy nights, a red fox comes to hunt on the dam; in summer, great blue herons nest in the reeds. We take care of what we love, says Pipher, and we grow to love what we take care of. The Green Boat drinking, farming, and ranching to the entire Great Plains. It tra- verses the Sandhills, which encompass 20,000 square miles of dunes formed from tiny pieces of the Rockies sheared off by the Pleistocene glaciers. Because the soil is porous and unstable, 85 percent of the land has never been plowed. Our country has very few places left as wild and remote as the Sandhills, where astron- omers hold annual stargazing conventions because the stars are more visible from this area than from any other place on earth. The XL Pipeline will propel heated carcinogenic tar sludge from the Canadian border to Texas. In its journey, the pipeline is slated to cross almost every major river system in the central United States. In Nebraska, we have been unable to persuade our gov- ernment to enact any regulations to protect our safety or that of the land and water. We have more laws on the books for changing our motor oil in our driveways then we do for the XL Pipeline. While our legislature and governor are stalling and equivocating, we know that the land will brook no excuses. The rhetoric of law- makers will not protect one single calf, muskrat, or prairie orchid. All of us are here today, because, since the beginning of human time, adults have taken care of their children and taught them how to love the world. Now we are the adults. Who will advocate for the ani- mals, plants, land, and water if we don’t? Morality is action, not empty words about peace and goodness. My activism is the adult version of rescuing baby field mice and squirrels. I do it for fun, but it takes energy. My replenishment comes from being present for the land and the animals—from dissolving into a big sky, or from lying on a prairie and being nour- ished by the sight of the clouds skittering