Learn more about ospreys, Rachel Carson, and the environment

WASHASHORE is a work of fiction. But like many fictional stories, WASHASHORE is rooted in fact. Martha’s Vineyard is a real place that I have loved for most of my life. The characters, however, are not based on real people—with one exception, Bo Jameson. His personal characteristics and life story DSCN1823are fictional, but his efforts to help the ospreys are based on the work of Gus Ben David, a naturalist who lives on Martha’s Vineyard.

In 1972, when Congress banned the use of DDT for insect control, there were only two pairs of ospreys still nesting on Martha’s Vineyard. That year, Gus Ben David put up the first man-made osprey pole on the Island. He wanted to provide a safe nesting place for the birds. At that time, Gus was the director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary. Over the next decades, Gus put up more than one hundred nesting poles on the Island.

Today, Gus has retired from the sanctuary but still watches over and protects the Vineyard osprey population, which has grown to more than seventy pairs!

Saving the ospreys on Martha’s Vineyard involved hard work by many people. Some of them live on the Island, like Gus Ben David. Some, like Rachel Carson, told the world about the dangers of pesticides. And others, like the citizens who sued to get DDT banned, pushed the government to make things better.

We now know much more about environmental threats than when Silent Spring was published in 1962. Pollution, contamination, habitat destruction, climate change—these problems are complicated and can seem overwhelming. But there are ways that you can help.

Before Clem found the osprey on the beach, she never thought about birds. But once she had taken home Quitsa’s bands, and learned about the ospreys and DDT, and met Bo and Daniel, her world became filled with birds. Beautiful, fascinating birds. And she wanted to do something to protect them and make them safe.

For me, I want to do something about climate change—especially after I learned that rising sea levels are changing the shores and beaches I love. The beautiful colored clay cliffs that Clem and Daniel explored in Washashore are much smaller today because of erosion. Erosion is natural, but man-made climate change is speeding it up—and knowing that makes me want to do something about it.

What can I do? Bike instead of drive. Unplug my chargers. Use less water. Recycle. Buy compact fluorescent bulbs and turn my lights off when I don’t need them. These little things are just a start, but sometimes it’s surprising how much more you want to do once you get started.

Is there something that you want to save?

Osprey photo (c) 2013 by Darcy Zimmerman. Used by permission.