Last Friday -- the first crisp, cold day of October -- I was the guest of Professor Mooney's class in environmental ethics for a walk along the Path. Among many other things, we talked about milkweed and monarchs and Mexican refuges and migration and DNA and assorted related mysteries and mischief. Having said my goodbyes, I walked home along the Path and found this poor creature in the grass, barely alive, one monarch that waited too long to depart, one less butterfly among the tens of millions that gather each winter in a small patch of fir trees in the mountains of central Mexico. Butterflies as thick as leaves -- a sight to see, holy and inspiring.
We talked too about the various transformations of the landscape: geologic upheavals over hundreds of millions of years, ice ages, native Americans, European colonists, industrialization, Frederick Law Olmstead, suburbanization, all of which left their mark. The woods and meadows we walked through are now in the care of the Natural Resources Trust of Easton, and my companions too represented something relatively new. Only in recent years has a course in environmental ethics been offered at my college, as part of a growing worldwide awareness that our moral obligations extend beyond the human species. Just in time, perhaps, for the monarchs.