Importance of Conservation Through the Ages: Letters of Note

Conservation is not a new concept for the 21st Century but has been written about through the years by various well-known conservationists, and others not so well known. There are many letters of note written to complain about pollution, encourage keeping wild animals in their natural habitat, and conserve the resources of the planet in general.

There are even letters of note that were sent on spacecraft in the hope that the messages will someday be found by inhabitants of other planets, explaining how earthlings are trying to save their planet. A few of those letters, ranging from Presidents Theodore Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter are summarised here.

Letter From Chemist Michael Faraday: Pollution of the River Thames

In July 1855, chemist Michael Faraday sent a letter of note that was published in London periodicals about the brown water of the River Thames. He complained that “the smell was very bad.” Faraday expected that someone in authority would read his letter and not allow the river to become “a fermenting sewer.”

Theodore Roosevelt to Frank Chapman: Conserving Bird Habitats

In addition to being forever memorialised as one of the presidents carved in stone in the Black Hills of South Dakota at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, President Theodore Roosevelt is known for his dedication to conservation.

In 1899, one of his letters of note was sent to Frank Chapman, the curator of the Museum of Natural History in New York, founder of the New York State Audubon Society, and “Dean of American Ornithologists” about the Audubon Society and its mission to conserve bird and other wildlife habitats.

Roosevelt commends Chapman for his work and expresses his own desire to save birds. Roosevelt has strong support of the work of the Audubon Society and states:

“[s]pring could not be spring without bird songs, any more than it would be spring without buds and flowers, and I only wish that besides protecting the songsters, the birds of the grove, the orchard, the garden and the meadow, we could also protect the birds of the sea shore and of the wilderness.”

Three years after Roosevelt wrote this letter, he became president. Among other achievements in the field of conservation, he established 51 federal bird preserves.

Joy Adamson to Mr. Salisbury: Conserving natural habitats of wild animals

Joy Adamson is known for her devotion to the preservation of wild animals in Kenya, particularly lions. In 1963, she published “Born Free,” a book about a captive lioness, Elsa, that she raised and then successfully returned to the wild.

In 1967, a Mr. Salisbury asked her if she could send him a Caracal, which is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa. She refused, explaining her belief that “no wild animals should be deprived of their freedom and sold into captivity—however good and loving the owners may be.”

She went on to tell him of her work, which was to “preserve the wild animals within their natural habitats.”

Jimmy Carter Letter Sent in Space: Saving Planet Earth

In the 1970s, NASA launched four space probes that left the Solar System and entered interstellar space. Each probe carried a message from Earth and was crafted by cosmologist Carl Sagan in a way designed with the expectation that intelligent life forms would find the messages and be able to understand them.

President Jimmy Carter, known for his expansion of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up hazardous waste, and who was able to pass laws to preserve 150 million acres of Alaskan wilderness, sent along a letter of note dated June 16, 1977. President Carter noted the letter was cast “into the cosmos” where it might last a billion years.

He explained that the message was from the United States, a nation-state on the planet Earth. He tells the space beings who he hopes can read the letter that those on Earth are “attempting to survive our time so we can live into yours. We hope someday, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations.”

Talen Lee
the authorTalen Lee