Opening Words from Sun. December 5 by Jim Rhodes

Good morning, everyone!

I would like to talk a little this morning about my interest in nature and the environment, and how that has grown over the years.

I grew up in Pittsburgh and I really wasn’t exposed to a lot of nature. Once, I recall chasing and collecting some fireflies on a summer night when we were visiting some relatives. And I had an aunt who had a canary named Elvis. So other than mowing the grass at our house and maybe helping with a small garden we had, this was the extent of my experience with nature growing up.

I started college at Penn State in 1965 and this was during the war in Vietnam and when a lot of people, including myself, were waking up to environmental problems like air and water pollution, the extinction of species like the spotted owl, and many others. I eventually got a master’s degree in environmental engineering, and I moved down to Richmond, Virginia to work for a state agency on water pollution issues. I loved Virginia as is it a beautiful state and in the eleven years I was there, I got to see and explore that whole area. But once, there was this pesticide spill into the James River and the State had to shut down about 100 miles of the lower James River for fishing because of the contamination.

After moving to St. Louis in 1987, I started to go on canoe outings on rivers like the Meramec, the Current, and many others. I also got a job with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources here in St. Louis. It was a fascinating job, and I felt I was working on things that needed to be done.

After retiring from my job with DNR, I decided to volunteer and become a docent at the Saint Louis Zoo. It’s been a great experience, and it is one reason why, in 2018, I suggested to my wife and some friends that we all go to Africa. We ended up travelling around southern Africa and staying in some safari camps. We all got to see some amazing wildlife there including many elephants, hippos, some painted wild dogs and hyenas, a few crocodiles, and many baboons. But several of the guides told us how big wild animals were being hunted down, and it was almost like a war against the poachers.

Back here in St. Louis, we are lucky to have a great zoo where people can go to see the same animals we saw, and it’s free! The staff and people at the St. Louis Zoo are dedicated and fun to work with. I’ve heard Dr. Bonner, our guest speaker this morning, talk on several occasions, and I am very much looking forward to what he has to tell us all today.

Thank you.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.