There is so much to worry about in our world today: political turmoil, civil unrest, a pandemic, climate change. The list goes on . . . and on and on. All of us want to be hopeful, of course, as we stare down all of these challenges. Let’s listen to Curt Spalding’s sanguine words, as he reflects on the future of our precious planet.  

Curt Spalding has devoted his life to environmental protection and management, including serving as regional director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and executive director of Save the Bay. Currently he is on the faculty of the Institute of Brown University for Environment and Society.

Home during COVID means taking our dog Callie out for walks at least once a day. She likes to head to the Bay where I can let her sniff around off-leash in the parking lot of the Edgewood Yacht Club.  A couple of weeks ago, as she and I reached the bottom hill down to the Yacht Club, there was a fish head on the sidewalk. In the parking lot, more fish parts were strewn about.  

What could make such a gross mess? There were no Ospreys around. They are long gone to Central America. The Red Tails in the neighborhood does not prey on fish. While coyotes will eat anything, they do not leave much behind.  

During our neighborhood New Years’ Eve Zoom party, our neighbors excitedly shared that two big raptors were roosting in their backyard. They took pictures, which I shared with my birder friend Wenley. They were bald eagles - two young males, too immature to reveal their white heads.  

In 1987, I came back to Rhode Island from a short stint with EPA to join a young group of smart advocates committed to restoring Narragansett Bay. Eagles were a rare site anywhere much less on the Bay. 

I was looking for a career with meaning and Save The Bay gave me that opportunity.  I wondered then what we could actually accomplish. Restoring the ecosystem so fish and wildlife could thrive was what my colleagues and I idealistically committed to as we challenged the political order to give the Bay a chance. There was no clear path forward. We simply believed that it could be done. 

The eagles are roosting in Edgewood and all along the Providence River because menhaden are an easy food source. Missing the signal to head to warmer water groggy fish are washing up on the few spots where sand accumulates and makes a beach. From the trees along the river, the eagles can just drop down and chow down. No less than Ben Franklin thought that the lazy eagle was of “bad moral character”.  Character aside, these eagles are a smart pair.   

Soaring over urban coastal neighborhoods, eagles signal what is possible. Rapid climate change will mark the years ahead. The water level will rise rapidly and the Bay will warm even more quickly. By connecting communities to nature, I believe in a future of greater resilience and commitment to the good health of the planet and our neighbors.  The question is whether we come together to make that future. Thanks to the eagles, I for one believe we will.