The Flamingo’s Smile

Tulipa turkestanica, native to Turkestan, Iran and northwest China; a few of the 700 tulips planted with my Junior Greenroof Techs on the 27,000 sq ft greenroof, the last project of 2014
Tulipa turkestanica, native to Turkestan, Iran and northwest China; a few of the 700 tulips planted with my Junior Greenroof Techs on the 27,000 sq ft greenroof, the last project of 2014

These last few months have been a monumental period of transition in my life, deciding to leave the kids and the gardens and the myriad conservation projects that have dominated my work over the last 25 years, to embark upon the second half of my life more keenly focused and determined to not only conserve our natural world,  but to better empower our children in that mission, children whose environment we have borrowed; young people who can be a part of tackling he perils of the present in order to protect the world of their future; kids whose values of responsible environmental stewardship could take a stand to demand that it be done right the first time and for the right reasons, and to be an integral part of that act: an “inconvenient youth.”

It did in fact take me several years to arrive at and plan for this decision, knowing that personally and professionally, I could only fully immerse myself into this new adventure if I lived and worked where my travels would always end up taking me- the rainforest. For various reasons, some political, some financial, and from a biodiversity conservation perspective, all ethical, I dismissed possibilities in Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and Ecuador, and settled upon Belize. Whilst serving as an officer in the British military, I was a part of the force that secured independence for Belize on September 21, 1981, and one year later, partly because some of my previous year’s experience took to me to parts of the Belize/Guatemala jungle not fully explored, I then helped escort an expedition for National Geographic to film “The Tropical Kingdom.” Coming full circle then seemed not only auspicious but given that so much of the biodiversity of Belize has not yet been discovered, let alone documented, commencing plans to build my new home there, and then both marine and rainforest tropical research stations, is only just the beginning.

It seems fitting then that after a few years of maintaining blogs devoted to some of my various projects: greenroofs, science education, urban farms, and conservation gardens, that as the one constant throughout all of these adventures, I should start to document why I do what I do.

In 1985 Stephen Jay Gould pubished his fourth volume of essays titled “The Flamingo’s Smile” in which he both explores the fascinating details and evolutionary history of biological oddities such as the inverted jelly Cassiopea, the panda’s “thumb”, and the inverted jaw of the flamingo, as well as showcasing fundamentally important biological principles. “Scientists don’t immerse themselves in particulars only for the grandiose (or self-serving) reason that such studies may lead to important generalities. We do it for fun. The pure joy of discovery transcends import.” Such is the inspiration for the title of this blog- the wanderings of an extreme biophiliac, and the confessions of my own pure joy of discovery in the natural world.

Welcome to The Flamingo’s Smile.

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