A couple of weeks ago I scrolled through my 50 some emails of the day and was struck by one from Crowdrise. The subject line read “Have you saved an animal from extinction?” It was a 24 hour emergency campaign to save the Greater Bamboo Lemur in Madagascar. I glanced, saw there was video, and hit delete. The world is too big, I told myself, and I know too much already about the suffering of humans, animals and the planet itself. But the question has hung in my mind and led me to think about activism. How do we choose what to spend our time and energy on? How can we be most effective?
If I ask myself Have I saved an animal from extinction? the answer is obviously “no.” Would I like to? Of course. How should I choose among the thousands of animals that need saving? One from the World Wildlife Fund’s top ten? The one that is the closest to home, the most exotic, the cutest? Or, the one that appears in my inbox? What should I do to save it? Take a trip to Madagascar or Alaska or wherever? Send money? Watch the video and click “like,” instantly bombarding all my Facebook friends with the same problem?
It was this time of year, several years ago (thank God), the most perfect spring day, bright, clear, warm, peaceful.
All was right with the world, and Roberto and I had come back from the Farmers Market with flowers to plant. We walked into the back yard and found a good spot under a big pinon tree. One of the plastic pots of flowers I was holding slipped onto the ground with a small thud. I leaned down to pick it up, and as I did I heard movement in the tree above us. I looked up, anticipating a bird, maybe a cat, maybe a dead branch. Roberto looked up, too. In perfect unison we inhaled sharply.
“Oh my God!” he exhaled.
My first sounds were not intelligible. In the tree, moving horizontally, very fast was a huge, pink snake. It shot from one tree to the next, trying to escape my shrieks which had found words.
“It’s pink! It’s pink!” was all I could say. I was frozen, wailing, “It’s pink! It’s pink!”
The snake flew from limb to limb and finally landed on the ground a few yards away. By consensus, we later agreed, it had been at least 8 feet long, relatively thick, about 6 inches in diameter, and very, very pink, as pink as bubblegum. Back at the scene, it was now rising up off the ground four or five feet, like a cobra weaving and lunging at branches trying to escape.