• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Even a Flea

Air Date: Week of

Commentator Virginia Shepherd reflects on her earlier environmental education which would suggest she'd value all biodiversity: even fleas. Ms. Shepherd is a writer who lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She comes to us via member station W-M-R-A.


SHEPHERD: Every night I find myself sitting on the floor, picking fleas off my dog, and exterminating each one by slow, soapy, death. I have no love for fleas.

CURWOOD: Commentator Virginia Shepherd.

SHEPHERD: As the dominant species on the planet, we love to play judge, jury, and 'executioner.' We decide whether or not an organism, be it flea, rattlesnake, or spotted owl, has the right to survive. But should we judge? Once, while I was on a biology trip in the Florida Keys, a young naturalist, calling himself "Cosmos X," introduced my 65-year-old biology professor to, "a tarantula." Miss Sprague nodded her gray head approvingly, as Cosmos X detailed his lady spider's natural history. Later, Miss Sprague pondered the oddness of the young man's "name," but never did she question his close association with 'an arachnid.' For Miss Sprague, nothing in the natural world was to be judged. All species shared in her affections equally. Most of us are not so generous. We squash a few bugs, drown a couple hundred fleas, and mash a few uninvited crickets. We only really get ourselves when we start believing in our 'most omnipotent' selves. We think we can live as richly and well without some species, when, really, we need them all. Every spring, Miss Sprague marched her students into the woods to gaze upon skunk cabbage and cardinal flower. Wearing stockings and sandals, and always a dress, she would bend over and peer into the underbrush. "How satisfactory!" she would exclaim. We'd seen them all the spring before, but it was as if with each rediscovery, Miss Sprague satisfied herself that all was right with the world again. Where there was life, there was still hope. That's what's missing, you know. We're short on hope, because we found we're not so good at tinkering with this old world after all. Perhaps we should sit back, and learn to marvel at our world, instead. But it's not going to be easy. I, for one, am not at all sure I can, "Marvel at a flea!?" Oh, Miss Sprague, you've got to be kidding!

CURWOOD: Commentator Virginia Shepherd is a writer who lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She comes to us via member station W-M- R-A.



Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth