1. What interaction with an animal and/or nature in your life has had the biggest impact on you?
I cannot restrict my reflections here to a single instance.
The most vivid pictorial memory from my very early childhood is from when I lived in
A second instance appears under #2 below.
A third comes from my fishing (mostly) and hunting (occasionally) with my father when we later lived in rural upstate
And a fourth comes from a week spent at a remote lake in the rugged Canadian Rockies during my teen years, quietly hiking, canoeing, fishing, observing the majestic mountains, waterfalls, and forests, and watching and listening in amazement during thunderstorms as lightning flashed, thunder crashed, and torrents cascaded off the steep cliffs into the choppy water of the usually mirror-still lake. What a wonderful reminder of the constant changeableness and resilience of God's creation!
2. Did you have a favorite place in the great outdoors during your childhood?
While living in rural upstate New York, when I wasn't in school I was almost constantly running, hiking, climbing trees, and stalking game--sometimes real but mostly imagined!--in the nearby wood and meadow. The tallest tree in the wood was a favorite of mine, and I frequently climbed to a natural "cradle" near its top and lay among the branches, swaying with the wind, listening to the birds, watching the beautiful clouds scudding across the sky, sometimes watching as daylight turned to dark and the moon and stars came out. Even in high winds, I enjoyed that spot. Down on the ground, I would gather many creatures--among them frogs, salamanders, mice, beetles and bugs of many kinds, sometimes snakes--for the menagerie I maintained at home. For me they were not just objects of study but even playmates. My many young buddies and I didn't think of this as an organized environmental field trip (It was anything but organized!); it was everyday life. But it instilled in me a love for God's beautiful, mysterious, intricate creation that has stayed with me all my life.
Now? Living now in south Florida, I enjoy the beaches, occasionally the Everglades, and, in the aftermath of a hurricane (in itself an absolutely awe-inspiring experience, though in the midst of it I'm grateful for the shelter my modern, post-Andrew-code house affords!) that leaves lights off and the sky less humid than usual, the brilliant, starry sky, so often barely visible because of suburban lights and high humidity or cloud cover. But my traveling to give lectures often takes me to other places where I can drink in more of the beauty of the creation--to Pikes Peak, in Colorado, or to the less dramatic but more lush mountains of rural southeastern Tennessee, or the Appalachians of the Carolinas and Tennessee and Virginia and West Virginia, or the Poconos or the lovely countryside of rural western Connecticut and Massachusetts. Whenever I can, on such trips, I make a point of walking nature trails, absorbing the vistas, or simply lying out on the grass and watching as the canopy of stars slowly passes overhead.
3. As a former zookeeper, I would love to know what your favorite animal is and why?
Well, years ago I would have said lions or tigers (particularly when, at a zoo, a tiny tiger cub walked between my 18-month-old daughter's legs and we got a marvelous picture of it), but my sixth child, a son, has for several years been a great fan of otters, reading everything he can get his hands on about them, and I think he's converted me!
4. What do you think is the greatest environmental challenge facing us now, and what do you think will be the greatest challenge in the future?
How interesting that you should ask this question at this time! I addressed that very question in the first of a series of "Mt. Nebo Papers" being produced by the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and the paper was released just last week, titled "What Is the Most Important Environmental Task Facing American Christians Today?" It can be read at http://www.theird.org/NETCOMMUNITY/Document.Doc?id=25. (Free and fast registration might be required before you can access it.) I will let you read the paper itself so that you understand why I think as I do on this question rather than just give you the quick answer.
5. If you could give one piece of advice regarding the environment and our natural resources, what would it be?
God has told us what we must do. What does He require of us, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8)?