I think of the children who will never know, intuitively, that a flower is a plant’s way of making love, or what silence sounds like, or that trees breathe out what we breathe in.
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Michael Shapiro has been entranced by ocean life ever since watching Jacques Cousteau specials in the 1970s. He is the author of A Sense of Place, a collection of interviews with the world’s leading travel writers.
We have measured a sharp decrease in oxygen in the ocean over the last fifty years. If the ocean has less oxygen, then less is going into the atmosphere as well. I don’t want to mess around with my oxygen-generating system. Ask any astronaut how important your oxygen-generating system is. Shouldn’t this be the highest priority of every man, woman, and child — to be able to breathe?
I’m known as an oral historian, but I still consider myself a disc jockey. I’d play all these records: Andrés Segovia, followed by Ravi Shankar, then Dizzy Gillespie. And I’d interview musicians. Andrés Segovia told me this story: There was an audience of five thousand in Ann Arbor to hear him, one old man — I call him “old”; I’m ninety-three, and he was eighty at the time — with a guitar, a classical guitar, delicate, and they leaned over listening as he played a Bach transcription. After the performance, one of his admirers came up to him and said, “It was wonderful, but you play so softly. I had to lean forward and listen so hard.” “You know what I did next time?” Segovia said to me. “I played even more softly, so that he listened even more.”
I’ve become acutely aware of the political danger the country is in. The champions of material wealth, the acolytes of technology, and the religious extremists are so loud, so bellicose, so uncompromising. Who will rein them in? Who’s not afraid to criticize their notions of “progress”?