Home-delivered food provides nourishment for body, spirit

Matt and Kelly Herrington are among a group of 23 Golden Eagle employees who deliver meals to seniors two days a week through Mobile Meals.

MICHELLE GARCIA-ESTRADA

The dust is starting to settle from the holidays, and volunteers with the Tucson Audubon Society want to remind everyone that a natural resource-friendly New Year's resolution is a gift that will give back for generations to come.

"Our resources are finite, and we have too many people in the world. If we are all going to live here and have children, we have to be more careful with the resources that we have," said Sandy Elers, chairwoman of the Tucson Audubon Society's third annual fundraiser, set for Jan. 18 at Loews Ventana Canyon.

The native Tucsonan is one of about 400 volunteers with the Tucson Audubon Society, whose mission is to improve the quality of the environment through education, conservation and recreation.

Since its inception in 1949, the nonprofit has focused on birds and other wildlife and been influential in the protection of areas such as Tucson Mountain Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Cabeza Prieta Game Range, Empire Ranch, Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve and Ironwood National Monument.

The organization's outreach includes the Institute of Desert Ecology, programs through local Girl and Boy Scouts, adult workshops, family institutes, a speaker's bureau, free birding field trips, two nature shops and the Tucson Audubon Mason Center, which is in its final stages of development on 20 acres in northwest Tucson.

Tucson Audubon Society Executive Director Paul Green expects the Mason Center, which features the first commercial composting toilet in Pima County and a solar-powered, straw-bale building, to become a hub of environmental education for the entire community.

"It is a reference point for people to see how they can live well without using many resources. The composting toilet uses no water, and the building is completely independent of fossil fuel. We want to inspire people - including young people - to explore options like this," Green said.

Green said partnerships such as Audubon's urban-naturalist program with Sunnyside Unified School District seek to target underserved youth and give them an appreciation of the environment.

"We are in a unique area of the world where we have an assemblage of plants and animals that are found nowhere else on Earth, and they are disappearing fast under the pressures of development," he said.

"We can only expect people to fight for those areas if they really understand and value them, and in order for us to value the world, people need to have a relationship with the natural world. Many children, especially those in underserved communities, don't get the opportunity to get outside in natural areas with people who can explain the plants and animals and the interactions between them," he said.

Enthusiasm for birding spans all generations, and no one is ever too young or too old to take up the hobby, which can be done anywhere. Elers said all that is needed is a pair of binoculars and a field guide.

"Young people just soak up the information, and when they get interested in birds, it often lasts forever. Education of older people is important because there are misconceptions about the environment and birds. If we can straighten those out and bring the joy of birding to new people . . . we help them understand the human impact on climate change, oceans, wildlife areas and wildlife.

"Without wildlife, we would have a miserable existence."

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net