The moment I had the idea of putting together the Mother Earth program, I knew I had to include one of the sets from Karen Tanaka’s Children of Light. This delightful work is comprised of over 20 short pieces, each one based on and inspired by a different animal on the endangered species list.
Karen Tanaka, who at a young age wanted to become a veterinarian, later was able to find a way to show her passion for animals by shedding light on threatened species through her music. Children of Light is organized into five sets and I’ve chosen to include the fifth and last set on the Mother Earth album. Following Northern Lights (the prelude piece to the set), the subsequent movements feature animals from North and South America: Galapagos Land Iguana, Marsupial Mole, Florida Panther, and Polar Bear.
Several criteria are evaluated to determine whether a population of animals should be included on the Endangered Species list, including whether the habitat of the species has been damaged or destroyed, and whether the species has been over-exploited by commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational uses. The good news is that once a population of animals are given the specification of “Endangered Species,” they receive a number of special federal protections and in numerous cases the protected species has been successfully rejuvenated. One of the more prominent success stories is the Bald Eagle. In the 1960s the number of breeding pairs dwindled from just 500 to under 400. Today, after years of concerted effort to aid the eagles’ recovery, we now have over 7,000 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states! Another success story is of the Florida Panther—one of the animals featured in Tanaka’s set. Although the Florida Panther’s comeback has not been quite as dramatic as that of the bald eagle (there are still fewer than 100 individuals in the species), its seemingly inevitable extinction seems to have been staved off. Undoubtedly there is still more work to be done for the Florida Panther as well as other threatened species.
So what can we do about it? For further reading about the issue, I recommend this article from the National Wildlife Federation. To find a list of animals that are currently on the Endangered Species List as well as an opportunity to donate, visit the site for the World Wildlife Fund.
Lastly, (and—I’m not going to lie—I really love this one!!) you can BUY CHOCOLATE to help support endangered species. Yep, you heard that right! Endangered Species Chocolate can be found in many mainstream retail stores such as Target, Whole Foods, and others. You can find a retailer near you or find an online retailer through this website.
I’m thrilled to help raise awareness for endangered species through playing these charming pieces by Karen Tanaka. I want the world that I pass along to my children and grandchildren to be as richly biodiverse as possible. The loss of species impacts more than just the individual animal populations and habitats directly surrounding that species--the changes often ricochet out to have prominent effects on the bigger picture due to food chain shifts, and changes in the environment.
And let's face it--a world with no polar bears in it would indeed be a sadder place.