Announcing . . . 2007’s Natural Patriot of the Year!

fireworks_green.jpgLadies and Gentlemen, Happy Independence Day!  On this august (small “a”) occasion, when we in the USA celebrate Patriotism and our nation’s birth, it is my great honor to present to you 2007’s Natural Patriot of the Year, selected via a rigorous review process from a large number (OK, seven) of worthy nominations.  It was, honestly, a difficult decision.  Even with a relatively modest slate of candidates, there was ample evidence of the sort of heartfelt, often quiet dedication to, and love for, our natural heritage and its sustenance of people and society that are hallmarks of the Natural Patriot

Nevertheless, our job is to make a selection.  Therefore (May I have the envelope please?), . . . I am pleased to announce that the 2007 Natural Patriot of the Year is:

Mr. Dick Dawson, high school science teacher of Overland Park, Kansas

This nomination comes to us from Dr. Amy Shields, recently of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, now at the US Environmental Protection Agency in Kansas.  In her own words:

“My nominee may not be the most famous man in the world but as a teacher his guidance and drive to make the world a better place bred hundreds of future Natural Patriots and gave a generation of Kansas school kids (especially those who didn’t fit in quite well!) a voice to stand up to the stereotype of a Kansas education.

dick_dawson_and_wife_green_roof.jpgI would like to nominate Mr. Dick Dawson, my high school science teacher, who bravely taught classes such as World Futuristics and mentioned names such as Aldo Leopold in an Overland Park, Kansas classroom. He not only inspired generations of future kansas scientists (who were made to feel like words such as evolution and the population bomb were bad words!), but recently was the first resident of Kansas City to get a green roof. On a limited income, he and his wife put their money where their mouth was and paid over 5000 for a roof that would be an example to the whole community.

Mr. Dawson was not only a science teacher but a founding secretary/editor of the Missouri Prairie Foundation, president of Burroughs Audubon, a founder of Lakeside Nature Center, 18-year director of the Camp Hope environmental science resident camp, active member of KC Wildlands, and recipient of the “Plastic Deer Award” (Conservation Educator of the Year). [See here and here].

All of these things alone make him a Natural Patriot. But even if he is not the winner, he gave me motivation and hope with a book that he gave me as a high school student, The Earth Speaks, with an inscription in it,  made me realize I could make a difference no matter how small the action is/was. Don’t we all want to be that person who someone remembers after 10 years? Who is such an inspiration to someone that they sit at their desk rereading a book and feeling like their whole life of fighting for conservation of our environment is ahead of them? We could all learn from his example. Excerpt from The Earth Speaks

Have you listened to the Earth? Yes, the earth speaks,  but only to those who hear with their hearts

Congratulations, Mr. Dawson — well done!  Now then, as all of the candidates are worthy individuals, I believe that they all deserve recognition.  And I can do no better than to repeat the words of the nominators in their entirety.  So here they are, in alphabetical order:


Jane Duffy of Arlington, Virginia


(Nominated by Ann Duffy, also of Arlington)


“I would like to nominate Jane Duffy for the NATURAL PATRIOT OF THE YEAR award.  Though her green habits have not undergone exceptional changes over the past year, her understated but constant environmentalism, mainly in how she runs her household, has influenced me over the course of my life with an accumulating influence. Her simple, daily practices deserve consideration as her enduring example can demonstrate how any of us can practice green living.  She has recycled plastic, aluminum, and glass for as long as I can remember, and she has always conserved electricity within the home through mindful use of lights and water, and through judicious use of heat and air conditioning.  She has undertaken a household composting regimen, which, ultimately, returns her kitchen food scraps to the earth in the form of nutrient-rich soil.  She also drives a hybrid vehicle, recycles clothing and other useful items by regularly donating to charitable organizations, and, generally, approaches domestic management with an emphasis on conservation. Additionally, she is an avid gardener and has a naturalist’s appreciation for all things leafy, green, and flowering.

I feel that, although her nomination may be in question due to her relationship with the nominating committee, she remains a worthy candidate due to her longstanding example of Natural Patriotism as she continues to walk gently upon this earth. Thanks for your consideration.”


[Editor’s note:  We salute you, Mom!]


Sally Irvin of Mobile, AL 


(Nominated by Ward Faulk, also of Mobile, my one-time home)


“I nominate Sally Irvin of Mobile, AL for her hardworking recycling push by setting an example wherever she is. She is very much of a modern southern lady who leads with charm and itellectual persuasion. Raising 4 children in cloth diapers, has been recycling before it was heard of in the south.  I can get a pic but she has been in the local paper many times on this issue and others.”



Wangari Maathai of Kenya 

wangari_maathai.jpg(Nominated by Deborah Beisel

“Wangari Maathai. She is founder of the Green Belt Movement and continues to work for environmental and human causes in her country and the world.”

[Editor’s note: Ms. Maathai is a premier Natural Patriot and one of he first people that came to mind in starting this contest.  Since she has won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, I thought we would give someone else a crack at the Natural Patriot of the Year award.]


Frank Moore of the North Umpqua River

frank_moore.jpg(Nominated by Mark Powell of blogfish and the Ocean Conservancy):

Frank Moore, a man in the mold of Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold, called to greatness by what was happening around him.  This would be a lifetime achievement award since much of what he did wasn’t in the last year, I think he’s about 85 years old.”  [See Mark’s eloquent tribute to Mr. Moore at blogfish.]


Will Steger of “Global Warming 101

will_steger.jpg(Nominated by Deborah Beisel

“First, Will Steger. He recently made a trek to the Baffin Islands to document the effect of global warming on the Inuit people. He did this with relatively little fanfare except the links he made for teachers to use in their classrooms so they could follow his journey. He also live what he teaches. His website is”


For all of you who wanted to get in on the action but didn’t quite get around to submitting your nomination, not to worry — there’s always next year! 


About Emmett Duffy

I am a Natural Patriot and an ecologist with expertise in biodiversity and its importance to human society. My day job is Professor of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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2 Responses to Announcing . . . 2007’s Natural Patriot of the Year!

  1. Sally says:

    So when DO nominations open for 2008?? And do you have a “deceased” but neglected category? Can’t wait…

  2. Emmett Duffy says:

    Thanks for asking Sally! I’ve just started thinking about this myself. I need to update the Natural Patriot’s rigorous criteria and screening process (?!). Your comment reminds me that I need to get on it. Stand by for details . . .