Saving the Planet One Story at a Time
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About 'Cape May Warbler and Balsam’?

The picture “Cape May Warbler and Balsam” is part of Robert Bateman’s pamphlet “Hope and Wild Apples: Making Choices for a Life in Nature”. In this painting, there is a close-up view of a small yellow bird perched on the very top of a Balsam Fir. It is a metaphorical representation of one of the great conundrums we are facing as human beings – the bedeviling of nature with interventions that make little or no sense.

This beautiful little scene symbolizes one of Green Hero Robert Bateman’s key concerns about what is happening in the natural world and the destructive role humans are playing. In the pamphlet he explains, “These (Balsam) trees grow in conjunction with spruce trees in the Boreal Forest. Balsams grow very quickly and are of a very low value as a commercial product. Spruce is of a very high value.” So, to try and save the more valuable spruce trees from the threat of spruce budworm, humans have been conducting intensive poisonous chemical spray programs targeting infected spruce trees, as they are a profitable harvest.

This approach, according to Bateman, has only encouraged the fast-growing Balsam Fir even more because, ironically, the spruce budworm actually prefers the Balsam Fir. So, chemical spraying of spruce trees has had a counter-productive effect. Even worse is the fact that chemical spraying is killing countless beneficial insects, fish and birds.

And so, the Warbler in Bateman’s painting is significantly perched on the ubiquitous Balsam Fir, anticipating the return of balance to nature. The Balsam and the Warbler are defenders of the healthy Boreal Forest and symbolize the idea that time and patience heals everything.