Contemplating Conservation & Clyde Butcher at the Clearwater Main Library

Written by Harriet Monzon-Aguirre | May 2022

William and Thomas viewing LOOSESCREW GATOR © 1996 by Clyde Butcher

Madeline viewing LOXAHATCHEE WILDLIFE REFUGE 1 © 1999 by Clyde Butcher.

Various friends recommended that I see the exhibition showing at the Clearwater Main Library, “America’s Everglades Through The Lens Of Clyde Butcher.” This exhibit piqued my interest for two reasons. The first was because earlier in the year I had the opportunity to see the showing of “Saving the Florida Wildlife Corridor”, so I wanted to share with my children how Clyde Butcher uses his art form, photography, in the conversation surrounding conservation. The second reason was to see what the Children’s Wing of the Library has to offer.

America’s Everglades Through The Lens of Clyde Butcher’ is impactful and stoic. Clyde encourages others to connect with the beauty of the Everglades and inspires us all to be good stewards of nature for future generations. One label that stood out to me was “The World is Round” meaning everything is connected and what we do in one area ripples out and affects others. The Everglades, a vast protected area at the base of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, should be appreciated on many levels. “On a global level, there are two to three million acres of plants taking in carbon dioxide. On a State level, the Everglades is a functional and essential part of our drinking water system…and on a Spiritual level, for the peace and tranquility of being out in nature.”

My son William kept referring to the scenery in the photos as “swamps''. Although he wasn’t wrong, the word for me didn’t sit right. It was almost like his choice in vocabulary didn’t do justice to the complexity of this special place. We learned from Clyde Butcher’s deep commitment to capturing and shedding light on the Everglades that there are multiple ecosystems interconnected: cypress swamps; pineland and hardwood hammocks; wet prairie and sawgrass marsh; mangrove swamps and coastal estuaries. The Everglades is a natural place like no other. What I really wanted to try to teach my children from taking them to Clyde Butcher’s exhibition is that when we make the choice to live in a place, we have a responsibility to learn as much as we can about the interwoven threads of fabric of life of said place, including the natural environment.

Tampa Bay, and Florida in general, has seen a huge influx in growth. Just outside the Library construction was underway for a multi-million dollar waterfront park - Imagine Clearwater. Progress and developmental change is good. As a relatively recent resident of Florida, I am benefitting from the investments. Yet I am reminded by Clyde Butcher and the Florida Wildlife Corridor conservation groups that we absolutely have to take care of our water and our wild spaces. We can restore the balance between urban development and wilderness if we truly listen to the stories of those who have more direct contact with these areas, and act now to conserve. Like the mangrove trees depicted in Clyde’s photos, I want to grow roots. Roots that stand tides. Roots that provide protection for tomorrow. When faced with the daunting challenge of protecting space, I ask what can I do? Be more like Clyde Butcher. Experience 'Real Florida' and share with others.

I really encourage everyone to visit Clyde Butcher’s exhibition before it closes on May 31st. His message is moving and important. If you are visiting the Clearwater Main Library with children, the second floor is a wonderful space. Where else can you find a boat amongst books overlooking the Clearwater Marina? We beat the approaching summer heat and learned through playing with puzzles, building blocks, play kitchens, and using our imaginations. I look forward to making the most out of the Maker Studios with my son over the summer.

William watching the documentary film of Clyde Butcher at work

William and Thomas playing in the children's wing

William, Madeline and Thomas enjoying puzzles at the Clearwater Main Library