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Posts Tagged ‘park ranger’

Photo: Shaniqwa Jarvis/Glamour.
Betty Reid Soskin works at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif. Soskin is the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service.

In a fascinating September article at the Washington Post, Sydney Page interviewed a no-nonsense park ranger who was in her 80s when she heard a call to improve on the way US history is told. Here’s her story.

“When asked how it feels to be 100 years old, Betty Reid Soskin [said]: ‘The same way I felt at 99.’

“But she’s not just any centenarian: Soskin is the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service. …

“When it comes to sharing her story, Soskin is not shy. As a park ranger at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, she spends her days recounting her rich and complicated history, in the hope that her firsthand account will resonate with people, and encourage them to share their own stories.

“ ‘I think everyone’s story is very important. There is so much diversity,’ Soskin said. ‘It’s in that mix that the great secret of a democracy exists.’

“It wasn’t until 21 years ago, though, that Soskin truly started telling her own tale — and it happened by coincidence. While working as a field representative for a California assemblyman, Soskin attended a meeting with planners from the National Park Service.

“They were organizing the development of the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park, created in 2000 to honor Americans on the home front, who worked in various industries across the country to bolster the war effort.

“The park paid homage to Rosie the Riveter, a pop-culture icon, symbolizing civilian women who worked in shipyards and factories — assuming the vacated jobs of men — during the war. But the depiction of a red-bandana-wearing White woman didn’t speak to Soskin’s own experience on the home front as a Black woman in segregated America, she said. During the war, Soskin worked as a file clerk in a segregated union, Boilermakers Auxiliary 36.

“ ‘Black women were not freed or emancipated in the workforce,’ she said in a 2015 interview with the Washington Post. ‘Unions were not racially integrated and wouldn’t be for a decade. They created auxiliaries that all Blacks were dumped into. We paid dues but didn’t have power or votes.’

Sitting in that meeting with the National Park Service planners as the only Black person in the room, she realized something: ‘The history, as I had lived it, was nowhere in sight — not one minute of it.

“Soskin decided to change that. She became a consultant to the park in 2003, and a park ranger in 2007 at the age of 85. Sharing her story with as many people as possible, she decided, was her way of reclaiming her history, and that of countless others whose tales have gone untold.

“She’s become known for saying: ‘What gets remembered is determined by who is in the room doing the remembering.’ So she made it her mission to stay in the proverbial room — which, in her case, was in the park’s visitor center. …

“Tom Leatherman, the park’s superintendent, said Soskin has had a profound impact on the park.

“ ‘She has been fundamental to us being able to tell a more complete story,’ he explained. … Soskin has propelled the park, Leatherman added, to seek other stories of people who have been marginalized and ensure that they are heard — including voices that are Latinx, Native American, Japanese American and LGBTQ. …

“The content of her presentations is dictated, in large part, by what visitors want to know. Often Soskin speaks of her upbringing in a tightknit Cajun-Creole family and her experiences with racial discrimination growing up in Oakland, Calif. …

“Over the years, Soskin — who has four children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild — wore many hats: mother, musician, civil rights activist, antiwar advocate and finally, park ranger. Her most recent role is what pushed her into the national spotlight.

“Just like that, ‘someone dropped a uniform on the life that I was already leading,’ Soskin said. … Wearing it, she said, feels right.

“ ‘Little girls that see me in uniform see possibility. They have a feeling there’s an option open to them that they wouldn’t have known otherwise,’ she said. …

“Since becoming a ranger, Soskin was awarded the Silver Service Medallion by the National WWII Museum; she was presented with a commemorative coin from President Barack Obama; and she has written a memoir called ‘Sign My Name to Freedom,‘ which is being made into a documentary. …

“Her most recent accolade came just in time for her 100th birthday: A middle school was renamed after her.

“ ‘I didn’t know that would mean so much, except that it does, because I think that it means that I will go forward into history along with all the other people,’ she paused to wipe a tear, ‘who have tried to make a difference.’ ”

More at the Post, here. You might also like the 2018 article about Soskin at Glamour, here.

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Here’s a use for drones that pretty much everyone but a poacher could celebrate. I got the story from Living on Earth.

“Poaching is a threat to the survival of rhinos worldwide, and anti-poaching efforts have always been one step behind. Now, park rangers in South Africa have a leg up. John Petersen from the Air Shepherd program tells host Steve Curwood how the power of predictive analytics combined with drone technology could help to rescue the rhinos. …

“Curwood: The Air Shepherd uses military-style computer analytics to identify poaching hot spots, and then sends silent drones equipped with night vision to track down poachers, who like to work after dark, when people can’t see them. …

“Petersen: Some of these game parks are the size of Connecticut. And if you’ve got a little model airplane and you’re trying to figure out where to fly that airplane in that size of a piece of land, and you don’t have any idea about particularly where to fly, then you’re wasting your time. That’s where the experience of the University of Maryland comes into play, because they have developed a predictive analytic tool to tell us on a daily basis where the animals are likely to be and where the poachers are likely to be. …

“You build databases that have all of the topography of the land that you’re looking at. It has all the historical information about where poaching has happened in the past, so that you get patterns on where they happened. You figure out the time of the day and the time of the year, and whether it was wet and what the weather was like, and whether there were waterholes close by, and whether there was a full moon, and how close to roads they were, and other such things. And the combination of all of this allows you to say with a high degree of confidence that, tonight, you should fly your aircraft over the top — you’re going to know that this is where the poachers will come if they come tonight. …

“You can alert the rangers, because they’re positioned close by. They can get there in a hurry and they can capture the person and arrest them before they have a chance to kill the animal.”

More at Living on Earth.

This is clearly a tool in the tool box. But attacking the demand is going to be just as important. Especially since, according to Curwood,  “traditional Asian doctors believe that rhino horns have curative power, and market demand has driven some rhino species to the edge of extinction.”

Photo: Michael Romondo
Staff members of South Africa-based UAV & Drone Solutions hold one of their drones. UAV supplies the drones and the ground crew for Air Shepherd.

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