Georgia’s 400,000 acres of coastal salt marshes, like this one off Sapelo Island, help protect the mainland from storms at sea, filter out pollutants and provide nurseries for 80 percent of our commercial seafood: oysters, shrimp, blue crabs, finfish and others. PHOTO CREDIT: Charles Seabrook

A proud tree hugger gives thanks

On Thanksgiving Day, we will pause to give thanks for the goodness of life. I’m thankful, of course, for family, friends and decent health, but as an unabashed tree hugger, I‘m especially grateful for:

• Georgia’s great natural diversity: botanically rich mountain coves, old fields, sand hills, swamps, tidal creeks, sandy beaches, pitcher plant bogs, limestone caverns, bottomland hardwood forests, montane oak forests, longleaf pine/wiregrass forests, maritime forests, rock outcrops, lichen covered rocks, roaring mountain streams and on and on.

• Georgia’s great rivers: Chattahoochee, Altamaha, Oconee, Ocmulgee, Satilla, Savannah, Ogeechee, Flint, Suwanee, St. Marys and others.

• Our barrier islands, which recently were designated an important habitat for shorebirds by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.

• Our state’s 400,000 acres of coastal salt marshes, which stretch for miles to the horizon and protect the mainland from storms at sea, filter out pollutants and serve as nurseries for countess numbers of shrimp, blue crabs, oysters, finfish and other marine life.

• Our mountains, whose natural splendor uplifts the human spirit and whose forests are the sources of our drinking water.

• For all of Georgia’s native flora and fauna — 3,600 species of vascular plants (including 215 tree species); 407 bird species that live in the state at least part of the year; 79 species of snakes, turtles and other reptiles; 51 salamander species and 31 frog species; and numerous other creatures. They all serve a purpose and deserve a right to live.

• The beauty of the seasons, spring, summer, fall and winter, and the changes they bring.

• The “birds that sing” and a “world so sweet.” As children, many of us were taught to express our thanks for these natural gifts in a simple prayer. Why, then, as adults, do we stand for our air, water and soil to become sullied?

• The Thanksgiving turkey.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon is new today. Mercury is low in the west just after dusk. Venus and Mars are low, and Jupiter is very low, in the east just before dawn. Saturn is very low in the southwest just after dark and sets shortly thereafter; it will appear near the moon on Monday night.