Editor’s  note: This posting was authored by Pat Ford. Many years  ago, Pat served as the executive director of ICL. Most recently, he was  the executive director for Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition. Pat lives in  Boise, Idaho, and periodically contributes to the ICL blog.

In 2006, Paul Simon made a record he called Surprise. Water, in one form or another, is in the lyrics of each of its 11 songs. This does not have to be ferreted out. On the lyric sheet, the water words in each song are in bold type-water, river, flood water, clouds, frost, pond, rain, drop, tear drop, crying, pool, storm, mist, ocean and sea.

I always wonder when I play Surprise if he discovered this thread after recording the songs, or during, or somehow had it in mind from the start. Or if someone else saw the thread and suggested putting a little spotlight on it.

It may be apropos that Simon recently said the book which most affected him in 2016 is Edward O. Wilson’s Half-Earth. It is a great book that makes the case for leaving half of our planet in natural condition or nearly so. I picture him reading it in New York City, looking down on Central Park, words and music percolating within.

Paul Simon is an ecologically minded songwriter, but not in any simple way. His record Rhythm of the Saints may best exemplify it. He doesn’t write songs about conservation causes or cases, or "the environment." Often his songs don’t have any one subject, but are made from threads that he bundles musically and verbally. One thread is animals, rivers, forests, coasts, skies, waters, native spirits. Africa and South America are often the said or hinted locations. The thread slides into a song and then out. It may come back or may not. The tone may be ironic, foreboding or joyful, mysterious or everyday, suggestive more than declaratory. On the slide through, it dances with his other themes: human love in many forms, city life, time and the sacred, music, a few others. He’s pretty good at how he sets them dancing.

Keeping half the earth wild or nearly so will take vision, science, law, urgent action, just relations and popular assent. It may also take some dancing.