by Kate Frazer
Conservancy supporter Elizabeth Fischer traces her commitment to the environment back to two life-changing encounters — one with nature at its most lush and one with it at its most devastated.
Her first experience was as a child growing up in Scotland, where she spent days pressing flowers and exploring woods carpeted with hyacinth. The second was when she traveled to the United States with her husband Jack, a journalist reporting on New Deal programs during the Dust Bowl.
“Jack and I met in London while he was on a Rhodes scholarship,” says Fischer. “I returned to the States with him in 1936 when he was offered a job with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration. We got married and immediately set off to meet farmers. I’ll never forget the stifling clouds of dust and how the soil everywhere was worn out and eroding. We saw how the land had been ruined all the way to the Mississippi Delta, and how the people were therefore ruined.”
This direct experience with people’s dependence on nature took root for Fischer during those travels. “I was just getting to know this beautiful country at the same time I was witnessing its destruction,” she says. “Injustice really bothers me. And I wanted to make a difference.”
Today, she makes a difference for nature and people as one of The Nature Conservancy’s most loyal members — 101-year-old Fischer has been supporting the Conservancy’s work in Connecticut for more than 35 years.
She describes conservation as a means of restoring justice and draws parallels between New Deal programs that taught farmers to protect rivers and plant more diverse crops, and the Conservancy’s focus on finding more sustainable ways of living on the land.
“The Conservancy is repeating this today by teaching people to do better things: better farming and better fishing,” she says.
But while Fischer traces her passion for conservation to the earlier chapters in her life, she’s quick to point out that it was coming to live on Leetes Island in Long Island Sound that reignited it. Aside from discovering the island’s flora and fauna and sharing her knowledge of nature with others, she saw how protecting one piece of land can lead to much more.
Ultimately, it is the Conservancy’s commitment to local places, from the shores of Leetes Island to the grasslands of the Southern Plains, combined with a wide-lens view of how they fit into a bigger picture that inspires Fischer’s support.
“The wonderful thing about The Nature Conservancy is that everything they do is so logical and well thought out,” she says. “Their work is driven by science and great people. It’s amazing the waves that can come out from that.”August 05, 2011
Elizabeth Fischer’s poems and stories were recently collected and published by her daughters in the book Centennial Memoirs. Here is a lovely excerpt from one of Elizabeth’s’ poems:
I saw a house today I told my husband
And it will not leave my thoughts –
A yellow farmhouse above a quiet bay
They call it Joshua Point.
Could that be the house I saw a year ago
He wondered. Off the Thimbles a yellow house
In a meadow above a little bay. I remember
Thinking I would like to live there.
On a snowy February day the house was ours.
At dusk we lit a fire of cartons and old logs.
Across the marsh a giant moon rose
Flooding the snow with orange flames.
-- Excerpt from “the Yellow House,” a poem by Elizabeth Fischer
About the Author
Kate Frazer is a senior writer for The Nature Conservancy, based in Boston, MA.