By Tim Saunders on
The music of the Eagles is many things to many people, reminding some of their youth, and others of the canyons and deserts that make up the wild, untouched areas of America. And now fans have the chance to own a piece of music history, with the proceeds going to save the wide open areas the band’s songs represent.
Until December 31, the Eagles are offering hand-signed Takamine guitars to benefit the Walden Woods Project, an organization that is leading the fight to preserve a historic area of forest, generally regarded as being the birthplace of the American conservation movement.
The project was founded by Eagles drummer and six time Grammy winner, Don Henley, in 1990 to protect the Walden Woods area in Massachusetts from development. He spent much of his own money on buying tracts of land and making the area into a nature reserve. The area served as the inspiration for the writings of 19th Century philosopher, Henry David Thoreau, and also guided the creation of the US National Parks system. The project seeks to preserve the area, and also offers a variety of environmental programs for students and teachers. The organization recently launched an international initiative in which students from the US and abroad can take part in environmental discussions, and also mentors them in undertaking stewardship projects in their own communities.
“It has protected nearly 140 acres of land surrounding Walden Pond,” said Henley, referring to the project in Philanthropy Magazine. “About 65 percent of Walden Woods’ 2,680 acres is now permanently in conservation, but other historically significant and environmentally sensitive tracts are in urgent need of protection.”
The founding of the Walden Woods project led Henley to establish the Caddo Lake Institute in 1993, to underwrite ecological education and research around Caddo Lake, an area in north-east Texas, close to the Louisiana border. Caddo Lake, well known for its exceptional wildlife, fishing, and bird diversity, is one of the best examples in the southern US of a mature Bald Cypress forest, and the Institute aims to protect the area for all time from developers.
“Caddo Lake, like so many other ecosystems around the world, is in trouble. The health of Caddo’s intricate system of wetlands is in jeopardy. We, as humans, need to reformulate our definition of ‘community’ to include all of the natural world rather than just humankind. We need to focus on the small details in order to gain perspective on the bigger picture. Our natural resources, besides having enormous recreational and spiritual value, form the basis of our entire economy. The exploitation of those resources is key to our standard of living, but we’re not doing it wisely. We are using up our natural capital, especially water, faster than nature can replace it. This is why we emphasize the concept of sustainability at the Caddo Lake Institute.”
Henley says he first became an environmental activist in the 1970s, “That was part and parcel of being in a band back then. The activism of some of my peers, including Neil Young, Jackson Browne, and Bonnie Raitt, was a big influence on me.”
His first benefit concert was for the Chumash Indians, a tribe native to Southern California. Gradually, he became more involved in the environmental issues the tribe represented, and soon started to concentrate on other areas of concern. His first real effort at doing something active came in 1982 with the establishment of Mulholland Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the Santa Monica Mountains and foothills near Los Angeles. Since then he has been involved with a myriad of benefit concerts for the environment, often joining Sting and Billy Joel on stage.
“It’s about passion,” explained the singer. “Passion for building communities – at both the local and global levels. Nature is a part of my spiritual life. When I see nature, I see a divinity that sustains my heart and soul. Nature is a divine force in the universe.”
In 2000, Henley co-founded the Recording Artists Coalition with Sheryl Crow, to protect musicians’ rights against common music industry practices, and in this role testified before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary in 2001, and the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in 2003. In 2005, his wife, Sharon Summerall, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and the couple is now actively involved with organizations that assist with treatment for the disease.
In 2007, Henley was made MusiCares Person of the Year for his commitment to conservation, and raised over $85,000 for the charity by auctioning hand written lyrics to his songs, as well as other memorabilia from his career.
But the singer still wishes he could do more to save the natural heart of the country he loves.
“I have an abiding sense of awe and curiosity about the world – and I care deeply about the future of it,” he said. “I don’t put a lot of thought into whether or not I am a role model for other people’s actions. My parents taught me that if something needed doing, you get up and do it. I’ve had a great deal of help with the Walden Woods Project, not only from friends and colleagues, but from people I hardly know. I do not like to ask for help and I really have an aversion to asking for money. I wish I had the resources to do all that I want to do – to do everything that needs doing.”
The signed Eagles guitars are only available from www.samsclub.com for $2,500 each.
Copyright © 2007 Look to the Stars