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The Stars of our Posters are Real Stars

If you’ve been following along you might have noticed we call the animal subjects of our Centennial Series “stars” of the posters. It’s no secret that we see animals deserving equal fame as celebrities, after all they are often treated so by crowds snapping shots like paparazzi. Most people go to popular parks hoping to see wildlife and some will risk bodily harm to do so.

17th Centennial Poster featuring the beloved black bear.
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Can you see who inspired us? The Smokies are full of black bear foraging while we sleep, or climbing trees while we work.

We thought to unveil our latest Centennial Poster from the Smokies with some unseen photographs. These showcase a few animals who inspired us, yet they made me contemplate:

Wild animals are everywhere. In the parks, but also in our backyards. They are our neighbors, and they deserve a place in our society.

We depend on them in ways that far surpass mere existence as eye candy. Though we rarely give a backyard squirrel as much attention as a bear – after all we see them frequently – aren’t they also worthy of our admiration and praise?

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Squirrel at our campsite in Yellowstone, from June 2016.
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Mama bighorn sheep with her young, photographers admiring.
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Bighorn sheep in Badlands National Park, photographed in July 2016.
Another protective mighty mama.
Another protective mighty mama.

Next time you drive down the highway to and from work, notice the trees or fields on either side of you and remember something very important. There are stars in there. That’s not empty land. No, it’s full of critters who are busy churning the wheels of our ecosystem by eating, reproducing, and dying. They might not seem as interesting as the rarely spotted moose, but they’re there and significant too.

I remember thinking this as we pulled off to photograph the Wyoming sign out west. It felt like driving through nothing for miles and miles. Only it wasn’t. Stepping into that stillness, it was actually quite full of life. A birdsong cut through the air, her voice amplified like an opera star’s and carrying in waves over the miles of tall grassland.

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See the stars between the signs.
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Wide “empty” land out west, fields full of life.
This Smoky Mountain creek is full of life. Do you see the duck?
This Smoky Mountain creek is more than water and rocks. Do you see the duck?
Yes, she is there perched on a rock in the middle of the creek.
Yes, she is there perched on a rock in the middle of the creek.
Only a telephoto lens could reveal the details of this star, one of many we don't see every day.
Only a telephoto lens could reveal the details of this star, one of many we don’t see every day.
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These critters are also in the creek, though they aren’t furry, they do a lot for us. For one, they indicate the health of our waterways, and we all need clean water.

Imagine if we started treating other species more like stars. We’d treat them differently in the food industry, probably not eat them at all anymore, or at least not like this, and we’d think more carefully about the many practices behind society causing wildlife harm (habitat destruction, pollution, etc.).

I’m not trying to trick you with an environmentalist spiel or agenda, I don’t even consider myself an environmentalist. I’m also not a socialist, or a hippie. I’m simply a concerned citizen, witnessing wildlife portrayed so carefully by my partner Andres. There are other citizens in this land, not only human ones.

We’ve seen how movie stars are worshipped on TV, and it’s really got us thinking:

Where are our priorities as a society?

Shouldn’t we instead honor those who decompose things, clean water, pollinate plants, etc.? Those are the processes keeping you and me here, breathing at this moment. They are the true shakers and makers of society. They are the real stars.

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Posing in the natural spotlight, a prairie dog in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, from July 2016.

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