Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tribute to Steve Irwin.

By now, everyone knows about Steve Irwin's death. Leigh-Anne over at the Blogpound wrote of a lot of negativity around Irwin, and I thought I'd post this article published yesterday in the New York Times.
It's the nicest tribute to his life that I have read.


Published: September 6, 2006
When I heard that Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, had been killed by a stingray in Australia on Monday, my heart went out to a friend, a 6-year-old boy named Sean who considered Mr. Irwin’s the definitive example of a life well lived.

It was a life of strenuous exertion, of mud and blood and the tireless pursuit of muscular creatures with jaws, claws and the ability to eat you up. My young friend concocts his version with crayons, Legos and pointed sticks, and acts it out in the fevered jungle of his imagination. Mr. Irwin went after actual creatures, including crocodiles, vipers and, tragically, the ray that pierced his chest.

They weren’t that different. Mr. Irwin, with the thick Aussie accent and khaki outfit that mean “explorer” in any language, tromped around subduing dangerous animals and spouting exclamations like “She’s a beauty!” and “Crikey!” He was 44 going on 6, and lived, like Sean, in a world of fun and excitement that seems a lot richer than most people’s.

It was easy to parody Mr. Irwin’s boisterous shtick, and many people did. It is easy, too, to shake our heads at the relentless peddling of nature as TV entertainment, and to lament that the only animals people ever bother thinking about are either fuzzy-cute or man-eating. It is all too obvious that Mr. Irwin was no biologist, that exploring the world on cable TV is a lot different from actually plunging into it, that wild animals really are dangerous, and blah blah blah.

But there are far worse ways to view the natural world than through the eyes of a young child, and Mr. Irwin offered a far more temperate version of the classic 6-year-old-boy approach, which is to confront a wild animal, marvel at its strength and ferocity, and then try to hit it with a rock. For Mr. Irwin, wild nature was something to wonder at, and he did so with an enthusiasm indistinguishable from love. Animals — even deadly ones — are good, poachers are evil, and, crikey, that’s pretty much it.

Call that simple-minded, call it dumb, but it resonates. Future environmentalists and conservationists have to come from somewhere, and if the energetic wonderment of the Crocodile Hunter has seeped into the brains of significant numbers of children — as it did that of Sean, who went trick-or-treating as Mr. Irwin last year, who turned 6 with a crocodile cake, who wears khaki and boots and fills notebooks with meticulous drawings of reptiles — then Mr. Irwin used his 44 years remarkably well.


Anonymous Great Dane Addict said...

That made me cry.

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Leigh-Ann said...

That was wonderful -- I really appreciate you posting it :)

3:48 PM  
Anonymous jan said...

A remarkable man who will leave a great legacy to the world of animals.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Tabor said...

He wasn't perfect, but he wasn't a bad guy either. His childlike enthusiasm unfortunately got the better of him.

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Mudpuppy said...

His childlike enthusiasm unfortunately got the better of him

I'm going to respectfully argue this, simply because police accounts say Steve Irwin wasn't near the stingray who killed him, wasn't touching it, hadn't touched it, wasn't attempting to touch it, etc. He was just snorkling with the stingrays, as I've done in the Cayman Islands, and a very large ray was startled by something, snapped its tail, and happened to strike him as it swam away. I think he was at least three feet away from the ray that hit him. I've seen a few episodes of his TV show and I've often thought that he was a bit too close to some wild critters for comfort, but from all official police accounts, he didn't do anything "Steve Irwin-ish" in this situation.

I don't know why I think the fact is important, except that general opinion seems to be blaming him for his death, and I don't think that's what happened.

10:46 PM  
Blogger yellowdog granny said...

i don't think it matters what growdups's the kids that are so important and they loved and will miss him..that's all that is important..we as growdups need to remember that..

4:47 PM  
Blogger Carina said...

Granny - you're right.

I haven't followed the news accounts THAT closely but as I understand he was swimming above the ray and it arched up and got him, rather a freak accident. I've swum around rays too and it didn't occur to me I needed to be careful, except I knew of course that handling one would be a bad idea.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Behind Blue Eyes said...

I don't know if you will see this one or not. I feel so sorry for his children. Can you imagine how much a larger than life figure he must have appeared to his children and how they might feel about this? Of course, children of celebrities always have the privelege of being able to watch their parents showsover and over. How sad that must be, like you have them and you don't at the same time. Then eventually in some cases, you grow older than your parent. But I guess it is better than the nothing that other kids have, huh!

9:52 AM  
Blogger Carina said...

Interesting take on it Diana - well, I imagine being the child of any celebrity has its disadvantages. In a weird sense, anyone often in the public eye becomes public property, which would shift the family dynamic...

7:46 AM  

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