Jane Alexander: Actress, Author, Activist -June 2018

by: Joshua H. Balling

They are some of her earliest memories. Jane Alexander couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3 when her family first started spending summers on Nantucket in the early 1940s. Her father was a surgeon, serving overseas in World War II.

The Tony-winning actress, former head of the National Endowment for the Arts and ardent conservationist remembers playing with sea cucumbers in the tidal pools at Jetties Beach.

Jane Alexander in the Bahamas during a count of piping plovers and other shorebirds with the Bahamas National Trust and Audubon.

“Mom was never squeamish about anything in nature. When I was older, I remember seeing nurse sharks around us in the water, and mom never panicked. She would let spiders crawl on her. It was quite amazing. I think Nantucket is where it started, my love of nature, and my commitment to conservation and wildlife,” Alexander said. Her new book, “Wild Things, Wild Places,” offers a first-hand look at what is being done to protect the planet’s most at-risk animals, and the scientists, activists and conservationists doing the work.

She’ll discuss it with former CNN producer Michael Schulder June 15 at the Nantucket Atheneum during this year’s Nantucket Book Festival.

“Recognizing the need to protect animals began probably in the 1970s, when I started birding a lot. The ornithologists and field biologists I write about in the book, they were moving more from pure research to conservation, and I realized that the planet was in trouble and animals were losing habitat. Now we are in real trouble, particularly with the larger mammals, with the insectivores. The birds and creatures relying on insects are declining at a rapid rate,” said Alexander, who built her own cottage at Surfside, but left the island for Nova Scotia more than 20 years ago.

“I hope that the people who read the book who don’t have the privilege of going out in the world like I do, realize their own back yard is pretty exciting, too, that maybe they will plant things that are good for animal, bird and insect life. I don’t think it’s a hard sell. People love animals. You just have to make a connection for people that their own back yards are equally important.”

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