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What a 40-foot Whale Taught Me About Respecting Our Planet

Yesterday morning began Shavuot, a Jewish festival of first fruits and a holiday that reinforces the value of social and environmental justice. For me it began as a typical holiday morning when the kids are off from school. We stayed in bed “a little” late, snuggled for awhile, ate breakfast and began preparing for our family to arrive and celebrate the day. I had no idea how significant this holiday would turn out to be.

In the midst of chopping salad, I heard helicopters overhead and paused for a moment. I didn’t have to wonder long. I received a call from my editor at Five Towns Patch (I write a column there based on the passion and commitment EcoOutfitters has for solar energy), asking if I could head to Atlantic Beach to check out reports of a deceased 40-foot whale that had washed ashore.

When I arrived, I was overwhelmed with an emotional mixture of amazement and sadness. It’s one thing to know whales exist and see them on a movie screen, but a gigantic 40-foot whale less than two feet in front of you really drives nature straight to your heart. I believe that seeing and smelling a whale from that perspective elevates all of your senses and makes your heart grow larger.

Which is why, after I had filed my reports for  Patch and was interviewed by Long Island Press, I contemplated bringing my children to the water’s edge. After much thought, I decided that this was a teaching opportunity — an experience for my son and daughter to truly comprehend the awesome power of nature with their own eyes.

My 7-year-old son Coby eloquently expressed what I had felt hours earlier upon first seeing the sight: “It made my heart crack open. The whale’s children and parents must be crying… but Mommy, I am happy that the whale is now in heaven and he or she can see everyone he loved that died.”

My 10-year-old daughter Danielle had a different perspective. “It’s very sad to see a mammal die. I really didn’t like seeing the blood in the water and the smell was awful. I hope I don’t have to see something like this again.”

I echo Danielle’s sentiment, but the experience got me thinking. It’s amazing to note that finback whales are common and live just off our shores. Yet how often do we even consider the thought of sharing the water with such large creatures as we boogey-board and splash around in the waves all summer long? Amidst our activities, they are there.

It made me stop and realize: We coexist with extraordinary mammals but somehow we have trouble coexisting amongst ourselves. Why?

Life happens, and so does death, whether you’re 5-feet-something-inches tall or 40 feet. We rarely get a chance to witness such sights as the one my children and I saw today. Though it was heart-wrenching, seeing the enormity of life (and of death) makes one really appreciate our planet and the amazing creatures that inhabit it… big and small.

Later in the day, we sat around the dinner table out on the deck surrounded by family discussing our morning’s experience and the holiday.  Shavuot focuses on first fruits, newly harvested grain and is basically about honoring “the land”. As I looked up into the glaring sun and saw the solar panels on my roof, I felt a sense of pride. We must make the effort, go the extra mile, and respect our intriguing planet in every way possible. Life is too large and too precious to take for granted. While we can’t stop the circle of life, there are plenty of ways to take control and keep our environment clean for all walks (and swims) of life to stay healthy.

Happy sun shining day to all!


Post Written by
For Raina Brett Russo, taking care of the environment is a necessity, not an option. Having grown up in Israel, a place where conservation is required and solar hot water heating is the norm, Raina knows the importance of solar energy. Through her work with the EcoOutfitters.net team, Raina found a way to help grow the solar industry in a significant way. As the founder and host of #SolarChat, a bi-monthly "gathering" on Twitter, Raina and her team have created an engaged solar think-tank community that comes together regularly for collaboration and networking with the ultimate goal in mind of spreading the solar message.


  1. Tara Hutchinson says:

    Raina, I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing!!!

  2. Dawn Allcot says:

    Raina, A beautiful, heartfelt post. That must have been something to see! I’ll look for your interview in Long Island Press, too. Very cool!