Social Media Today and Then
I’m a kid and I know that social media can take societal issues we care about and make them go viral in real time. But in 1977, way before the internet or even personal computers, when my grandfather Rocco Ferran was a resident in Albany New York and active to help secure the Pine Bush for future generations, like me, social media was, well, slower and had far less reach. From my research, social media in the 1970’s meant taking out an ad in the newspaper (what’s that?), seeing a news item on the evening tv (no replay!), or chatting with a neighbor (does anyone even know their neighbor anymore?). While the systems of social media have changed, what is similar is that like today, it sometimes takes a bold, creative, and innovative way to get people to pay attention and inspire people to act. My grandfather, who passed before I was born, did something I think was ingenious even for today’s standard.
Wanted Dead or Alive – Karner Blues
In August 1978, a Rensselaer newspaper classified ad read: “Karner Blue butterflies wanted”, $1 each. The ad was posted in a local weekly circulation that was read by residents who picked up the paper at the grocery store or gas station.
When the ad came out, most of the general public did not know what a Karner Blue was, where it was, or even that it existed! But this ad made readers want to know more… especially since they could potentially make money for turning one in! It also got the attention of EnCon Enforcement because the Karner Blue was on the state’s endangered species list making it illegal to transfer, offer for sale, or possess the insect.
Shortly after the ad was discovered by local news who began reports on the plight of the Karner Blue butterfly, what was being hunted now by the press was not the butterfly, but the person who wrote the ad! My grandfather eventually came forward publicly about his “Save the Pine Bush Campaign”, the objective of his ad. His goal specifically was to:
- bring awareness that there was no law preventing the destruction of the butterfly’s habitat.
- To make people care to protect it.
It worked!!! The news interviewed Rocco who said “the state would do nothing against a bulldozer which could kill thousands of butterflies, because the law does not prohibit destruction of the Karner Blue’s habitat by developers.”
News of the bounty ad went viral,then went away eventually, like all social media sensationalization stunts eventually do then and now, but thankfully, his efforts to protect the Pine Bush did not. Today the Karner Blue and the Pine Bush have lots of friends.
I am so glad we found a box of Rocco’s records and I was able to learn more about him and the Pine Bush. Even though I never met him, my grandfather taught me that one person can make a difference.
A later article confirmed that grandfather never received a single butterfly in the mail, nor accolades for his effort, but that was never the point- he was thinking to help save the butterflies habitat for the future generations. I am glad The Pine Bush is still around for me and my sister, who will now be a third generation protector of the butterflies.
In August 2022, Oliva and Rebecca along with their mother Laura, known as the “The Rose Girls”, are planning to host the 2nd Annual Pollinator Day Celebration, to be held in SEBS, the South End Butterfly Sanctuary, a new urban garden and eco-hub located in downtown Albany, New York. This event is in honor of their grandmother and grandfather’s legacy of saving the butterflies in the Pine Bush and a free community event to bring urban kids closer to nature.