There is so much beauty on the planet worth protecting, but sometimes such a large idea can seem abstract. For one novelist, his stories about our vast lands and seas are told from the perspective of the endangered species that we wish to protect.
John Morano is a professor of journalism at Monmouth University. He’s been a journalist for the past 40 years, and has also been writing fiction for nearly 30 years.
As a journalist, Morano was a film critic and entertainment writer. While he enjoyed his work, he had pondered if he could write about a subject that was more important.
During graduate school on spring break, Morano was watching a news segment about a species of male hamster that was the last living one on earth. There was no female hamster, thus the species’ extinction was inevitable.
“I kind of understood what matters, and what I needed to write about. And for me, it was extinction,” Morano told The Epoch Times.
Instead of spending his spring break on the beach, he researched endangered species and at-risk habitats in the library. He came upon the Guadalupe Island Petrel, which became the inspiration for his first book “A Wing and A Prayer.”
Morano believes that some of the best of the journalism in the world gives “a voice to the voiceless,” and that some of the most voiceless are endangered species and habitats.
“They will never speak for themselves, and if their stories aren’t told they will disappear forever,” Morano said.
While the stories are told in a novel format, the characters are real endangered species, the habitats exist, and the issues confronting them are real.
Morano’s first novel, “A Wing and A Prayer,” is told from the perspective of the last living Guadalupe Petrel named Lupe. The species became extinct in 1911 by accident. The message behind the story is that life, all kinds of life, is important.
“To me that was a really interesting idea. The idea that life is so fragile that we can wipe it out, and not even know we’re doing it,” Morano explained.
As opposed to writing about a flagship animal like the white rhinoceros, Morano wanted to focus on species that were unknown and had not had their stories told.
Morano’s second novel “Makoona,” tells the story of an octopus named Binti who lives in the Makoona coral reef. To Morano, the octopus is a “superhero.” For example, it can turn any color instantly, can change the texture of its skin, and can regenerate a limb, among other amazing abilities.
“The difference between my superhero and others is that mine actually exists. We have superheroes here, now, living amongst us on this planet,” Morano said.
The novel also features a young Cambodian refugee named Kemar, who fishes along the reef. Kemar and Binti’s paths continuously intersect, which illustrates the close connection between animals and human beings. The novel includes themes about how elaborate the ecosystem of the reef is, overfishing, and how refugees are treated.
Morano’s third novel, “Out There Somewhere,” is a story about zoos, aquariums, and captivity. The story is about a family of dolphins, a turtle, an angelfish and other marine life that have been taken from their natural oceanic habitats, and what it’s like to live in tanks.
The novel explores the ethical question about whether it’s wrong to take these creatures from the wild, or if it’s permissible because they can educate humans about marine life.
Morano’s fourth novel “Flocks of One” tells the story of three different birds: An Ivory Woodpecker, a Spix’s Macaw, the Guadalupe Petrel, and other birds from his first novel “A Wing and A Prayer.”
The significance of the title is that flocks should be plural, not singular. The novel discusses the issues of poaching, and what mankind’s role is in wildlife preservation.
While originally unintended, these four novels became the “Eco-Adventure Series.” Morano hopes readers take away that life is interconnected, and that an endangered species that may seem far away does in fact play a crucial role in the world’s ecosystem.
“As we remove instruments from this orchestra of life, the song gets harder to play, and the music changes, and it may not be for the better,” Morano said.