Sunny: Shhh! Look over there on the shore of the lake. Some animals are jumping in and out of the water, like they're playing. What are they?
Sky: Hey, I think those are river otters! I was reading about them . . . they have dense fur that makes them almost waterproof, and they spend a lot of time catching fish but they also like to play. I think these are just playing around. Wow. . . .
Sunny: Well, they'd better find their dinner soon, the sun's starting to set. Look at the sky, it's so red. Hey, Sky, you've got the right name, do you know why it turns red when the sun sets?
Sky: Sure, it's the atmosphere. There's always a little dust in the sky, but when the sun is setting, its light has to travel through a lot more of the atmosphere. The dust colors it red.
Brook: Yeah, but why aren't sunsets redder in Georgia? We've got all this red dirt, seems like the dust in the air would be redder too. When I get back to my computer I'm gonna Google that one.
Forrest: Okay, I see some animals I recognize. Over there, lizards and I think a turtle, catching the last of the sun.
Sunny: Well, that makes sense. They're both reptiles, so they're cold-blooded.
Forrest: Their blood is cold?
Sunny: When it's cold out, yes, but when it's warm their blood is warm. Humans and other mammals are warm-blooded, which means we can change our temperature. When we get in our sleeping bags tonight, after a while we'll feel warm, cause our bodies can make heat. Reptiles have to depend on other sources like sunlight to get warm. That's why snakes lie on warm rocks after the sun goes down. Snakes are reptiles just like lizards and turtles.
Brook: Hey, there's a raccoon! Mammal, right?
Sunny: Yep, just like us.
Forrest: What's a raccoon doing way out here? I see them in our backyard sometimes, figured they only lived in town.
Sunny: In town?! No, most raccoons live in the woods, but they've done a good job adapting to living near humans.
Sky: What do you mean?
Sunny: I mean, there's been a lot of changes in Georgia in the last 100 years or so. A lot more people, more houses, more cities. Different kinds of animals live in different habitats. When people move in, habitats become smaller or disappear, and the animals have to adapt or move somewhere else. This raccoon eats things like fruit, acorns and insects, but his cousin in the city might eat vegetables from your garbage can or thrown out dog food. They've learned to adapt their behavior.
Brook: Why is it always up to the animals to adapt? Why don't we humans adapt sometimes, learn to get along better with nature?
Forrest: You mean, why don't we try to fit into the ecosystem better? Wow, that's a good one. Maybe it's just easier to live wherever we want and let nature worry about itself. Who's in charge of that anyway?
Sunny: I don't know, I guess there're laws and stuff about where people can build, and more laws to protect the land and wildlife. At least I hope there are. . . .
Forrest: When we get home I'm going to find out. Maybe I'll write a letter to my congressperson.
Sky: You? You're a kid! Who's going to listen to you?
Forrest: I'll bet they'll listen! I may be a kid but I'm learning about the environment and I have opinions. Anyway, it doesn't hurt to try. Maybe we can all write a letter together.
Sunny: Okay, but all this serious talk is making me hungry and tired. What'ya say we eat some dinner and hit the sack?
After a good night's sleep, our campers are leaving the Georgia Piedmont and now it's on to the Coastal Plain. You come too!