A brief warning moving forward: This post is not filled with rainbows, smiles, and ice cream. It is instead a rather sobering mediation on what I will call the hidden costs of being human. I try to take my inspiration from where I can, and today this is what the world gave me.
As has been recently required by the bum leg, Sonia, my wife, yesterday morning drove me to the train station. One her return trip a Western Scrub-jay crashed head on into the windshield of the car, coming to rest in a lifeless heap at the base of the windshield. I immediately received a very teary photo call from Sonia describing the collision. She was unscathed but terribly upset about the episode. She managed to snap this photo for me as I was immediately moved to write something about it.
Scrub-jay - Rest in Peace....
Sonia's experience is not unique; Tens of millions of birds die at the hands of motorists each year. Numerous as these deaths are, they pale in comparison to those caused by window collisions. Cats are estimated to kill billions of North American birds each year. Poisoning contributes. Then of course there's the inexorable march of habitat loss and climate change. A recent Audubon Society study suggests that climate change puts at risk between one-third and one-half of North American bird species. Another study from the World Wildlife Federation suggests that we have lost half of all global wildlife in just the past 40 years. Predictably, none of the predictions are optimistic.
Minus the comparatively negligible, deliberate toll than legal hunting and illegal poaching take, the referenced mortality is almost exclusively incidental in nature. Windows are not designed to kill birds and driving is generally a necessary evil in 21st-century America; Most people see Fluffy the kitten as cute household pet, not a future bird-killing machine. Beyond whatever individually responsible decisions we make and what protective legislation we enact, humans still run-up an immeasurable environmental bill that Mother Earth will somehow have to pay. Every new house built, every trip to the train station, every outdoor cat, and even every human birth has an environmental cost to it. These are what I call the hidden costs of being human, and we usually ignore them in the course of our daily lives. It often takes an episode like yesterday's to remind us that every single one of us, no matter how "green" we are or claim to be, is costing the planet something each and every day. If we acknowledge that undeniable fact, then we're in a much better position to design effective minimization strategies moving forward. What those precise strategies are I'll leave for another day. I'll instead leave you with a hopefully image, a Least Tern chick perched on the edge of possibility, a huge, unfamiliar world beyond.
Least Tern - Sternula antillarum
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/2000 at f/7.1, ISO 400, handheld