Monday, October 15, 2007

It's Blog Action Day, and I'm Supposed to Rouse You to Action!

These are heady days for us tree-huggers. Al Gore has the Nobel Peace Prize, the freeways are clogged with Priuses rather than hummers, and even McDonald's has sort-of-reasonable vegetarian menu options.

And this is the best time to keep the momentum going. In this spirit, I signed up to participate in Blog Action Day, in which thousands of bloggers will dedicate today—October 15—to blogging about the environment. I'm not sure how many animals or trees any of this will save—but there's no harm in trying.

So here's my theme for today: how suburban birders can save the environment! (Short answer: very slowly.)

But seriously: any time you go into a neighborhood park with binoculars, you're going to attract attention. Turn those weird stares and questions ("What are you looking at?" "Why is everyone looking into that tree?") into teachable moments. Give a skeptical onlooker a peek through your scope or binoculars.

Don't take common birds for granted—remember that even routine species such as Spotted Towhees and Common Yellowthroats are pretty darn cool-looking, and anyone who's curious enough to ask you about birds will find them pretty amazing. (And they are—I always try to remind myself of this at the end of my failed rarities chases.)

Remember, sex and violence sell. If you see a raptor or a Great Blue Heron catching and eating its prey, be sure to point it out to every 10-year-old boy within earshot. They LOVE this stuff! If you catch birds mating in the spring, show all the adults—the kids will tag along and figure it out for themselves.

The goal of this is not to recruit more birders, but to sell the wonders of the natural world. People who are aware of the rich diversity of bird life even in relatively developed areas are more likely to respect the need for environmental safeguards.

My hope is that someday, natural diversity in an area will become a standard indicator of quality of life, just as distance to shopping areas and good schools is now. In a twisted way, this is already happening: check out the signs on the fencing around the new housing development on the bluffs of Bolsa Chica:

It should be noted that this sign was readable from the INSIDE of the Bolsa Chica reserve; the area fenced off was the housing development that the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, among others, fought in vain to stop. What sensitive environment was being protected here? I guess they have to make sure that enviroment stays nice and sterile so none of the minivan moms get dead leaves on their shoes—or God forbid, encounter any of the actual residents of Bolsa Chica, such as this critter:

And this is another risk the environmental movement faces: right now, it's trendy to be green. And people with less than honorable intentions are exploiting this to our peril.

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