Sunday, December 2, 2007
Through the glass darkly: Everything you want in a shorebird, and so much less!
Sometime last week, Glenn and I were talking about the Wall of Death surrounding the Brightwater development at Bolsa Chica, and the conversation went off on a weird tangent.
"'Brightwater.' That reminds me of that film Ring of Bright Water," Glenn said.
I told him it sounded vaguely familiar, but I hadn't seen it. "What's it about?"
"It's about this man who keeps a wild otter as a pet, and it trashes his house."
"And then what happens?"
"He lets it go, and it gets killed."
I knew there had to be a moral in there somewhere.
The Wall of Death has been getting ample coverage, both from the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times , as well as through several other local outlets. And with this coverage comes the inevitable backlash: How could you idiots be so worried about a handful of birds when there are so many Really Important Adult Matters at stake?
These Really Important Matters fall into two groups (1) homelessness/the war in Iraq/health care and (2) Property values. Yes, I know world peace is a more urgent goal than taking down a glass wall in Huntington Beach, but birders have the knowledge and resources to do something about the latter and not the former. And I've noticed that those who invoke intractable social problems to trivialize birders' concerns are generally not the ones doing a whole lot to solve these big problems, either. So no, I don't feel like a moral midget.
And as for the second kind of Really Important Matter...as I mentioned to another birder this weekend during another Sea and Sage walk along the wall, it seems that just about any kind of selfish, unsafe, or antisocial behavior instantly becomes acceptable if one utters the magic words PROPERTY VALUES! (You're having Nelson Mandela as a house guest next weekend?! BUT WHAT ABOUT MY PROPERTY VALUES???).
And as a letter-writer to the Times noted today, it's ironic that people will be paying a premium to live by a nature reserve, but will be blocked off from it by a wall that kills exactly what makes the reserve special.
To their credit, the Brightwater people have installed a windscreen behind the chain-link fence that they recently erected behind the glass wall. And they promise to cover the glass wall with decals that are unobtrusive to the human eye, but reflect ultraviolet light conspicuous to birds. The Audubon conservationist leading our last two walks along the wall says these have proven effective in some cases in preventing bird collisions.
I do hope this works, and unlike A Ring of Bright Water, this Brightwater epic will have a happy ending. The worst-case scenario will be like the movie: some wild force cannot be tamed, or made compatible with suburban life. And everyone involved will suffer because of it.
Posted by Felicia at 5:56 PM