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Earth Day “it’s for the birds”… and us too

Today is Earth Day. I’m guessing that many of you haven’t a clue as to what it’s about. Maybe you can get a glint of Earth Day here.

I recently completed writing what has become an annual article about Earth Day. Yesterday morning as I was having coffee and reading the Sunday NY Times, I was quite surprised that I didn’t find a single mention of Earth Day throughout the entire newspaper. But I did run across an interesting article that has a similar theme.

As a lover of the outdoors, I’m an avid participant in nature photography. Having spent more than five decades with camera-in-hand, I’ve collected my share of wildlife images. Along the way, I’ve found that the most challenging parts of this favorite activity is capturing the varying graceful, delicate or powerful movements of birds in flight.

Yes, I like birds but I don’t consider myself a bird-watcher. Yet according to Brian Kimberling[1], there are some 5.8 million bird-watchers in the US. I’m not sure where he derives this number but his mention of The Audubon Society most likely accounts for a good share of them.

Last December amid our holiday festivities, I recall hearing about the start of Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count. During a two week period, participants take a census of birds in their geographic area with a main goal of studying how bird populations have changed in time and space. After reading Kimberling’s article, I have a better understanding of what these studies are telling us about the environment of all the non-bird species, i.e. us humans.

According the Audubon Society’s report, there has been a noticeable change in bird migration in recent years. The report says: we were able to look at the winter distribution of 305 species to see if their winter range had shifted over the last 40 years. We discovered that 177 of these species showed a significant shift north and this northward shift was correlated with an increase in mean January temperatures in the contiguous 48 states of almost 5 degrees during that time. You can find more details on the Audubon’s website.

Five degrees in 40 years. This is a pretty large increase within the lifetime of many of us. Obviously it’s a big deal to the habits of the birds.

Shouldn’t we be concerned? What do you think? I’d like to hear from you.

Written by Arnie Lee

[1]”What Do Birders Know”, NY Times Sunday Review Section, April 21, 2013

 

 


 

 

Earth Day 2013

19th April 2013

Earth Day 2013

…moving forward at a snail’s pace

 


“Monday, April 22 marks the 43rd anniversary of the first Earth Day.


This topic has been on my mind so much so that I’ve written and rewritten this article several times over the years. Here’s a recollection of some of the thoughts that have followed me since this movement was in its infancy.” – Arnie Lee

Earth Day

As April arrives each year I’m reminded of Earth Day. Follow along as my mind becomes unstuck in time.

From the time I first started reading his black humor, novelist Kurt Vonnegut has been one on my favorite authors. He died in April 2007 shortly before the original version of this article was published. The news coverage of his life and death took me back to the late 60’s when I was a student at the University of Michigan (U of M) in Ann Arbor. Vonnegut was invited to be “writer in residence” and as one of the most widely read authors of the day, he was sure to have a large, welcoming audience at U of M.

He sometimes frequented “The Brown Jug” – a small, local campus restaurant where he’d have breakfast and smoke lots of cigarettes. Vonnegut claimed that smoking was the slowest form of suicide. My wife Kris, also a student at the time, waitressed at The Brown Jug and on occasion would wait on him. But owing to her hearing difficulty she wasn’t a very good waitress and frustrated the celebrated writer with her (lack of) service. More to the point, his purpose on campus as writer in residence ended when he prematurely left declaring something to the effect: “I’m leaving Ann Arbor since I have nothing more to teach you about writing.” So it goes.
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