FLORENCE GILKESON: Wreaking Havoc: We Kill Animal Species at an Alarming Rate
DDT had been on the market several years when my father made the observation that he missed the bluebirds. That was about 60 years ago.
Daddy was an old-fashioned family farmer, not given to sentimental ramblings or emotional displays. In many ways he was just a simple-living eastern North Carolina farmer.
But he clearly had a soft spot for animals. He rarely spent a night away from the farm because he did not trust the hired help to care for the farm animals in his absence. He knew their habit of imbibing too freely on Saturday nights. Not only was he concerned that they would be in no condition to care for the mules, cows, and pigs, but he also feared abuse.
He enjoyed hunting and fishing, but the wildlife he killed was brought home and prepared for family consumption.
He would kill a hawk or fox found raiding the chicken house or kill a snake that was poisonous or was threatening the biddies and eggs.
The latter variety of snake came with ambivalent feelings, because the snake commonly called a chicken snake was also commonly known as a rat snake. It meant that the snake feasted on rats and mice as well as small chicks and eggs.
Otherwise, he did not kill for pleasure.
So when he noticed the absence of bluebirds, Daddy was serious.
I thought about him when I read that scientists think they have underestimated the ecological damage to our feathered friends.
In an article in The News & Observer of Raleigh, staff writer Catherine Clabby quotes ecology researchers at Duke University, who report that in the past 500 years, human beings have had such a detrimental effect on the environment that we have lost bird species at a rate of almost one per year. If we continue at the present rate, we can expect to lose 10 species a year in this century.
This warning is hard to swallow. After all, federal and state protections are in force to preserve all sorts of species. In this area we know personally of heroic measures to save the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, a bird that nests in old-growth longleaf pine forest.
Evidence is already in that the bald eagle, our national bird and national symbol, is making a successful comeback after many years largely out of sight.
Also returning is the whooping crane.
The recent sighting, as yet not authenticated, of an ivory-billed woodpecker in Arkansas, generated headlines and made talk shows across the country.
Bird watchers and bird count professionals do their part to encourage birds in the field and in residential yards.
During the preparatory period before the 1999 U.S. Open in Pinehurst, a Progress Energy work crew spotted a ground-nesting bird in an area where the power company was installing special wiring for the pavilion. They went to great pains to protect mother bird, nest and eggs. A fence was quietly erected a comfortable distance around the nest and remained in place until the hatchlings were big enough to fly away.
We read about development of greenways, preservation of parks and forests, about various successes at saving endangered species. Despite this, a large percentage of the population does not understand the significance of preserving wildlife and the environment that nurtures it.
Habitat is disappearing around the world. We get excited about the scarcity of such interesting and fun animals as pandas and koalas, whose habitat is steadily declining because of human encroachment.
Politicians, paranoid about abortion, discourage family planning in emerging countries, where poverty and starvation are rampant and babies are born and die before they can experience the joy of life. The media encourage us to have more babies, because babies ensure a market for goods, most of which we don't need.
It is people such as overselves who are hastening the depletion of natural resources with our insatiable hunger for material treasures.
Humanity has followed the biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply but does not understand God's order of dominion over the natural elements upon which we depend for life. We have multiplied, all right, but our concept of dominion is to kill anything that moves and develop everything else.
Genesis reports that God, upon completion of his creation, looked at the world and observed that "it was very good."
Wonder what God thinks about it now?
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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