Sunday, April 05, 2009

Silent Spring Again a Threat

In 1962, Rachel Carson published her seminal work on the effects of pesticides upon nature, Silent Spring. The title referred to the lack of birdsong in a future spring when all birds would be dead. This powerful book led to the banning of DDT and other of the most poisonous pesticides and herbicides in the United States, though they are often still used in the developing world.

47 years later, we again face the specter of a silent spring. This time it's not from pesticides though. It's from suburban development, from the destruction of wetlands, from cell phone towers, windows, and other impediments to bird travel that they crash into; and from increasingly intensive industrial farming. Over 1/3 of bird species in the United States are in severe decline. It's possible that some of them will go extinct. Here are some numbers of individual species numbers I quoted in a previous post on the subject.

We have shown that we can bring back individual bird species with effort. This is especially true with birds of prey and wetland birds. When I was born, few bald eagles lived in the lower 48, now almost every state has them and in some places they are almost common. But grassland birds, often small and inconspicuous, suffer potential extinction because their habitat has little emotional value for Americans, because that habitat is often in states with few environmental restrictions, and because of the ideology of unrestricted growth so prevalent in this nation.