Thursday, September 27, 2007

yes, that is a darn good question...

Read Doug Taron's excellent recent post about biodiversity conservation and its rationale here.

Although Doug is not necessarily or exactly leading in this direction, anyone who reads through my set of blog links and thinks about what I write must know that I am a proponent of the philosophy known as deep ecology. If you're curious about this set of organizing principles, check out these links for a little background:

- a simple definition of deep ecology at Wikipedia here

- where it comes from, here (although take care and realize this is only one person's view)

- an outstanding journal of deep ecology, The Trumpeter

- not exactly the same thing, but a wonderfully wide-ranging journal - Environmental Ethics

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

an extraordinary trip to Alaska

Please read Carl Safina's blog post here about a special trip to Alaska. Since he says it better than I can, I'll let his writing speak for itself.

Laura - you are the coolest!

Laura Erickson is the coolest! If you have not seen her new book, you should take a close look, and soon. It's called "101 Ways to Help Birds". See more about it here, and find out how to get a copy here.

See Laura's blog here , and her website here. No one works harder for the welfare of birds.

Recent discussions we've had show we're both working too hard.

two word-strings for the end of September

Hummingbird - September's End

How did she know
There were jewelweed flowers
In the dry creekbed?
Flying over
This forest patch canopy
She could not have seen
them, down below, on her way
to the Gulf and beyond.


My Desire

I want it to rain tomorrow
With a wind
Blowing the branches
And their burden
Of leaves.
I want to hear and see it,
And know the world will
Continue, yet,
For a while.

the "could have seen, but..." list, and related issues

Recently, Mike McDowell posted a sort of "alternate view" and different response to the recent "Mango mania" in Beloit. See it here, and see responses and other commentary on Laura Erickson's blog here.

Mike has sort of "invited me into" this discussion. He and I have been discussing this for quite a while. There seems to be a rather deep misunderstanding about what Mike has suggested; I say this based on reading comments here and there, including on Laura Erickson's blog, the Wisconsin birdnet, and elswhere. If it's true that some folks feel they are being asked to spend "all of their money" on conservation, I have a few reminders to offer, plus a few facts to set straight. This is not meant as an attack on anyone or on the actions of anyone - just as a set of points for discussion.

1) I can't really speak for Mike, but I'm fairly certain he's not suggesting that anyone should "spend all their money" on conservation. Let's get real.
2) Unless all of us (not just the few who are doing it now) start seriously changing our behavior, we will have a lot fewer birds to watch in 20-40 years - I guarantee it.
3) Along with habitat loss and alteration, the effects of climate change pose a greater threat to birds in the coming century than any previous threat in the history of the planet.
4) If we make the comparison as follows (please bear with me), you'll see where I'm headed:

Let's say you saw someone being beaten up in an alley. You could certainly walk away, with no harm to yourself. Is that a moral response, though? Do we share responsibility for each other's welfare? I would not suggest that you pick up a baseball bat and attempt to beat off the attackers - that would be foolhardy. But to me, a correct response would be to do something to help (call the police, for example). Our actions as consumers and users of natural resources are really like the actions of the bullies, only we are almost totally unaware of the effects of our actions in this case - we don't even know we are doing the bullying. Nearly everything we do has a moral component, but because we are often so far removed from the effects, we are ignorant of many of those moral aspects. Our profligate and wasteful use of fossil fuels are causing extreme climatic effects in the arctic, in the tropics, on low-lying oceanic islands, and elsewhere. Not only birds, other wildlife, and plants are being harmed, but humans, especially people living at the economic margins of many societies, are at great risk. The arctic birds we are thrilled to see in winter are at great risk. And we share responsibility for their welfare, their future - like that person being beaten in the alley. If we do nothing, our responsibility grows in proportion to the severity of the threat.

You can debate this if you like. But I'm pretty sure that if you look inside your heart, you'll see the truth in what I'm asserting here. I welcome your comments, and any ensuing discussion. As I mentioned in an e-mail to Laura about this a few days ago, it's important to support and defend a diversity of views. But I stand steadfastly with Mike on this one - I am hoping his view, and what it represents, grows in acceptance by many more people. I aim to help make that happen, in any way I can.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I can't wait

It doesn't last nearly long enough, but my absolute favorite time of year is now unfolding. Yesterday was the autumnal equinox, and autumn is "it" for me. I love the autumn bird migration, and the autumn leaves of deciduous trees. I can't say how many hours I've spent looking, just looking at fall leaves.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

staying home

Gary Snyder, the great beat poet, writer/teacher and deep ecologist once mentioned that it would be a good thing for us to do the following for the natural world: stay home. Of course Gary travels widely! Of course it's not that simple. I don't really think the issue is so much one of details as it is of a general emphasis. Up until now, we seldom considered these things at all. I would just like to see people really thinking deeply about what they do. That would be a great start. I will still travel, but I hope what changes for me is a serious consideration of the options when I do travel, asking myself if there is a good reason to do so, and if there are alternatives. If there is a good reason to go somewhere, and the alternatives don't exist or are out of reach (like me buying a new hybrid: right now I just can't do it) then I may still go ahead. But sometimes I'll discern that there is no good reason to go, or that there IS an alternative. Right now, I'm studying "passenger-miles-per-gallon" (better with more people in any vehicle, not so good in an aircraft, best in modern railway types like Colorado Rail Car's recent designs) to determine the best way to take people on natural-history trips. So far, the most-efficient and still fairly practical option seems to be a 15-passenger van or small bus. After this year, I won't lead any "car caravan" type trips - I feel it is just too wasteful. And all along the way, I am realizing that I can't "tell other people what to do". We all can have a dialogue, we can discuss, we can debate...and in the end, only so many even pay attention. And then we ourselves just do the best we can. And then, I hope we'll go back again to that earlier consideration: deep thinking about what we're doing. That will be light years' ahead of what we've been doing so far.

For more on this topic and its intersection with birding and natural history, read Mike McDowell's recent excellent discussion here and Laura Erickson's post here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Notes and links on environmental ethics

For some time, I’ve been collecting some wide-ranging information and weblinks on the subject of environmental ethics. Perhaps some of this information might be useful to students in conservation, ecology, peace and justice work, debates about viewpoints on creationism vs. evolution, etc. I especially recommend anyone interested in arguments on these subjects to take a look at some of the following sources.

I also recommend that anyone interested in these topics take a look at the background of just a few “practitioners” from several disciplines – E.O. Wilson, Holmes Rolston III, J. Baird Callicott, and Michael Rosenzweig. Brief biographies of several of these people are found below, with links describing their scholarly activities.

Some useful links:
Environmental ethics
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Ecospheric ethics:

Ecospheric ethics – authors:

Interpreting Evolution – Scientific and Religious Perspectives:

The Forum on Religion and Ecology:

Win-win Ecology:

Aldo Leopold, and environmental ethics, at:

Biography of Aldo Leopold:

Writings by, and about A. Leopold and environmental ethics:

E. O. Wilson

Holmes Rolston III (A more complete bio for Rolston is at )

J. Baird Callicott (Vita at )

Michael L. Rosenzweig (

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

urban birds, and nature "in the city"

Learn about contemporary urban bird studies being conducted by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology at their Urban Bird Studies site.

If you live in an urban area, and are looking for ways to enhance the "wildlife-friendliness" of your home and yard, a great online place to go is the Audubon at Home site.

Here in Milwaukee, the outstanding work done at the Urban Ecology Center on education and connecting people with nature in an urban area is absolutely exceptional. See their site, and a lot of information about their programs here .