I admit it. I’m what many would call an environmental extremist. But somebody has to be. I feel that we humans are myopic when it comes to considering the lives of creatures who do not happen to be human. We are quick to assume we are the only species that really matters; our fellow creatures are just part of the landscape, the backdrop against which we live our lives. And when it comes to choosing between our human wants and other species’ needs? Well, you know the answer.
I am on my soapbox because I am annoyed by the news coverage given to the airplane that was skillfully landed in the Hudson River a few weeks ago, with no loss of life. No loss of human life anyway.
Please make no mistake. I am as happy as everyone else that all on the airplane were saved. But what about the birds who died a ghastly and unfortunate death? Nowhere in the press accounts did I see any expression of regret or sadness about the fate of the geese who were sucked into the plane’s engines.
The birds’ role in the incident, according to the press, was that they caused it by flying into the plane’s engines. But wasn’t the accident really caused by the plane flying into the birds’ path? I am not suggesting that the pilot could have avoided the geese. But I do think it should be acknowledged that the birds were simply going about their business, doing what birds have been doing for many, many thousands of years. The airplane caused the accident that proved fatal to the geese.
It’s a common story. We humans, with our exponentially increasing numbers and our many diverse activities, have expanded into the airspaces, lands and waters that other animals need to survive. In my experience, most people care little, when human activity, like an airplane flight, like a new shopping mall, like an oil spill in coastal waters, robs animals of what they need to survive.
I think about the stress that many birds and other animals endure on a daily basis, as they try to live the lives they have evolved to live, in habitats that are increasingly occupied by humans. I sometimes wonder if many animals, including birds, suffer illness or physical stress caused by the daily difficulty in navigating human-imposed obstacles.
I am particularly troubled by scientific research conducted several years ago, which showed that populations of even our commonest birds–the cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, robins, and others–are in steep decline. And these declines are not specific to certain parts of the country but are widespread throughout the United States.
So it seems to me that birds and other non-human beings need our respect, and our commitment to share the planet with them, not to imperil their existence when their needs conflict with our wants. I believe other species deserve the respect we generally reserve for our fellow humans.
So, I say, how about a little sympathy for this hapless flock of geese who lost their lives to an airplane engine!–April Moore