Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hummingbirds are my #ClimateThing

Pug sitting with his binoculars and birding books

This week, The New Yorker really hacked me off. Big time. This piece, written by (the normally wonderful) Johnathan Franzen suggested that there's nothing we can do about climate change. The planet is doomed, and the best thing for all of us to do involves acceptance and love.

And there's more.

Franzen suggested that the biggest challenge facing birds came due to building practices. By his logic, glass windows and wind turbines kill more birds than rising global temperatures. So there's no reason to amend our climate ways (there's no reason to use wind power and passive solar), since it really doesn't matter anyway, and birds die due to our attempts to make things better.

There was some magazine throwing at my house.

I've worked with engineers in the green industry, and I emerged from that experience feeling confident that we can all work together on climate change. Technologies, including thin-film PV and energy-capture asphalt, can transform the way we collect energy. And building practices can reduce the amount of energy we need to consume. The future is far from hopeless. There's a lot we can do. Right now. But we all need to actually do something.

If everyone does something, things can get better. But if everyone does nothing, because it's all inevitable anyway, things will most assuredly get worse.

And that's why the Franzen piece is so disturbing. By advertising complacency, The New Yorker pushes us from action toward inaction. It's the wrong move.

So I was thrilled to hear about the #ClimateThing discussion going on at the Audubon Society. In this campaign we're all asked to discuss the one thing we really care about when it comes to climate change--The thing that would get us all up and moving in the right direction, and the thing that would actually push every person on the planet to make even one small change.

This is a grass-roots, knowledge-based, positive movement. It's a perfect antidote to the Franzen piece. And I'm on board.

My thing is a hummingbird. Like this guy that came to my feeder this morning.

An Ana's hummingbird in my Oregon yard

These little birds are facing some serious challenges due to climate change. The flowers they feast upon are blooming at unpredictable times, so they can't get the nourishment they require. The bugs they snatch out of the air aren't hatching at the right time (or at all), so there's less food out there for the birds to eat. And when the temps rise into the 100s, there's no water out there for these beaks to sip.

Do they get stunned on windows? Probably. But are more of them at risk of death due to climate shifts? You betcha.

And this is just one bird example. There are many more.

Liam the pug looking sad
"No birds? You're kidding, right?"
So I'm willing to fight for the birds, even if it means going toe-to-toe with a writer I once liked. (And I'm not alone: Check out this screed from Think Progress. Writers there don't like the piece, either.)

And it means doing what I can to create a hummingbird paradise, with feeders they love, flowers they can feast upon and a lack of cats to kill them. And it means committing to green practices in my own life, like riding my bike for errands, buying carbon offsets for the trips I take and ensuring that my house is properly insulated from both heat and cold.

Will my actions save all of these little birds? Of course not.

Is it still worth doing?

Of course.

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