Saturday, April 30, 2005

More Woodpecker, Interesting

Left I on the News: "Woodpecker

When I started posting pictures of birds a few days ago, I had no idea that there would be any kind of political connection; I was just taking a break from posting about politics while I'm on vacation (and taking pictures of birds that I was so proud of I had to share). But, lo and behold, out pops a story with not one but two political angles to it - the confirmed sighting of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, last seen in the United States in 1944. This is, indeed, huge news in the scientific (and birdwatching) community.

The first angle is the American chauvinist angle. If you read the New York Times coverage of the story (or any other coverage, for that matter), you will read that this bird has been 'long given up for extinct' and that 'the last documented sighting was in Louisiana in 1944.' But this isn't true - a pair of Ivory-billeds was seen in Cuba as recently as 1987, as noted in Birds of Cuba. Of course that has no relevance if you think the world ends at the borders of the United States, as so many Americans do.

The second political angle to this story is to understand why the Ivory-billed Woodpecker has been so decimated, and why it had been thought to be extirpated (extinct within a given range) in North America. The answer? War is not healthy for human beings and other living things. More specifically, according to the Birds of North America:

'The first great wave of habitat loss occurred during 1880–1910. During World War I, Northern industries were getting the bulk of money spent for the war effort, and Southern politicians demanded their share. A bill was passed to build 1,000 ships of southern pine, sounding the death knell for remaining virgin pine forests. It was considered patriotic to cut the forests, although only 320 ships were ever built and none saw war action

'World War II was the final blow. Again in response to war 'needs' and under the banner of patriotism, many remaining old-growth southern forests were cut. Some of the wood was used for the decks of PT boats, other for pallets for shipping ammunition; much of it fueled the demands of industry.'

The bottom line? Whether it's deformed babies being born in Iraq as a result of the use of depleted uranium, the pollution of the Danube resulting from the deliberate NATO bombing of chemical plants in Yugoslavia, the destruction of the southern U.S. forests described above, or simply the incredible amounts of gasoline used during wartime by mileage-inefficient and pollution-releasing planes, tanks, and humvees, war is an environmental disaster.
// posted by Eli @ 4/29/2005 03:59:00 PM : Comment (1)"

1 comment:

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