Your Energy Needs Are For The Birds
It’s Sunday morning, and I just finished watching the round table discussion portion of This Week on ABC. We were blessed today with a few special guests filling out the panel, including Bill Maher. The man seemed unable to open his mouth without causing my jaw to head for the floor in synchronized response. Apart from the subject of this column, I could probably have spent a while dissecting these gems:
“Conservatives are opposed to big government intervention… unless it’s against people who aren’t white.”
“I’m not saying all Republicans are racists. That would be wrong. But these days, if you’re a racist, you’re probably a Republican.”
But I digress. That’s really not why I’m here today. No, Bill caught my attention more when he began attacking the oil industry in response to the recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Among his many complaints was the effect the spill will have on wildlife, particularly the birds. It’s a legitimate cause for concern, of course. I love animals – even the ones I don’t eat – and nobody but a sadist wants to see them suffer or die needlessly. During the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, it’s estimated that somewhere between 40,000 and 250,000 birds died.
That’s a lot of birds.
Or is it? Bill talked lovingly, once again, about how we need to do away with oil production entirely, much as he did when he criticized President Obama over his sorry position on off shore drilling. (Prompting Stacy McCain to wonder how he speaks with a foot that size in his mouth.) The solution in Bill Maher’s world, of course, is more renewable energy, like wind power! Fortunately, George Will was on the panel to point out the incredible number of birds killed by wind farms each year.
For those keeping score, one windfarm alone in Altamont Pass, California, has been chopping up tens of thousands of birds annually since it went online, including a number of seriously endangered raptor species. Clearly these wind farms must be eliminated, if only for the sake of the birds.
But we can’t stop there. Even those who say that wind farms don’t really put a dent in the bird population point out that domestic cats kill as many as “hundreds of millions of birds” every year. That’s why, beginning this week, Bill Maher and I will be kicking off a grassroots movement pushing Congress to introduce the American Defelinization Act of 2010. These cats must be found and eliminated. And don’t start crying to me now, cat lovers. (I have three cats myself.) It’s for the good of the birds.
Sadly, that’s not going to solve the problem either. A 2006 report from NPR estimates that glass windows in buildings – particularly high rise skyscrapers – kill as many as one billion birds per year, which accounts for roughly 5% of the total bird population. That number sounds a bit high to me, but even if the real total is only ten percent of that, we’re losing 100 million birds annually to glass panes. We must move immediately to eliminate glass windows from all buildings. Of course, that’s going to make the offices quite a bit harder to heat in the winter, so we’re probably going to be needing more … ummmm… oil….
We don’t want to see oil spills, either from drilling or shipping, so we constantly work to improve the technology and reduce the risks. And we will no doubt learn from this sad event and continue to improve safety precautions and procedures. But we don’t throw the baby bird out with the bath water, either. Let’s see… Exxon Valdez was in 1989. This spill is in 2010. If oil exploration, production and shipping continues with major accidents at that rate, it could cost us roughly a half a million birds every twenty years. How many will wind farms, windows and cats rack up in that time?
The sad fact is that birds and technology don’t mix very well. That doesn’t mean that we turn our backs on technology and return to cave dwelling. And let’s face it here… you birds really only have yourselves to blame. I mean, if you had evolved bigger brains and better technology a bit faster you would, by now, have had all of us humans rounded up in pens, living on slop, ready to have our eyes pecked out whenever you felt like a bit of a nosh.
Every race has one winner and a whole bunch of losers. Sorry to say, birds, but we came in first.
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