To kill a mockingbird

Roxana Robinson writes in the International Herald Tribune, ‘And if that mockingbird don’t sing’.

She writes;

I live on an ordinary city block: concrete and pavement, urban and austere. Behind our apartment building there’s a meager garden space, hollowed out among the tall surrounding structures. The garden is always in shadow, like the bottom of a well. Right now it’s bleak and wintry. For some reason, a mockingbird is in residence.

Mockers don’t migrate, so there’s nothing odd about this one being in the Northeast in midwinter. But they’re country birds. They like open, brushy landscapes, and they don’t usually sing so early in the year. It’s strange that this one is here in this dark, little urban space, and that he’s been singing since the beginning of January. And he sounds awful. Late at night he repeats other birds’ songs, over and over, but there’s something wrong. His voice is ragged and hoarse. He sounds desperate, not jaunty. He’s shrieking, not singing.

 It’s painful to hear him. Of course, one mockingbird, croaking miserably on a city block, isn’t proof of what’s wrong in the natural world, but I can’t help wondering. I can’t help feeling that the natural world is so badly damaged, the repercussions so widespread, that a desperate bird in my backyard might reflect exactly where the rest of us stand.

The problem isn’t necessarily the result of human behavior, though it might be. Because of our bad habits, one-quarter of all mammals are threatened with extinction. Habitat destruction, climate change, and pollution: By 2050 we may lose a third of all animal and vegetable species. The rate of species extinction is around 1,000 times the natural level. Our creatures are dying.

When the president Bush’s own report declared that global warming was occurring, that it was caused by human activity, Bush dismissed the findings and produced an energy policy that encouraged the production of greenhouse gases. Last December Bush proposed regulations that would cripple the Endangered Species Act.

It’s excruciating to hear the mocker’s songs and do nothing. I’d like to tell him that he’s not alone, that we’re all in this – polar bears, timber wolves, emperor penguins, the human race. The oceans, the plains, the skies. I’d like to tell him that we’re all endangered, all trapped in a place badly stripped of natural systems. That we’re all waiting for spring, but that the worst of the winter is over. I’d like to tell him about change: Obama this week ordered a review of those regulations; our new president sees the natural world as our habitat, a place to be cherished, not plundered.

That’s what I’d like to tell the mocker. Each night, I hear his hoarse cries and wonder if it’s the last time. I don’t know how long he’ll last, in this dark, wintry place, but I hope he’ll hang on. And I hope we’re all listening.

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13 Responses to To kill a mockingbird

  1. the Grit says:

    Hi Matt,

    It’s called evolution. Species come and species go as things change, regardless of the cause of that change. On the bright side, because of the massive amounts of Government money pumped into research, scientists find new critters almost every day. Oh, and the mockingbird is our State bird here in Tennessee, so I’m thinking that the one in your post needs to get its ass back home.

    the Grit

  2. matt says:

    Was watching a BBC programme last night on Darwin. The host of the programme (well known over here) summarised the end of this mini-series by quoting an eminent scientist (whose name escapes me);

    ‘It’s not the death of species that’s so much the worry, it’s when new ones stop evolving that we are in serious trouble’

  3. the Grit says:

    Hi Matt,

    America would be better off if we required our TV to carry some BBC programming.

    the Grit

  4. earthpal says:

    Extinction by natural selection is acceptable. Extinction due to humans taking more than they need, is not.

    Matt, a lovely, haunting article there. (And a beautiful picture of the ‘mocker’). Obama has a lot of work to do.

  5. matt says:

    Oh we all do Val, we all do.

  6. earthpal says:

    Absolutely Matt. I was kind of saying it reference to what the writer mentioned about Bush’s and Obama’s attitude towards climate change etc.

  7. matt says:

    Yeah I know. Was just clarifying to wider audience. Obama’s on the case. Thank god that idiot Bush has gone!

  8. the Grit says:

    Hi earthpal,

    Competition between species, for what ever motivation, IS natural selection. I’d also like to know your thoughts on just who gets to decide what “humans” need?

    Hi Matt,

    As to Bush Bush being an idiot, his IQ is 20 points higher than Obama’s – 140 to 120. He also kept our country safe during some extremely dangerous times, and didn’t turn us into a dictatorship while doing it. Obama, on the other hand, has managed to double our national debt and make substantial moves toward making us a totalitarian state in just the first two months of His rule. You should also note that, under Obama’s reign, large sections of Pakistan have been handed over to Islamic Fanatics so they can govern it under oppressive religious law, North Korea has decided to resume its attempts to develop nuclear weapons and is getting ready to test an intercontinental missile, Russia, Iran, Cuba and China have laughed in His face over His “let’s talk” diplomacy, and He still won’t get in front of a camera without a teleprompter. Oh, and keep in mind that He thinks the US has 57 States. Oh, oh, and remember that, in the face of a huge “economic crisis,” He can’t even fill all the vacant job slots at the Treasury Department!

    As to Global Warming, that’s just another indication that Obama is the idiot, not Bush. Really, even according to Hansen (the raving loon who started this nonsense in an effort to get more research grants) we’ve been experiencing Global Cooling for the last decade, during which CO2 levels have hardly been dropping! So, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Really, only a true moron would even think of adding the burden of a “cap and trade” system for CO2 emissions on struggling economies! Of course, He may not be doing this because He’s stupid. Really, if one was aiming at creating a world government with one person running things, His approach wouldn’t be a bad path to follow. He is, after all, today asking our Congress for the authority to regulate the salaries of people working for private businesses, and the additional authority for the Government, as decided by unelected officials, to take control of them. Sounds like a fascist to me.

    Oh, and I went ahead and planted my garden today. It’s a bit early as we’ve had frost on later dates in past years, but I’m betting on Global Warming to give me a little head start :)

    the Grit

    P.S. Thanks for the interesting dialog that gets my mental juices flowing.

  9. earthpal says:

    Hi Grit, I suspected you’d try and trap me with that one. Well it’s the human species that is self-anhilating. It’s humans who go to war and kill innocent civilians for power and material gain. It’s humans who are killing the very thing that provides everything they need to survive ie the Earth.

    On this Earth we are a community and no species is inferior, or superior. It’s ours to share, not own. Ok, there ‘s a food chain. That’s also natural. But we are not competing with other species in order to ensure our own survival. Our survival doesn’t actually depend on the total exploitation and destruction of the planet and every non-human creature living on it. We can survive and thrive alongside other species and mother nature herself, without having to kill them first. In fact, the absolute opposite applies. We can’t survive without them. You know that as well as I do. Just because we can dominate, it doesn’t mean we should.

    As for Bush not being an idiot, he is without doubt, one of the biggest idiots this world has ever known. Without even bringing his foreign policy into it, Bush is the one who can’t hold a press conference without being told what the questions are beforehand. Bush is a bumbling, smirking, inarticulate twit who grins his way through his blunders. Bush is the one who was President/Commander in chief when 9/11 happened (and sat in the classroom for 8 minutes not knowing what to do). Bush is the one who has failed to master the English language properly. Bush is the one who introduced crazy anti-environmental policies that pleased his corporate buddies. Bush is the one who ordered the NSA to conduct electronic surveillance on US citizens without first seeking warrants. Must I go on? It takes me back to a scary place.

    All in all, I would have preferred Ralph Nader to Obama but Obama is leagues above George (idiot) Bush.

  10. matt says:

    Farmer Bob,

    You plant the right things and that mockingbird may well come home.

  11. the Grit says:

    Hi earthpal,

    It’s not a trap, just a fact. As to war and such, ants go to war, most any species (like deer) will over populate given a lack of predators and good living conditions until they gobble up all the available resources, become under nourished, and die off from disease running rampant through their population due to their general weakened condition, and/or become susceptible to massive die off due to slight changes in the environment because they are living at maximum capacity. Europe during the plague years, for example, which exhibits both elements of my rant.

    As to the rest of your species dialog, you are wrong. It’s quite practical and physically possible for humans to survive while only maintaining the existence of just a few other species. Such wouldn’t be easy, or particularly fun, but we could do it, and if we don’t get some focus on what our real priorities are (population control) we will probably test that idea. Still, given that we have within our capability the ability to colonize other planets, and if such dramatic changes are necessary to make us get off our collective ass and do it, that’s also evolution.

    On Bush, you should note that, while our previous President didn’t always come across well in press conferences, at least he did so without the constant presence of a teleprompter. Obama, apparently, has absolutely no ability to even dream of handling a spontaneous conversation. He does this to the point where man are wondering if they voter for Him, or His speech writer.

    As to Bush on 9/11, I have to say that it took me a lot longer than 8 minutes to grasp the situation, and I’m one of those people (paranoid) who pays attention to that kind of hazard. On the other hand, I find it extremely amusing to see you bad mouthing the NSA when your partner, Matt, is living under the most intensive surveillance ever :) Oh, and as to warrant-less searches, those were only for phone communications between people in the US and countries that were considered to support terrorism so, really, I’m not sure why you would support civil rights in time of war for people who want to call Kill Americans Central? You might also note that US rights end at our border, so your communications past that line have never been secure from Federal scrutiny. Beyond that, NSA is restricted by law from looking at communications inside the US, just as their counter parts in the UK are restricted from spying on their citizens. Thus, for the last few decades, the NSA spys on England and the Brits spy on us, and we swap the information gained. Go Big Government!

    As to idiot Bush vs idiot Obama, you might want to keep an eye on what Obama is trying to accomplish. Sure, Bush might not have been the best spoken President we’ve ever had, but Obama is running hell bent for leather down the road to fascism, screaming “environmentalism” all the way. Not that there is any justification for this call, but as His minions have mentioned, “there’s no reason to waste a good crisis.”

    By which, I once again, point out that there is absolutely no science supporting Global Warming, and those in Government who are fixated on it are only doing so to gain political power. If you don’t believe me, just do a Google search on the subject and take a look at what massive changes the UN is asking for!

    Oh, and Nader is brain dead.

    Hi Matt,

    Oh, we get mocking birds every year, and all I need to do is let the border areas on the farm grow up a bit. Surprisingly enough, a 10 foot wide swath on the boundary between my productive fields and my wood lands, seems to support a great deal of wild life! Really, it’s quite amazing to drive down the edges in mid-summer and see what kinds of critters run out of the cover. Honestly, I spot at least one animal every year that I didn’t previously know life here. It’s way cool!

    the Grit

  12. matt says:

    Honestly, I spot at least one animal every year that I didn’t previously know life here. It’s way cool!

    I share your joy Farmer Bob. A good reason to support or allow ecosystems to survive even if they don’t appear to have a direct benefit to survival of our human species. As EP points out the human species is currently dominant to the point of influencing survival of many others. While our species (like many others as you point out) has the capacity to destroy, we are unique in our ability to see the wider picture and therefore we have a responsibility. Rather like playing God. And lets face it, there is no God as such. No one is going to save us (or destroy us) except ourselves …. unless a chunky asteriod locks on to planet earth!

  13. the Grit says:

    Hi Matt,

    I mostly agree. I definitely would rather see our tax dollars going to defending us against asteroid impacts than to bailing our investment bankers. I still have, however, not come to terms with the obviously necessary solution to our collective problems, which is drastic reduction of our population. Not that we’ll ever manage to combine that goal with any form of government that allows any individual freedom. So, maybe just a small asteroid?

    I’m also not so sure about the existence of God, a God, or Gods. On one hand, I find it difficult to think that so many people could be so wrong for so long. On the other hand, I don’t find it difficult at all to think that so many people could take such advantage of others for so long. Heads or tails, I’ll call it when I’m dead.

    Farmer Bob

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