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As birds become fewer, wildflowers vanish, butterflies disappear, and animals in the wild are threatened, extinction and a grim future haunts.  How often does Rumi write about birdsong … there is a reason.  Nature revives the spirit.

World Environment Day has come and gone.  It was June 5th.  A UN outreach program hosted by a different country each year, it is designed to draw attention to the country’s environmental challenges and to offer it support.  This year the host is India and the theme is beating plastic pollution.  But plastics are not just a blight on the landscape, they are in the seas destroying coral and the species it shelters, painfully killing whales and other creatures … including birds.

Yet, it is far from the only cause of bird distress and their sharply declining numbers.  One example comes from the Arctic, where receding ice has taken with it the nutritious cod, which favor cold waters, and has endangered the black guillemot now forced to feed chicks on the bony and difficult-to-digest fourhorn sculpin.

When the EU commissioned a State of Nature report, they expected bad news but not quite as dire a result.  Prepared by the European Environment Agency and sourced from EU-wide data, it found one in three bird species threatened and only a little over half secure.  It also drew a bleak picture of European habitats finding over half of those studied to be unfavorable.  Habitat loss, pesticides particularly neonicotinoids, even excessive hunting, notably in southern Europe, are all to blame.

Earlier, a comprehensive study conducted by University of Exeter (UK) professor Richard Inger and colleagues had analyzed avian biomass across 25 countries over 30 years.  Using data from Birdlife International and the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme, they discovered a surprisingly large and troubling loss:  from 1980 to 2009 the estimated total avian population had declined by 421 million birds.

Meanwhile, new research in the US with far-reaching consequences places blame squarely on human action.  It examines avian consequences of noise pollution.  If certain constant noises irritate us — think of road repair and a pneumatic drill — then birds are no exception.  Noise from oil and gas operations is stressing out birds and harming reproduction.  They exhibit signs of chronic stress, lay fewer eggs or fewer eggs hatch, and nestling growth is stunted.

So reports a study by Nathan Kleist and colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (unfortunately not available to the general public without a fee).  The authors study three species of cavity nesting birds (the ash-throated flycatcher, the mountain bluebird and the western bluebird) breeding near oil and gas operations — located on Bureau of Land Management property in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin .

The researchers placed 240 nest boxes on 12 pairs of sites, close to and at varying distances from the drilling pads where loud compressors operated non-stop.  The team took blood samples of adult females and nestlings from all the nest boxes for three years.  They examined nestling body size and feather length and found them to be less well developed in both noisy and lower noise areas, suggesting any level of irritating noise is disruptive.

Baseline levels of a key stress hormone, corticosterone, showed high stress in birds nesting closest to the noise.  In addition, when subjected to a test of being held for 10 minutes, nestlings in noisy areas produced significantly greater stress hormones than those in quiet areas.

It also turned out that the western bluebird was the only species willing to nest in the sites closest to the compressors.  Such behavior had cultivated a belief it was immune to noise.  Not so, the study results revealed.

That environmental stress is increased by noise pollution, and that it degrades avian reproductive success is thus the conclusive message of this study.  With background noise constantly increasing in the US, even protected areas are no longer immune.  On the face of it, there is also the distinct possibility other species could also be affected.

If the anthropocene is our age, it is also our look in the mirror to see what the human footprint has wrought, even if unwittingly.  Global warming, extreme weather events becoming more severe, plastic pollution and stressed wildlife, record extinctions, insect declines … all appear to be portents of an impaired future warning humans repeatedly of urgency.  The sixth mass extinction is underway but it will take centuries if not thousands of years, and man can help by alleviating global warming and increasing preservation efforts.  Clearly related to CO2 levels, global warming has been the culprit in the previous five.  CO2 levels are already in excess of 0.04 percent perilously close to the 0.05 percent calculated to melt icecaps through temperature rise causing serious flooding of coastal areas.

Are leaders and decision-makers listening?

Authors note:  This article appeared originally on Counterpunch.org

Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media.  His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Elaine Charkowski says:

    MALE DOMINATION OF WOMEN caused EVERY crisis we now face including the 6th major extinction
    By Elaine Charkowski
    Free to Post and Share

    “Silence is the first thing within the power of the enslaved to shatter. From that shattering, everything else spills forth,” said Robin Morgan in her book “The Demon Lover.”

    Everyone who works for social justice, stopping global warming and saving the environment will continue to just rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic unless male domination of women is dealt with!

    Connect the dots!

    • AGRICULTURE is often blamed for the human population explosion and the resulting destruction of Nature. However, for thousands of years, many tribes have cultivated small garden plots but kept their populations stable because women controlled their child bearing. Thus, with a small sustainable population, small gardens were enough to feed the tribe. There was no need for mass industrialized agriculture and it’s use of pesticides, herbicides, etc.

    • MALE DOMINATION OF WOMEN drives mandated and culturally coerced pregnancy.

    • MANDATED AND CULTURALLY COERCED PREGNANCY drives overpopulation which is great for the economy but not for the Earth!

    • OVERPOPULATION drives economic growth due to women’s mostly involuntary re-production of consumer/worker/soldier/breeder units. More than seven billion humans buy a lot more stuff and burn a lot more fossil fuel than two billion did in 1940. This is great for the global economy but not for the Living World.

    • ECONOMIC GROWTH drives habitat destruction by changing the Living World into pastures, farmland, money and stuff for an ever increasing human population to consume.

    • HABITAT DESTRUCTION drives the Sixth Major Extinction.

    Reproductive rights for ALL the world’s women would slow the growth of, and eventually reduce the human population.This is because most women do not choose to have more children than they can feed and care for.

    A reduced human population would save the Living World since fewer humans would consume less habitat, burn less fossil fuel and reduce global warming. War would also decrease because the mass-industrialized re-production of soldiers would no longer be mandated and the supply would eventually run out as they killed each other off.

    However, men will never relinquish their appropriation of the uterus! Losing control of women as livestock would threaten their global economy!

    If women took back control of their bodies, Patriarchy (the global Earth-devouring male-dominated social system) would collapse and the Living World would breathe a sigh of relief.

    But shhh! Never mention male domination of women! Dance around it and only name the symptoms!

    Overpopulation, (if it’s even mentioned at all) is the MAIN SYMPTOM of the male domination of women which caused ALL the other symptoms (global warming, ocean acidification, war, pollution, desertification, deforestation, drought, famine, habitat destruction, endangered species, etc).

    What to Do

    1. IMMEDIATE international action must be taken to enable EVERY women on Earth to have reproductive rights.

    2. Every soldier from every military on Earth (tens of millions of them) must be deployed to plant billions of trees, restoring habitat and cleaning up pollution instead of killing people.

    3. 3.75 BILLION EMERGENCY VASECTOMIES would slow and reverse the human population explosion. Since one man can impregnate many women, it’s time to regulate MEN’s bodies for a change.

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