Monday, October 30, 2023

Birdtober Day Thirty-One: Spotted Owl


The Spotted Owl is best known by non-birding people as the poster child for environmentalist excesses. In the eighties and nineties there was a kerfuffle between loggers and environmentalists, and in the news this was presented as a zero sum game. Either the birds would survive, or people would. 

Once I was asked to give a devotional to a Christian group, and I talked, with photos, about the local birds in that place, and how the Bible tells us to "consider the birds." Jesus Himself talked about the value of birds and how they are emblematic of God's care for His creation. After I spoke, the leader of the group began the main part of the meeting by asking the people to prioritize several worthy causes, like ending world hunger, providing employment, spreading the gospel. In a nod to my presentation, he added protecting birds to his list, and then laughingly commented that of course nobody would ever put that high in their priorities. But like the Spotted Owl controversy, this misses the point. 

Protecting the environment is good for everybody. We shouldn't have to choose between caring for people and caring for nature. Biodiversity makes life healthier for human beings. Spotted Owls are a complex case (you can read more about that here and here), but I think a step in the right direction would be to stop seeing environmental protection as a contest between humans and wildlife. Can we compromise in ways that will help both? We are all part of the delicate balance, and the whole system will be poorer if any of us cease to be.



In the quiet night

Spotted Owl waits for its prey

Hopes for survival

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

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