Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Blame it on the birds

I was watching this "report" on Daily Show the other night.  I was, naturally, disturbed once again by the history of racism in our country and the injustices of the way emancipation happened.  As Dr. Martin Luther King wrote in his book Where do we Go from Here: “Four million newly liberated slaves found themselves with no bread to eat, no land to cultivate, no shelter to cover their heads.  It was like freeing a man who had been unjustly imprisoned for years, and on discover his innocence sending him out with no bus fare to get home, no suit to cover his body, no financial compensation…to help him get a sound footing in society.” 

The report reminds us not only of the original injustice, but how we continue to undervalue African-American history, and to under-support African-American Communities.  But knowing what an eco-geek I am you probably know where I'm going with this.  This video ends up making the Audubon Society look like the foolish ones.  I mean, when folks were dying in Katrina, they were building bird houses, right? It must be they care more about birds than about people!  (Because goodness knows people in no way benefit from the presence of birds, and when all the birds disappear we'll just spray more pesticide on everything to deal with the swell of the insect population that will grow un-checked without natural predators...)  Let's not blame the industries that dumped industrial waste and agent orange in that neighborhood.  Lets not blame the officials for taking land through eminent domain or the long list of agencies that did  nothing, let's not blame the folks who sat on their couches and clicked their tongues, let's blame an organization whose mission statement is: " to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the Earth's biological diversity" for working to preserve an area when the NAACP and State and Local governments declined to help.   

There is an idea out there that we have to choose between saving birds and saving people.  There is a concern that we have to choose between ending racism and preserving habitat.  That is the premise of this genuinely well-written and often hilarious report.   But to me the real story is that in this case, as in many others, preserving habitat for humans and for birds can be woven together.  Creating healthy eco-systems and creating a just human community can be one and the same movement.  As a society we must somehow get beyond this taboo that says that when humans are suffering or struggling it is improper, indecent even to consider the eco-system as a whole.  As activist  Derrick Evans remarks "thank God for the birds."

1 comment:

Amy said...

I've been working on (I'm in the mulling stage) a collage on Colony Collapse Disorder. It is typical of our strangely narrow way of thinking that we don't see that the end of bees would be disastrous for humans.

A few years ago, our kids at UUCPA decided to split their collection between the Rainforest Action Network and an organization I forget--it might even have been for post-Katrina rebuilding--in any case, it was focused on human communities. An adult at church described this as "giving half to people and half to animals." I asked her to rephrase that. The children seemed to understand that saving the rainforest is about saving people, and I didn't want our adults to lead them off this path.