Monthly Archives: April 2015

Elephant in The Room

The elephant in the room, the specter hovering over daily minutiae, is global warming. (At least for me.) I feel more comfortable talking about reproductive systems with hormonal seventh graders than I do honestly expressing my opinions about climate change. I have to hold back, since nobody wants to talk to a depressing Cassandra. I don’t even want to talk to myself when I get in those moods. And yet, I still feel that my grim outlook hews closely to reality.

I’ve been grappling with how to tackle these issues in my own life, and educate others, without coming from a place of fear and pessimism. Sometimes I think of the feeling that animals must have as their water source moves, flowers don’t open at the right time, or in the case of the puffins, the herring and white hake (Audubon Project Puffin 2015) aren’t readily available and many fledglings starve to death.

I think of the feeling I have when I’m not dressed for the frigid cold and rushing home, wanting with every cell of my being to reach a destination. Or the sheer desperation of the time my family went on a 3 mile walk in the mountains of Wyoming without any water, and how all I could think about was water and chapstick, not the clear beauty of the snow-capped mountains. I remember being consumed by a desire for liquid, any liquid. I drank and drank and drank when we finally made it back.

I can’t help but imagine that animals feel that same overwhelming, primitive urge, the urge that is crucial to survival. It breaks my heart to think of them never arriving at their destination, never finding the right kind of fish to feed their starving chicks, never slurping down water gratefully. Climate change means suffering for puffins, and innumerable other living organisms.

I will celebrate the living things we have, and mourn those that we have destroyed.

Puffins and Climate Change

More Puffins and Climate Change

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Puffins

I was giddy with the thought of going to Iceland, and unnaturally focused on a chance to see puffins. So it broke my heart to witness a man catching them with a long net while they flew into their colony in the middle of Skjalfandi Bay. As much as I know that there is no untouched nature, no range unperturbed by man, I wanted to believe that the puffins could have an undisturbed refuge. It hurt to see puffin (and minke whale) on the menus dotting Reykjavik, knowing full well that my feelings on the subject change nothing, notwithstanding the small consolation that my refusal to purchase those meats at least didn’t increase demand.

But, on to more cheerful things!

Puffin Island, Iceland

Puffin Island, Iceland

Puffins don’t seem logical–they make flying look like hard work, don’t have audible bird calls, and bob on the water with their disproportional clown beaks.

I love their improbability, watching them skim the water with their frantic wing beats, swooping onto the cliff cluttered with distant black and white dots. I loved the chaos of their aerial ballet (if ballet was done by linebackers who didn’t make the cut for the pros).

But it all feels very fragile and transient, so some thoughts on global warming and puffins to come.

Worth watching:

This young boy’s take on eating animals:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX4O6smZrLE

A Different George

As a child of veterinarians, I had an unusual relationship with animals. It was not atypical for us to stop the car and help a turtle cross the road, or for some bird to be nursed back to health from the confines a shoebox in the bathroom. I remember taking a juvenile red-tailed hawk to a wildlife rehabilitator with my father as a teenager. Once, my mom had me stop oncoming traffic while she wrapped a wounded groundhog trying to cross the road in a towel. But, I think my favorite animal rescue memory is George.

We were at a bustling, hectic outlet mall. There was a large pond with an arching walkway over it where people would feed the ducks, where we were walking through with giant mesh reusable bags, even before those were trendy.

My mom spotted a bedraggled duck under a bush, with his feathers pecked away, showing puckered skin, and scabby crusted eyes. She told me to watch for anyone passing by while she quickly emptied a bag, scooped the unresisting duck up, and tucked him away in a grocery bag. We bolted out of there, with my mom telling me not to look back and to calm down so I wouldn’t give us away.

I’m not sure when he became dubbed George, but we took him out to the barn shortly after his arrival. My mom fed him bagels soaked in Ensure and conjured other medical miracles to get him on the mend. He would come waddling up excitedly to see us, and would shake his beak and splatter Ensure everywhere while he ate.

At some point, we repurposed our old plastic turtle sandbox for his swimming pool. I loved seeing George dabbling and flapping and dunking himself underwater in his swimming pool. He was a beautiful mallard with the metallic green head and rich brown coloration. We tried to gradually move the pool out to the pond as he got stronger, but he would always come at a duck-sprint up to the barn whenever any of us ventured out, gabbing happily. He eventually found a few misfit duck friends on the pond and ventured up less and less, but could always be seen swimming and diving just under the surface, webbed feet sticking up out of the water.

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George on the shore of the pond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George lived on our pond for five or so years, but one day didn’t make his regular sojourn to us. My mother found some feathers in the field bordering the pond, so it seems our resident fox finally got the best of George.

I think my strange, thrilling childhood taught me to keep an eye out for the miraculous animals all around, even in a city or the suburbs.

Duck Things to Check Out:

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/mallard-duck/

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/ducks-help-explain-how-we-feel-all-feels-180954220/?no-ist

http://www.iol.co.za/scitech/science/environment/mallards-could-wipe-out-sa-s-ducks-1.1840678#.VSsZgsZAxBU