Monday, April 16, 2007


My thoughts are with those at Virginia Tech. Chaser is safe, for which news I'm grateful.

After hearing the news this afternoon (because I'd been teaching, of course), I stared out my window for a while. This is my first spring in this office, and it faces out to some trees (my old office faced a brick wall). In the trees today, I noticed some Cedar Waxwings for the first time. And once I'd noticed one, I could see a lot of them. They were perching a few feet in from the edges of branches, and then taking off, flying rapidly up at an angle, and then dropping again, and flying even faster to another branch. They looked sort of like swallows. I'd thought that Cedar Waxwings were primarily fruit and seed eaters, but I looked it up and they also eat insects in just the way I was seeing out my window.

I've never seen so many Cedar Waxwings at a time, though I know they hang out in the neighborhood of the school in numbers. I just hadn't seen them or watched. Or hadn't noticed to think about it.

There they were, trying to eat. Killing off insects, I suppose. I wonder if there's substantial food now, or if they're basically always hungry. They seemed to be feeding for a good while without leaving the area, so I'm guessing they haven't got hatchlings yet.

I wondered, watching them, if they gathered in like numbers before people changed the environment around here so much. I wondered much the same the other day, watching American Robins gathered on my neighbor's lawn at intervals of only a few feet. Where would they have fed in such numbers before humans took down the great northern pinery and put in lawns? Did they?

We humans muck things up like no other species, don't we? We make a mess of the earth for other species, and we treat our own as badly as we can.

If we humans all died off tomorrow, in some way that didn't take out every other species, how long would it take the earth to recover?

Farmland, well, 20 years, perhaps more?

Suburban areas, a couple hundred years or so?

Cities would take even longer, all that concrete in such large blocks.

But eventually, in geologic time spans, the fertility would blot out much of the damage we've done to the earth.

It's much easier as a human to have a really deleterious on the earth and our community than it is to have a really positive effect. Much more difficult to do things that make a positive difference, and downright difficult to know what makes a positive difference, even. Do our activities contribute to problematic overproduction of some species at the expense of others, even when we try to do well?

And when we try not to do well? Heartbreak and worse.

1 comment:

  1. Tonight, one of my students had a line in a poem about the earth suffering from our neglect. One of my students commented that the earth wants nothing but the humans to neglect--stop bombing it, stop mining it, stop shooting it, stop polluting it. Your post made global that which was so hard to take locally. Thanks.