Walmart parking lot kills thousands of birds

Posted December 15th, 2011 in Blog, Featured 2 Comments »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

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You cannot make this stuff up. In St. George, Utah, thousands of migratory birds mistook a Walmart parking lot for a lake, swooped down for a landing, and were instantly killed [see the AP story here].

Friends, as a metaphor for the clash between our wasteful, ugly, nature-disrespecting culture, you can’t get any better than this.

Well, you can get even more horrible. In Alberta’s oil tar sands industrial site, flocks of ducks have landed in toxic waste pools only to die an instant chemical death.

Back in Utah, wildlife experts are describing the event as one of the worst ‘downings’ they have ever seen.

It had been snowing. City lights lit up the storm clouds. The parking lot looked like a lake:

“…All the conditions were right,” said Teresa Griffin, wildlife program manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resource’s southern region…. “So the birds landed to rest, but ended up slamming into the pavement.”

And this:

Kevin McGowan, who studies birds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., said grebes rely on starlight to navigate during their nighttime migration.

“Before there were (artificial lights), the sky was always paler than the ground,” he told The Associated Press. “When all of a sudden there’s light all over the place, they don’t know which way is up anymore.”

Just another instance of the clash of industrial/consumer society and nature’s beautiful rhythms, the one’s these creatures have relied on for many millenia.

Are we aware of all the impacts of our way of life? Do we care? The articles about this tragic event say that the local people were really touched and helped out finding the injured, clearing out the dead, helping  with the rescue and release efforts. We are touched when nature suffers like this. But the suffering comes from what we don’t see and what we don’t want to see.

Red-breasted mergansers, neighbors of mine. Photo: Margaret Swedish

All over the planet, species are in survival struggles as we tear away at their habitats, disrupt the patterns on which they rely for survival, or toxify their world. All around us, beyond our distracted attention, suffering of living beings is occurring. We pay attention when a few thousand birds come crashing into our parking lots, or drop out of the sky from disease or starvation.

“More than 175 mass death events, in which more than 1,000 birds died, have been reported to the National Wildlife Heath Center in the past 10 years. Causes for those die-offs included disease, weather, poisoning, trauma and starvation.”

If we did allow ourselves to get in touch with this suffering, it might be more than we can bear.

Yet, bearing it, allowing ourselves to ‘feel’ it, may be one of the paths towards moving out of our ecological crisis. We can’t love what we don’t know. We can’t heal the wounds we don’t see. Everything about our industrial, technological, consumer society distances us from experiencing the suffering of creatures with whom we are in intimate relationships by the very fact that we share ecosystems and rely on them for survival. Everything about this culture tries to detach us from suffering, or the awareness of suffering. How in the world, then, will we see, experience, what needs release from suffering, and then how to bring that about?

Everything about this industrial/technological/consumer society tries to detach us from suffering for a reason – because so much of the suffering is caused by it. And if we ever came to a full awareness and recognition of this, things would have to change – because our hearts could not bear it (at least for those of us who would allow our hearts to experience it). We would feel the tension and the more we felt it, the more we could ‘see,’ the harder it would be to continue living the way we do.

We could be building cities and towns in sync with these natural rhythms, in ways that come into balance with the balance of habitats with all their diversity, vibrancy, and resilience. Instead, we make death traps for the living, for living beings of all kinds, including us.

It’s a powerful metaphor, this story, and a tragic one. This kind of suffering resonates through the energies of our living systems. It creates a deep sorrow that so many of us feel without even beginning to name it. But I prefer right now to listen to this wholesale massacre in a Walmart parking lot – and see what it has to teach me.



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2 Responses

  1. D.Bheemeswar

    It all happens when the satanic minds are interested only in their materialistic aspects, whether they are innocent birds or human life it does not matter for them. Whether to call such people as humans or not it is left to history. What they need is only their pockets filled for their comforts, and more over entire political and government machinery supporting such people, can we call them as crooks scoundrels and incompetent regulators or simple damagers of the socio-ecological system in the disguise of managers.

  2. Josef Bieniek

    Leopold said it well, among other participants in this great Story, that those of us who live with deep openess to the suffering from whatever direction or form will either find a bowl to hold this awareness and create action or we will buffer ourselves from feeling the suffering of another being by the opaque blinds and distractions of current commercial – industrial models. [With apologies to Aldo].