Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Citizen's Guide: Preface [I'd Love to Save the World]

Below is the preface from the Citizen's Guide that I wrote about previously. I have some comments at the end.

The Citizen's Guide to Migratory Bird Conservation

Birds are important in many ways. From an ecological point of view, they are a vital component of the web of life. For example, they keep insect numbers in check, they serve as food for other predators, and they disperse pollen and seed.

Birds also occupy an important place in our culture. they hold us enchanted as objects of beauty: watching a bird inspires us, in our minds, to spread our own wings.

And birds are important for moral reasons. As humans we are endowed with a conscience that asks us to address the needs of species other than our own. Caring about birds -- small and large, drab and gorgeous - reflects a full appreciation of the of life and a love for the whole of life.

Most ecological processes cannot be altered without serious consequences. All components of an ecosystem exist for some purpose -- some may be vital to the ecosystems survival, while others may be ecological equivalents. Often, however, we do not know what the true function is or how important a given component or process may be. Therefore, the prudent course is to assume that all components are important and to strive to conserve them all.

How do we do it? It's actually quite simple: to ensure the future of migratory birds, the human planning process must provide for their needs. We must learn their requirements for suitable habitat and then maintain it for them.

This Citizen's Guide to Migratory Bird Conservation can get you started as a partner in this endeavor. It provides tips on things you can do, from writing action-inspiring letters on bird-related issues, to habitat conservation or information-gathering projects that you can do in your own backyard or neighborhood, to involvement in regional and national land-use planning. It describes the role of state and federal agencies and other organizations in the effort to conserve birds. And it delineates methods for maintaining goal-oriented conservation groups. The methods included have all proven effective in obtaining valuable results.

As concerned citizens, we seek to save birds because we believe they are important to the ecosystems upon which we and all living things depend, because they have made our lives richer, and because we have learned to care about them.

Editors' note: The issues and methods of bird conservation described in this Citizen's Guide will change. We look forward to updating this publication periodically, so please send us your suggestions and comments.

Greenberg, R. and S. Lumpkin. 1995. Citizen's Guide to Migratory Bird Conservation, Bonney, R., S. Carlson, and M. Fischer, eds. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

The authors are: Russell Greenberg and Susan Lumpkin, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, National Zoological Park, Washington, DC 20008

My comments:
First, note that this section has been excerpted in its entirety. The author information and article text current as of 1995.

So, what do you think? Any suggestions to improve this preface? Personally, I find it a compelling and well-written piece, the content is timeless. It certainly sets the stage and primes you for preserving these wonderful creatures. Fifteen years later, how can we improve it?



Nate said...

I agree with you, I don't know that I'd change anything. The content doesn't seem dated or anything in the nearly 15 years since it was written.

If anything, I'd try to impress a little more urgency, but I don't know exactly how one would go about that.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

It is amazing how this 15 year old call-to-action has withstood the test of time (better than I have faired!)
Perhaps a stronger call to the power of individual action. That while an individual making a change, taking a stand, may seem fruitless, that it IS NOT FRUITLESS!
I like where you're going and please consider me and our Wild Birds Unlimited store a partner in your efforts.
Thank you for taking this stand! YOU will make a difference!

noflickster said...

Nate and Zen Birdfeeder- I debated whether it was a good or bad thing that the preface was still appropros. From the writing side, good: less editing! From the environmental side, I come down where it may be considered bad: things haven't improved to a degree where we can "back off" (although really, can we ever back off?).

And as Nate rightly states, a bit more urgency is appropriate, especially on the side Nancy highlights: the power of the individual (insert classic Margaret Mead quote here about never underestimating the power of a small group of people changing the world).

Clearly, not enough gains made yet - but this was all before the power of Web 2.0, online citizen science projects, social networking and organization . . . .

If done right, I firmly believe this go round can really make a difference.

Thanks for your comments!

Laura K said...

The message is still right on the mark.

I'd just try to make the language more compelling. Thought the first paragraph was a bit weak for an intro. Perhaps by drawing on a specific example? Not sure.

I just wrote a Why Protect Birds? sidebar in that migration article. After building an argument based on science, I used a compelling quote in there from local PhD. "Quite simply because other species have the right to exist. Humans have the intellectual and physical capacity to drastically alter our environment. With that comes the attendant responsibility to protect or repair what’s left."

I thought that was a compelling argument for the people who don't yet care about birds.

noflickster said...

Laura K - specific examples are a powerful way to link the "us" to "them," I'm so glad you brought that up. And embarrassed I didn't think of it first!

I think examples of how certain species save the agricultural industry, the backyard BBQs from biting insects, etc. would be a fantastic element to include.

The organochemical industry might feel differently . . . .

Thanks for the suggestion! And I can't wait to read your article, can you post the link here?


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