The Lab of O recently released a report saying the world’s wild bird population 
has dropped an alarming 29% in the last five decades. I also received a list 
from the Lab of O about how we as individuals can help reduce the harm to 
birds. Suggestions include preventing window strikes, stopping cat predation, 
stopping pesticide use, planting native species instead of lawns, reducing 
plastic use and recycling plastic, and not consuming sun-grown coffee. I would 
add bananas and sugar to that list of tropical plantations which destroy 
habitat, and suggest generally eating locally. The list also talks about 
advocating policies in each of those areas.

Anyway, the suggestions are good, and I support them. Yet I think there’s an 
elephant in the room. An issue which was not mentioned is destroying coastal 
habitats, mountain habitats, and arctic habitats including sea ice. It is 
causing desertification. It is producing larger wildfires, including where 
plants and animals are not fire-adapted. It is destroying coral reefs which are 
nurseries for fish. It has already moved the ranges of fish and other aquatic 
bird food by hundreds of miles or affected their populations. It creates 
increasingly powerful storms which can devastate islands, as we have seen in 
Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

The problem is climate change, and it is predicted to move the growing 
conditions for plants much faster than the plants can move and regrow, thus 
destroying habitats for birds at range-wide scales. And that’s before 
considering all the habitat destruction caused by humans trying to adapt, move, 
fight over resources, and create new farm land to replace the areas which are 
no longer usable.

So, I think fighting climate change should be on that list for helping birds 
(as well as helping many other creatures, including humans). And that means, 
among many other things, reducing our carbon footprints to limit the future 
damage. 

What is the carbon footprint of birding, and what would reducing it mean?
Not flying?

Using an electric car charged with renewable energy or at least a high mpg car? 
 (And even keeping renewable energy use at a moderate level, because 
photovoltaic & wind “farms” also displace habitat and harm birds.) 
Limiting miles driven? 
Car-pooling to go birding? 

Using discretion when deciding what trips to take? How many gallons of gasoline 
should be burned by people to see a little lost bird? Putting a limit on the 
area in which to chase rarities. Staying in a county or a basin rather than 
trying to personally cover a state, country, continent, or planet? Forego 
chasing rarities which have been seen before? 

More positively, how about concentrating birding on a small area and getting to 
know its birds well: places you can walk or bike to, places that are already 
along your daily commute. 

And for myself, I have greatly enjoyed the photographs of birds and 
descriptions of the birds’ activities which other people have contributed to 
their eBird reports. Rather than envy, I can share their joy without feeling I 
need to jump in a car to see (or miss) that bird myself.

Anyway, these are some issues I have been struggling with, and I wonder if 
other birders are also thinking about these things. Thanks.

- - Dave Nutter
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