Thank you Dave for a clear, concise presentation that helps point out the 
multiple problems facing us in choosing how we want to live. Ultimate value 
choices may not be agreed upon by everyone, though. And that has been apparent 
in these posts. Thanks for being honest about how birds can be affected by each 
form of energy's procurement / usage. That perspective helps to "round out" the 
information needed for each person's decision-making. In the end, each of us is 
required to make our own choices, and perhaps to enter into the public, or 
political, arena to stand up for those choices. It has been good to voice our 
thoughts and to encourage one another to keep perspective. For now I am 
planning to continue to point out the beauties of nature to those around me and 
to educate young people (and older ones, too) to appreciate and understand our 
responsibility to care for and about this world that we have been blessed with. 
Colleen Richards

---------- Original Message ----------
From: Dave Nutter <>
To: CayugaBirds-L b <>
Subject: Re: [cayugabirds-l] Conservation vs Ecology
Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2023 17:43:26 -0400

    Carl makes a valid point about the destructiveness to flora and fauna of 
large scale solar arrays. Solar panels which cover huge fields should be called 
mines, not farms. The arraysâ&euro;&trade; extraction of energy is industrial, 
not biological, and it is done while trying to overcome natural systems, so the 
solar arrays disrupt biology. By contrast, a farm harnesses biology using our 
soil and rain, and it diverts some of the biological products to human purposes 
in a repeatable annual process. When agriculture is practiced on the scale of a 
family farm, it can do so in concert with plants and wildlife in hedgerows, 
along streams, and around ponds, and agricultureâ&euro;&trade;s incidental 
waste products can be more easily absorbed and used by nature along all those 
edges. Factory farms differ from traditional farms because with 
â&euro;&oelig;efficiencyâ&euro;� of scale, they eliminate nature and 
natureâ&euro;&trade;s ability to handle agricultureâ&euro;&trade;s side 
effects. At large scale, the waste is no longer incidental and absorbed, it is 
toxic.  If farm land is abandoned, it can be reclaimed by plants and animals. 
When the solar panels wear out in a couple decades, will the regulations make 
it worth the effort and expense to recycle the old ones and install new ones? 
Or will it be cheaper to abandon those arrays? On my daily walks I see metal 
playground equipment in the woods because the City of Ithaca took it from where 
the Childrenâ&euro;&trade;s Garden was being built, and chucked it alongside 
the old railroad grade, which became the Black Diamond Trail. I imagine 
hundreds of acres of metal of a big solar array, but overgrown among trees, 
vines and shrubs.  For a solar array to work in our climate, vegetation must 
suppressed. This can be done by pasturing sheep among them, which makes cute 
advertising video, but how often is this practice used? How often is plant 
suppression done instead by covering and/or poisoning the soil? This has 
effects of heating the ground and speeding rain runoff. How often is plant 
suppression among solar arrays done with fossil-fuel powered machinery which 
also wastes the plant material? Maybe folks think thatâ&euro;&trade;s no big 
deal because so much land area is already mown, wasting both plants and fossil 
fuel, but I think mowing should be drastically scaled back. A reasonable sized 
personal lawn is the area a person can keep mowed with a reel mower pushed by 
hand without using fossil fuel. Itâ&euro;&trade;s not worth adding to the 
destruction of the natural climate, flora, and fauna in order to have a bigger 
lawn than one actually uses.  So, yes, I agree, big solar arrays are poor for 
plants & animals. I also see at least 3 other parts to the equation as we 
evaluate the harm and benefit of solar arrays. What did the solar arrays 
replace on the landscape? What were the solar arrays built instead of for 
energy? How much energy do we need?  In our moist temperate region, the land 
was mostly forested until being cleared for agriculture, which was a big 
investment. Abandoned agricultural land can, through succession, become 
meadows, shrub fields, and secondary forest, all of which harbor a wide variety 
of birds, but thatâ&euro;&trade;s a value we take for granted, not one with a 
price tag on it. People generally like and are uplifted by wild birds, and some 
of us are passionate about them. But abandoned farmland is considered 
â&euro;&oelig;unproductiveâ&euro;� by those who tax the land, and therefore 
also by those who own the land, so this habitat is apt to be shredded and 
converted to a large scale solar array. Iâ&euro;&trade;ve certainly seen that 
happen. If we as a society can literally value land which supports a diversity 
of birds, then less will be turned into long-term non-bird-habitat.  My 
impression is that most agricultural land around here is for corn, and 
Iâ&euro;&trade;ve also seen some cornfields replaced by solar arrays. 
Whatâ&euro;&trade;s the impact on birds? What do we lose when a cornfield is 
replaced by a solar array? Cornfields are lousy habitat for breeding birds, but 
blackbirds feed there in spring and autumn, and waterfowl may feed there in 
winter. If old-fashioned manure is spread, then Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, 
and a few Lapland Longspurs may visit to feed. And if they are quick about it, 
Horned Larks might nest on the bare dirt before farmers get too active there. 
Pesticides used on corn affects insects, birds, and aquatic animals beyond the 
fields. What is the corn used for? Regulations require ethanol to be added to 
gasoline. Ethanol is easy to make from corn, so lots of corn goes there, which 
helps keep corn prices high and lots of land in corn, even though corn takes so 
much energy to produce, what with pesticides & fertilizers & machines, that 
adding ethanol from corn increases the carbon footprint of the gasoline. Maybe 
the sway of corn-producing states, especially Iowa with its early caucus, is 
some of the politics Carl mentioned. Another big use of corn is for 
high-fructose corn syrup, a cheap sweetener which is a big ingredient of many 
processed foods and beverages, and which has been implicated in our epidemics 
of obesity and diabetes. Again, politics may sway how health is studied and the 
public is informed. Another big use of corn is feed for livestock. While I 
enjoy eating meat, cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream, and eggs, I also know 
that foods which are higher on the food chain, especially cattle, take an awful 
lot of energy and water to produce, and in many cases produce a lot of 
pollution. I donâ&euro;&trade;t need lots of meat, not every day. And what I 
eat doesnâ&euro;&trade;t need to be totally dependent on corn. I can eat local 
pork and eggs which are produced with less negative impact on wildlife, the 
environment, and the climate. And if you eat dairy, wouldnâ&euro;&trade;t you 
prefer to support a farm where the family appreciates birds, practices farming 
in a way that allows them to accrue a yard list of over 200 species, and 
welcomes the birding public to appreciate the rarities such as the 
Sayâ&euro;&trade;s Phoebe, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Yellow Rail that 
chose to visit? Iâ&euro;&trade;m talking about the Troyersâ&euro;&trade; 
Birdsong Meadow Farm in Candor. They have pastures and hayfields, where they 
reserve space for a thriving colony of Bobolinks, but they donâ&euro;&trade;t 
feed their cows corn at all. The Troyer farmâ&euro;&trade;s milk goes to 
Organic Valley, in case you want to support conscientious bird-friendly 
farming.  But if a corn field, which uses lots of energy, and depletes topsoil, 
and often results in erosion, and produces plenty of pesticide pollution, and 
has dubious societal benefit, gets taken out of corn production, should it also 
be taken out of biology by installing a huge solar array? Seneca Meadows shows 
that, with effort, corn fields can return to exceptional wildlife habitat. 
Similarly, Montezuma Wetlands Complex is on land that was once the vast 
Montezuma Marshes which were a big barrier to building the Erie Canal, then 
were drained and used as farm land (potatoes, then corn in my memory) with 
dikes & channels to deliberately flood & drain the fields. Former corn fields 
still have potential for birds.  What are the solar arrays erected instead of, 
in terms of energy sources? If itâ&euro;&trade;s burning coal or petroleum, or 
gas from the ground, those energy sources add greenhouse gases to the 
atmosphere directly at large scale through burning. There is tremendous land 
destruction and water pollution and air pollution from mining and washing coal, 
and dealing with the leftover ash and the mining wastes. It turns out that 
newly exposed rock is not benign; it has elements exposed and chemicals 
produced which are toxic. Likewise, be happy you donâ&euro;&trade;t live where 
petroleum is produced, or shipped, or refined, because those places are toxic. 
Much petroleum nowadays, like much gas mining, is extracted by fracking, which 
involves pumping chemicals into the ground at high pressure in order fracture 
the rock. Those liquids come back up even more toxic, saline, and radioactive 
but must be â&euro;&oelig;disposed ofâ&euro;� somewhere. Dumped? Spread on 
roads to melt ice? Sent to a wastewater treatment plant that was designed only 
for digesting human feces? Some of the fracking chemicals make the groundwater 
unsafe to drink. And some of the gases being mined leak into the groundwater or 
out of the ground or leak out of systems designed to collect and contain them. 
In some cases those gases are not what is being sought, so they are 
deliberately vented or burned. Problem is, those gases are themselves 
greenhouse gases, particularly methane, which is over 80 times stronger of a 
greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. So, what advertisers quaintly named 
â&euro;&oelig;naturalâ&euro;� gas is anathema to nature. We know that the 
addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere has caused the rising 
atmospheric temperature, among other deleterious effects too numerous to list 
here (but Alicia made a good start!), and those effects are in the process of 
moving and removing bird habitats at an unprecedented pace. So, 
weâ&euro;&trade;re trying to weigh big negative consequences of large-scale, 
popular fossil fuel use, consequences which are easy to overlook, because they 
are either in someone elseâ&euro;&trade;s backyard, or they are everywhere but 
gradual.  Other energy sources include nuclear. I think the same PR people who 
coined the lie â&euro;&oelig;clean coalâ&euro;� also were hired by the nuclear 
industry. Technically, a nuclear power plant isnâ&euro;&trade;t spewing carbon 
dioxide as itâ&euro;&trade;s main product, but it uses plenty of energy, much 
of which does spew CO2, and it has radioactive waste which, in the time scale 
of human civilization, never goes away. The trail of radioactive waste starts 
when & where uranium is mined. The Native Americans who were 
â&euro;&oelig;givenâ&euro;� the apparent wasteland where that mining later 
occurred now have pollution on their land, in their air, and in their desert 
water, and they have a high cancer rate.  Natural uranium is only 0.72% U-235, 
the rest being U-238, but it must be 2% to 5% U-235 to be used in a typical 
nuclear power plant (and much higher for weapons). This means that the great 
majority of the mined uranium, (the U-238 which has been 
â&euro;&oelig;depletedâ&euro;� of some of itâ&euro;&trade;s accompanying U-235) 
would be waste. As of 2020 about 2 million tons of it had accumulated. But the 
military found a use for the incredibly dense metallic form. Ask the folks in 
Iraq about living where depleted uranium shells and bullets were used. When 
they impact, they damage what they hit, then the shattered uranium 
spontaneously burns when the bits are exposed to air, and being a heavy metal, 
its oxide is toxic. And the process for â&euro;&oelig;enrichingâ&euro;� the 
uranium for use in power plants uses a quarter of the energy that the power 
plant would make (much more for weapons), and uses fluorine, whose compounds 
are highly toxic and very powerful greenhouse gases. Everything used during 
every step becomes radioactive waste. Whatâ&euro;&trade;s left over after use 
in a power plant is a much more diverse mess that we havenâ&euro;&trade;t 
figured out what to do with, so it accumulates in pools of water on site at 
power plants.  Hydropower sounds cool unless you live in the valley that is 
being flooded or care about the fish who breed there or streamside habitats.  I 
happen to think wind turbines are beautiful, and one can farm among them, but I 
donâ&euro;&trade;t live next to one, and Iâ&euro;&trade;ve heard that many 
people donâ&euro;&trade;t want to. Certainly the idea of a blade flying off is 
scary. Do wind turbines kill birds? Yes. How many? Hard to tell. I once tried 
to help Bill Evans look for dead birds below a tall radio tower after a foggy 
night during migration. If you think seeing a warbler in a leafy tree is hard, 
try looking for it when you have no clues from sound, movement, habitat, shape, 
color, or pattern. The dead birds had fallen randomly in the weeds below the 
guy wires. They looked like bits of fluff because their contour feathers were 
completely disheveled in odd positions that often obscured the wings & head. We 
arrived early in the morning, hoping to find them before the knowledgeable 
local scavengers, such as skunks, foxes, and crows. Some wind turbines are 
erected in the ocean. I doubt that the remains of long-lived, slow-reproducing 
birds such Puffins would be found below a wind turbine at sea.  My point is 
that, while fossil fuel use is rapidly wrecking the climate in numerous ways 
for people and for birds and for lots more things which we care about, at the 
same time all energy sources when scaled up have scaled up downsides, and few 
of us would want to live where any one of those energy sources was about to be 
added. Furthermore, just adding solar arrays doesnâ&euro;&trade;t actually help 
the fight against climate change. To fight climate change we need to stop using 
fossil fuels. And we havenâ&euro;&trade;t been doing that.  Look at the Keeling 
Curve. Thatâ&euro;&trade;s the continuous record of atmospheric CO2 since 1958. 
It records the biosphere breathing. The CO2 level falls a few parts per million 
every year in spring and summer as the plants in the northern hemisphere 
photosynthesize, then the CO2 level rises in autumn and winter as decay takes 
over. But every single year the rise has been a little more than the drop. The 
yearly averages form a smooth upward curve. It was below 320ppm in 1958 and 
this year itâ&euro;&trade;s poised to cross 420ppm. The amount of atmospheric 
CO2 has risen by over 50% since the start of the Industrial Revolution and mass 
coal use, but itâ&euro;&trade;s risen by about a third just in my lifetime. 
Weâ&euro;&trade;ve had at least 35 years of public awareness of fossil fuels, 
greenhouse gases, climate change, and predictions of problems becoming reality, 
alongside a steady disinformation campaign by the fossil fuel industry, who 
still rake in record profits, despite renewable energy now being less expensive 
than fossil fuels. Whatâ&euro;&trade;s our current situation? According to a 
report from NOAA last November, we have barely slowed the *increase* in the 
emissions of CO2.,highest%20annual%20total%20ever%20recorded.
 According to that report, â&euro;&oelig;Land use changes, especially 
deforestation, are a significant source of CO2 emissions - equivalent to about 
a tenth of the amount of CO2 coming from fossil fuel emissions.â&euro;� In this 
annual carbon accounting, â&euro;&oelig;Planting new forests counterbalances 
half the deforestation.â&euro;� So, while planting trees is good, we are a very 
long way from addressing the CO2 emissions from fossil fuels by planting trees. 
We would need to increase that effort twenty-fold.  The ocean will only absorb 
a fraction of atmospheric CO2, and the report says, â&euro;&oelig;the 
oceanâ&euro;&trade;s capacity to be a sink is finiteâ&euro;�. Furthermore, it 
says that warming of the water is reducing its ability to absorb CO2.  Because 
all types of large scale energy production are destructive, I think we should 
do all we can, both personally, by encouraging others, and by promoting 
policies, to increase energy efficiency, and to reduce energy use. And because 
fossil fuels are driving climate change, we need to stop using them.  So, yes, 
solar arrays are ugly, and Iâ&euro;&trade;d rather there be land that housed a 
diversity of birds. But all the other non-fossil-fuel options seemed worse, so 
I get my electricity from a local solar array. At least my energy use is solar 
on a net basis. And I conserve, with a well-insulated house that 
doesnâ&euro;&trade;t even connect to gas. My car uses fossil fuel, but it is 
very efficient, and I rarely use it. I bicycle and walk for local trips. My 
birding by car is limited. I drove to Troyerâ&euro;&trade;s to see the 
spectacular Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, rationalizing that I may never go to its 
home in Texas, despite how attractive Texas birds are to me. Otherwise most of 
my limited car-birding is also car-pooling. Itâ&euro;&trade;s good to get to 
know the local neighborhood birds well. And to appreciate that traveling longer 
distances is a luxury with costs to the things we would travel for. Keep 
checking and eventually a rare or novel bird will come to you, like that Little 
Gull I found by the Red Lighthouse, or a new year-yard bird like the Eastern 
Kingbird that distracted me while I was writing this. 

- - Dave Nutter
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