Thursday, February 4, 2010

To See The Birds Come Back

For a long time I wasn't sure whether I really was seeing more birds in the Willamette Valley than I had as a child. The answer, though, is yes, I was.

I wondered the other day whether I had really seen a mature bald eagle near Bellfountain Road, just south of Philomath, while taking my father to the gym. Even after seeing a large bird with a light-colored head twice in the same vicinity, I still wasn't sure. But the answer is, yes, I had.

It reminded me of a time years ago when I walked on a country road with one of my kids when he was little, and told him about how a woman who had noticed one day that there seemed to be fewer birds than there used to be, and wondered if it were true, and if so what was causing it....

"And when she found out that DDT was causing birds' eggshells to be so thin the baby birds couldn't hatch, she told all her friends that people needed to stop using DDT to kill the insects, and her friends said, 'But everybody uses DDT. It would be impossible to get everyone to stop using it.' But she said, 'If we don't stop using DDT, one day there will be no more birds at all -- so we have to stop, even if it is hard to do it.'

"So she kept on talking about DDT, and she went around and found proof that the birds really were going out of the world, and that DDT really was to blame, and she got people to stop using it, and she got laws passed on one country after another to stop people from making it, and finally people agreed that it had to stop, and they did stop.

"But the woman was still worried about the birds, because part of the problem with DDT was that it didn't get used up quickly -- it stayed in the bodies of the bugs that were poisoned by it, and it stayed in the bodies of the birds who ate the bugs, and it was going to take a long time for the DDT that was already out there to finally go away, and maybe all the birds would die before that happened.

"And then she found out she was sick, and would soon die. And so she died never knowing for sure whether she had saved the birds or not. But we know now that the answer is, yes, she did."

I enjoyed telling my child that story. I hope one day to tell it ot other children, too.

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