Because Lyndell and Tamika come from extremely modest financial circumstances, I often think that these Mississippi folk imagine we middle-class white folks in Wisconsin are rich enough to buy just about anything we want. Tamika reinforced that thought at breakfast the next morning. She was so enthralled by the almost unbelievable variety and quantity of birds on display that she only half-jokingly asked, “Did you buy these birds?” Well, of course we didn’t. They come as a cost-free blessing courtesy of Mother Nature.
Our guests headed back home, but her question tickled my curiosity. Just what would I be willing to pay to assure the continued health of our avian feathered friends? It’s an especially pertinent question in light of two recent reports on environmental stability.
The first is a United Nations report that found 1 million animal and plant species may become extinct because of shifts in the use of land and ocean resources, over harvesting, climate change, pollution, and invasive species (in that order). The second comes from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. It found that the current atmospheric CO2 level is 415 ppm (parts per million), way beyond the centuries-long average of about 275 ppm and higher than any time in human history. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major contributor to climate change.
Given these huge environmental challenges, perhaps each of us should ask ourselves what costs we’d be willing to shoulder to “buy” a level of assurance that the bird populations we enjoy today will also delight our great grandchildren.
Are we willing to minimize single-use conveniences of paper and plastic products? Would it be too much to ask us to reduce our release of toxic pesticides and harsh cleaning and personal care products into the waste stream? Can we lean toward eating lower on the food chain - more fruits, veggies, and whole grains? Do we have the resolve to transition our fossil-fuel-based transportation, heating/cooling and electrical generation infrastructure to a clean renewable energy model?
Hard questions. But what choice do we have? Because this is our only home where we’re forever… Earthbound.