Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"In the Age of Noah"

Thomas L. Friedman has a splendid column in today's New York Times: In the Age of Noah. I'm surprised more people don't refer to the Biblical story of Noah to counter all the tired old arguments about how God told Adam he'd have dominion over nature. He says,
For so many years, Indonesians, like many of us, have been taught that life is a trade-off: healthy people with lots of jobs or healthy forests with lots of gibbons — you can’t have both. But the truth is you have to have both. If you don’t, you’ll eventually end up with neither, and then it will be too late even for Noah.

This was the last column by Mr. Friedman until April because he's writing a book about energy and the environment. I'm really looking forward to it. I closed 101 Ways to Help Birds with this:
When I started writing this book in 2003, I knew I faced a daunting task. I’d been working on conservation issues for many years and knew how very many perils face birds in the world today. But as I researched, I learned more about the sheer magnitude of problems I was already aware of — 50 million birds a year at TV towers? A billion birds a year at windows? — and discovered perils I’d never even imagined, large and small, from the dangers of fences for prairie chickens to the toxicity of pennies in ponds. How could I not feel discouraged? Like the children in Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, birds face a mess that is “so big and so deep and so tall” that there seems no realistic way to solve it. No way at all.

Before we were even a nation, working together in a concerted effort we defeated the most powerful empire on earth to win our independence. Remembering that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself and making enormous personal and collective sacrifices, we survived a Depression, destroyed Nazism and defeated the nation that had attacked us at Pearl Harbor. When we set our collective minds and hearts to it, we traveled to the moon, walked upon it, and even hit a couple of golf balls up there. If now we continue to take steps backward from, rather than toward, clean air and water and energy, slide away from protection of the resources that belong to every single one of us, and abandon more and more of the natural habitat that sustains us and that is the rightful heritage of us all, it will not be because we can’t make things better, but because we choose not to.

In the real world, there is no magical Cat who will ride in and clean up our messes for us. I have a few friends who deeply and truly believe that God will step in and somehow save the day, but I grew up hearing that “the Lord helps those who help themselves.” And never can I forget that God directly charged Noah to save every species. This mess is our responsibility, individually and collectively.

What is the solution? You and I are.