Let’s Hear it for… the Birds?

Scarlet macaws in flight over the Pacific, Costa Rica, September, 2011.

So maybe I’ve been on a pro-local, pro-sustainable kick lately, but I don’t think this is a bad thing (and it benefits us all, so yes, you’re welcome… haha). But I was appalled when my husband and I recently received a ‘gift’ from Audubon (for our financial support of the organization over the years). The gift was a fleece blanket with the image of a heron on it and it was clearly marked ‘Made in China.’ No, the irony wasn’t lost on us either.

C'mon Audubon. You know better than this...

Here we were, trying to be good, environmentally-minded citizens and our donation provided us with… a cheap blanket made in a factory in China, packaged in plastic (the plastic envelope even said ‘Made in China’), and shipped to us across the world to our home in California? How is this logical?

As I’m currently reading Peter Matthiessen’s brilliant study of cranes Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes, which details the dire state of bird life in Asia (and especially so in China), I was astonished that Audubon, an organization so clearly linked with pro-environmental practices, would fall so desperately short on this front. First of all, I think the idea of being sent ‘gifts’ for donations is silly. If I wanted a fleece blanket or a mug, I’d go buy one (as anyone living in a capitalist system knows, it’s easy enough to buy something somewhere). The gift is a nice gesture, but if such generosity on Audubon’s part needs to take place, wouldn’t the gesture be that much more appreciated if the object were something hand-created in a sustainable manner by someone nearer to home?

Add to the irony the fact that Audubon and Toyota are currently running a ‘Spring Greening’ campaign. I’m laughing painfully here. Seriously.

Clearly, the system in which we live does not want to reward local, sustainable living practices. When even charity is polluted with anti-sustainable practices (as well as consumer-driven moral lessons like ‘Give charitably to us and we’ll give you an object to thank you’), we really need to question the state of our existence here on earth. In the meantime, I’ve written a letter to Audubon through their feedback form. Let’s see if my plea for the organization to pledge to stick to pro-local, pro-sustainable practices will fall on deaf ears…

Until then, we’ll have to learn to be more savvy in not only our consumption but also our giving practices. The real losers in this are the birds, who are already in a precarious state before we mussed up their migration routes, nesting grounds, and now, even, the charities who claim to want to protect them. As if you needed further proof of the environmental destruction our consumerism produces (I’ve seen all this first hand during my travels and will be addressing these themes in my second novel), here are a few photographs. This collection of photographs, by Lu Guang (卢广) from the PRC won him the $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his documentary project “Pollution in China.” I have withheld some of the more disturbing images from this blog, but I highly suggest you click on the link. Also please join me in asking Audubon to change their practices by sharing this post on your Facebook page, twitter feed, or emailing to like-minded friends. We all know there is power in numbers and I hope that we can start to change the tide away from the reality in the images below and toward something more beautiful, like that in the image of the scarlet macaws above.

As Einstein once said: “a human being experiences him[or her]self, his [or her] thoughts and feelings as… a kind of optical delusion of his [or her] consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

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About Kaitlin Solimine

Kaitlin Solimine was raised in New Hampshire but has considered China a second home for the past two decades. She is the author of the award-winning forthcoming novel Empire of Glass and co-founder of Hippo Reads, a media start-up connecting academic insights with real world issues. She lives in Singapore.
This entry was posted in Asia, Eco-Conscious, North America, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Let’s Hear it for… the Birds?

  1. I love the birds, they always greet me in the morning with their dawn chorus, I regularly receive emails from RSPB who make me aware of the plight of the bird population. I also watch a programme called Spring Watch. The presenters are so enthusiastic and watch the developments in the nests with hidden cameras.

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