The bobolinks are back, bringing with them one of the prettiest songs in all of nature. Today the dogs and I were serenaded from all corners of the field as those lovely birds staked out their nesting places. We’ve been fortunate in the past few years. As more farms have gone out of hay crops and those still in hay are cutting earlier in the season than they once did. These birds are safe in our fields until the end of June when they finish their nesting. Last year we had at least fifteen nests and music throughout May and June that would lift the heaviest heart.
You see, protecting birds isn’t just about birds, it’s all about us. Our motives are quite self serving. We don’t use pesticides or chemical fertilizers on our fields and garden. While this serves the nesting birds, it primarily serves us, our garden vegetables, the water in our ponds and the air that we breathe. In fact, since we breathe the air, drink water and eat the food that came from the ground, our environmental activities are the most self-serving things we do.
So, there you go. It’s a classic conundrum. Everything that we were taught about competition , that you only win by making someone else lose, fails us in the real world. The greatest problems facing the world today, climate change, inadequate supplies of clean safe water and food in many countries, air so polluted in many cities that people wear masks so they can breathe, loss of biodiversity in modern agriculture cannot be served by the competition paradigm. Since we all breathe the same air, automobile and factory emissions hurt everyone. If climate change continues to cause the Great Lakes to evaporate, we all lose this most precious of all commodities. If modern society allows the skills required to grow our own food to be lost, then all of society will suffer. Ultimately we can’t save ourselves by thinking only of ourselves.
Which brings me back to the birds or community gardens or riding my bicycle instead of driving or sitting here writing this column. Every morning that I take the dogs into the field the birds set up a chorus that cheers my soul. Every local gardener that loves to eat his own locally grown vegetables helps to protect the air that I breathe by cutting the number of trucks importing foreign produce to local stores. Every time I ride my bike I feel like a kid again. It is only incidental that I save the cost of the bicycle every year by not driving and protect the air from my truck’s exhausted greenhouse gasses.
So, whether you love gardening or walking or cycling or eating locally grown food or listening to birds, keep doing it. Your fun benefits us all. We don’t have to approach environmental problems as obligations. That approach is not sustainable. Pick positive activities that you enjoy doing and try to share that enjoyment with your family and friends. Who knows, maybe we could all end up walking or biking to work and feel healthier as a result. Maybe, too, we could rediscover the peace of listening to the birds singing at dawn and dusk or growing our own fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers and in doing so helping to protect the biodiversity of the world around us. Maybe too this trend could support a whole new industrial age, one that is ecologically sustainable. Then, maybe, we can turn to our children and say, “It took us a long time to get here, but we finally woke up and remembered the dreams that we once had of helping to make a better world for the future.” Who knows. Fun can be contagious. See you next time.