There are more and more birders at the same time there are less and less birds. Last night, I went to see Jeff Wells talk about bird conservation, particularly in the boreal forest, the immense band of woodland spanning northern Canada below the tundra. Great chunks of it are being eaten up for tissue paper and mail order catalogs (did you know Victoria’s Secret mails one million of them a day? after recent protests, the junk-lingerie boob-job marketeers agreed to go to recycled paper), while things like tar sands extraction in Alberta, uranium and other mining operations are destroying thousands of acres. The boreal zone is a breeding ground for many of our bird species as well as the preserve of the last great mammals (caribou, bear, wolf) largely extirpated from the rest of the continent.
Wells also talked about mountaintop-removal coal mining in Appalachia. Here, entire mountains are scraped into neighboring valleys, destroying two kinds of complex ecologies and sendin toxics downsteam. More details are in this 2005 Harper's piece. All that coal is being burnt for our livestyles, for much of the electricity in the US comes from burning coal (not oil).
It was a grim presentation, although he tried to be upbeat: they stopped the market hunting of birds and millinery industry at the turn of the last century, for instance. I finally went to catalogchoice.org to get rid of my god-damned junk catalogs (unfortunately, you have to do each catalog company individually). This was an Audubon lecture; I found out that the auditorium I admired last month was a Fox Studios screening room back in the day.