110. In Closing

Black-capped Chickadee

When I started writing this book in 2003, I knew that I faced a daunting task. I’d been working on conservation issues for many years and knew how many perils birds face in the world today. But as I researched, I learned more about the sheer magnitude of problems that I was already aware of—50 million birds a year at TV towers? A billion birds a year at windows? And I discovered perils that 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.

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Before we were even a nation, we worked together in a concerted effort to defeat the most powerful empire on earth and win our independence. Remembering that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself, we made enormous personal and collective sacrifices and survived the Depression, destroyed Nazism, and defeated the nation that had attacked Pearl Harbor. When we set our collective minds and hearts to it, we traveled to the moon, walked on it, and even hit a couple of golf balls up there. Now, if we continue to take steps backward, rather than toward clean air and water and energy, if we slide away from protecting the resources that belong to every single one of us, and if we abandon the natural habitat that sustains us and that is our rightful heritage, it will not be because we can’t make things better; it will be 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 save the day, but I grew up hearing that “the Lord helps those who help themselves.” And I can’t forget that God charged Noah with saving every species. This mess is our responsibility, individually and collectively. What is the solution? You and I are.

Cuban Tody