Tuesday 17 January 2012

A Supremely Bad Idea

A Book Review + a Rant on Conservation:

I love birds and I love reading so it's understandable that I've read many books about birding. Last year I was given the book "A Supremely Bad Idea" written by Luke Dempsey and yesterday I finished reading it.

So what's the book about?
Basically a group of 3 friends travel around the US in search of birds (sounds like a typical birder to me). They aren't doing a "Big Year", they're just out there because they want to get out and see their country and mostly because they love birding.

The book is divided into chapters corresponding to which states they visited (Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pacific Northwest, Texas and Colorado). For each trip the author recounts their target birds, where they went, what they saw and the unexpected stories along the way.
Sort of sounds like a blog... and at times it really did feel like each chapter was one super long blog post without many photos! But the author writes in an entertaining way and offers many opportunities to laugh with (mostly at) him easily compensating for the lack of photos.

What I really like about the book is that the author describes the unexpected stories and the beautiful landscapes with equal importance as the birds. One of the main reasons I love birding is that it makes me get out there and experience so many cool things that our Earth contains.

Along the way they run into drug dealers, illegal migrants, the KKK, many law enforcement officials and a few obnoxious birders. Nothing unexpected if you're a birder!

I definitely recommend the book!

On the more serious side the author finishes with some issues of conservation. I have always assumed that all the driving around that most birders are guilty of is rather hypocritical of us.

But there's always different ways of looking at an issue. And in this case, by driving around we become eco-tourists. Even if we're visiting cities in the same province or state we're still contributing to the economy of that city/town by staying in hotels/B&B's and buying their food - if you're like me and sleep on the side of the road and bring most of the food you need with you then you at least buy fuel for the car! By doing this people may realize that there are economical benefits of ensuring that their green spaces remain and ideally grow in quantity and quality.

On the larger scale, the many birders (and other wildlife watchers) that visit Costa Rica certainly play a large role in fueling the success of their eco-tourism (for example), which in turn has ensured that the extensive national parks and protected areas remain that way and hopefully grow.

On the note of conservation:

As part of Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore I won $188 in cash (which is about $150 Canadian). In the past I have always vowed to donate any money I win ... I don't buy lottery tickets though so I had no plans to win anything. This prize was a door prize to a dinner and I suppose it falls under that category of winning money. So I've decided to give it to Nature Conservancy Canada because I think the best way to ensure the conservation of birds (and other animals, plants, fungi..organisms) is to ensure that the habitat exists for them. And not only that, someone needs to ensure that the habitat is protected.

Trying to save a few Panda Bears here or a bunch of Spoon-billed Sandpipers there is a waste in my opinion. The reason they're dying out is because their habitats are being destroyed. One could debate that there's no point in saving Spoon-billed Sandpipers because if and when they're released they're going to keep dying for the exact same reasons they're dying now - the value in saving them is that they're enigmatic and thus help with educating people and convincing them to help out. What we really need is habitat and to stop people from killing the animals (and fewer humans on this planet, if I dare say so).

I feel that the Nature Conservancy is in line with my opinion.