In 1962, Rachel Carson called it the “silent spring,” the time when pesticides would destroy birds and other wildlife and leave humanity existing in a half-life of stunned silence. Her work was the impetus for the environmental movement and has influenced millions of people worldwide. Yet today, more than 50 years later, pesticides are still very much in use, and we are facing the slow, agonizing fulfillment of her prophecy. In September, the journal Science published the results of a comprehensive study of North American bird populations. The results: Since 1970, there are nearly 3 billion fewer birds singing their spring songs, a staggering 29% gone from the Earth. Bird experts and conservationists are calling it “a full-blown crisis” and “the loss of nature.”*
The day I read these figures, I wept. I could feel my heart breaking. The losses are so huge. Beloved warblers in all their colorful variety: 617 million gone. Two of my all-time favorite birds: Baltimore orioles, 2 in 5 gone; wood thrushes, 6 in 10 gone. It is hard to fathom. Almost unbelievable. The birds that I eagerly anticipated seeing and hearing each spring are vanishing and may one day be gone forever. What would spring be without birds? Without the robin’s cheery song and the redwing blackbird’s flashing colors and ringing call? Dead air, everywhere.