“There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.”
Rachel Carson wrote these words more than 50 years ago in her famous book, “Silent Spring/” If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it. It is a harbinger of the times to come and the reason that the harmful pesticide DDT was banned in the United States. (I will leave the DDT discussion for another day.) “Silent Spring” was recently named “one of the greatest science books of all time” by the editors of Discover magazine.
I was driving to work the other morning. It was a cold, winter morning; snow lay in mounds on wet fields, and large puddles formed around broken corn stubble. Geese were flying above in broken “V” patterns on a slate-colored sky, while some nestled together on the ground trying to stay warm. Others padded around finding stray corn kernels for breakfast. Canada geese and snow geese together enjoying these sprawling fields. I counted hawks perched in barren trees, hunting for their morning meal. I love this part of my morning drive. Many of you may know it, or a place just like it. It is along the Little Blue Trace Trail. Urban development has not yet maimed this bucolic picture.
These are the last agricultural fields I know here on the eastern side of the metro Area. I remember when driving east on Interstate 70 out of Kansas City and after Noland Road, the land would open up. There would be huge open areas of agricultural fields, patches of forested areas, or just open ground. I would always see hawks, deer and sometimes other critters. And then “progress” happened.
Remember before Bass Pro Shops excavated half of a hillside, so it could build a store. When I worked at Burr Oak Woods Nature Center, we received many calls from nearby landowners reporting wildlife “fleeing” the area. Especially concerning were the numbers of turtles and snakes neighbors were finding in their yards, literally trying to get away from the earth-moving machines. I am sure the larger animals were leaving under cover of darkness, but the small crawling creatures had to just get out when they could.
Every time I drive by Bass Pro Shops those phone calls haunt me. I think about all of those animals trying to get away from being crushed.
How many died, and where did they end up going?
Again, it brings me back to the foretelling message of “Silent Spring.” I drive by the fields, and I wonder – will my grandchildren see geese flying free in fields. Will the Mississippi Flyway still exist for birds, or will there be enough open land for them to use it anymore? What will it take for people to understand the web of life and their role in all of this?
Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City, a residential energy client service coordinator certified by the National Energy Retrofit Institute, and a past nature center manager with the Missouri Department of Conservation.