November 9, 2015. Air / A Gift of Nature
Birds have been of value to us across time in a myriad of spiritual, decorative, inspirational, practical, nutritional, agricultural, economic and environmental ways. They have given us lore and legend, inspiration and imagery, logos and leitmotivs, money and meat and everything science and insight to wonder and delight.
If we take a cursory glance at the ubiquity of birds in our lives —song, feathers, food and language —we will find that this relationship has engendered a rich tradition of cultural metaphors in every community and in every known era. Indeed, the reach of birds into the fabric of culture is beyond measure. From Dylan to Mozart, from Yeats to Picasso, from medieval paintings to Egyptian tombs, birds are there. From the Third Reich to the American coin, birds are there. Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Poe’s The Raven and Stravinsky’s Firebird —all inspired by birds.
There are countless bird we hold in high regard —eagles, cranes, doves, nightingales, hummingbirds, egrets, owls but also white storks, great bustards and grey herons, cassowary, macaws, ostriches, turkeys, bleu peafowl —they are but just a handful of the 10,000 known species worldwide.
The presence of birds on all the world’s continents —occupying practically every known ecosystem —makes them particularly vulnerable to human-induced threats such as habitat destruction. Twelve percent of all the world’s birds now share a potential risk of extinction similar to the flightless great auk now extinct. It is predicted that over the next hundred years we will lose 1,200 species of birds —or one in eight.
What we do —or fail to do in the next ten years to protect wild birds and their habitats —will have enormous consequences for the survival of one of Earth’s most lovely living treasures.
This is an excerpt from the CEMEX Conservation Series Book Gift of Nature (2012).