Where is my future?

As a kid I never expected to see the year 2000. Especially just before the end of the Cold War, when it seemed like the stalemate with the U.S.S.R. would continue for millennia, and knowing that the missile base just miles from our house was a prime target for a nuclear strike.*

My lack of expectations for the new century were so low, particularly when you add in the vague but ominous threat posed by Y2K, that I remember saying goodbye before going to bed early on December 31, 1999. I fully expected that whatever came next would be in a new, different world. I woke up in the dark of the early morning on January 1, 2000, surprised that death didn’t look much different than life had, and then further surprised that the world hadn’t ended, that Chinese and old Soviet missiles had not struck Japan, where I was living at the time, when their controller computers failed (an event that appears to never have happened – maybe the old communist programmers were smart enough to avoid the kinds of programming shortcuts that resulted in the whole Y2K disaster).

Continue reading “Where is my future?”

Being Hungry

“I’m hungry.”

“I’m starving.”

“There isn’t anything to eat.”

“I think I’m going to die.”

These are actual quotes from my children. My children who with only a few very short exceptions have never known actual hunger. What they actually mean when they say those things is “I’m bored,” “I don’t like what you made for my lunch,” “There isn’t anything in the house I want to eat,” “I threw my lunch away and you aren’t making dinner fast enough.”

Continue reading “Being Hungry”

Extinction: 100 Years Since Martha

I remember reading the story in the Scholastic News as a kid – a species of bird so numerous that when it migrated it completely blotted out the sky, sometimes for days.  An abundant species so hounded by hunters that within a human lifespan they were completely gone.  100 years ago today Martha, the very last known living passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo.

All around the story is interesting – there are a lot of things I’ve learned in the last couple days that I didn’t know.  At the time, the passenger pigeon was the most numerous bird species in North America, with billions of individuals, and may have been the most numerous bird species in the world.  Martha lived to be somewhere between 17 and 29 years old (Wikipedia claims that 29 is the most commonly accepted age), which just blows me away.  Is it common for birds to be that old?  Martha was frozen in a block of ice after her death and sent by train to the Smithsonian where she was photographed, skinned, mounted, dissected, preserved, and put on display for most of the next 85 years.

I didn’t understand all of the social and ecological issues when I read that article all those years ago – thinking about the age I was, it was probably the 75th anniversary of Martha’s death.  Even though the extinction of the passenger pigeon was a horrible tragedy, it was also the catalyst for many of the fundamental protections we have today.  It’s interesting to think of myself sitting in school learning about an extinct bird (I think we also learned about California Condors at the same time – an issue that was big then), never knowing that 25 years later my career would be focused on endangered species restoration.