A little bird told me that yet another organization has gone “woke,” and its original mission appears to have been subverted by the recognition of the more important need to control the climate and achieve social justice.
It’s the National Audubon Society.
Write a letter to the Audubon Society expressing concern about the millions of songbirds destined to be killed by the dramatic expansion of wind farms along our coastlines, and you’ll get a response that knocks you sideways like a whirling turbine blade. It will come as a form letter that speaks first not about birds, but about the need for wind energy and lots of it.
“Thank you for reaching out to the National Audubon Society,” the letter reads. “Audubon strongly supports wind energy that is sited and operated properly to avoid, minimize and mitigate effectively for the impacts on birds, other wildlife, and the places they need now and in the future. To that end, we support the development of wind energy to achieve 100% clean energy.
“Wind power is an important source of renewable, carbon-free energy that is critical to replacing and reducing emissions from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas that cause warming of our planet.”
They explain: “Top scientific experts...agree that the effects of climate change are happening now and will get worse if warming is not limited to 1.5 degrees C. ...Beyond the climate impacts, wind power also avoids air pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion that disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color.”
I am not kidding. That part of the sentence is highlighted in bold and includes a link to a page on the NAACP website. Clicking that link got us a screen that said “Page Not Found” but that included a link to the NAACP home page so we could “get back in the fight for civil rights and social justice.”
“Ensure that Black lives are a priority in all spaces,” it said. “Help make racial equity a reality.” It called for fighting “police brutality, COVID-19, and voter suppression” and working “to disrupt inequality, dismantle racism, and accelerate change in key areas including criminal justice, health care, education, climate, and the economy.”
We saw that it’s time to “Build Back Black” with legislation designed to “address historic issues of structural and systemic racism by making key investments in several areas that have a profound positive impact on Black communities around the country. It is time to prioritize the needs and interests of Black America, while also addressing long-standing issues around the racial wealth gap and systemic racism.”
I have to say, we were confused. We kept looking for something, anything about the needs and interests of birds, even blackbirds, but there was nothing. Why had the Audubon Society sent us to the NAACP website to fight for “racial equity”? Do bird lives matter? They seem to be way down the list of priorities for the Audubon Society, who appear to be endorsing the “Build Back Better” bill.
Perhaps they’ve been listening to Nancy Pelosi talking about climate being “the existential threat of our time,” though Nancy was talking about the disproportionate effect on women. (We linked to this yesterday but wouldn’t want you to miss it.)
But we turned up something else that might explain the Audubon Society's current focus on racial equity. They're atoning for the fact that their founder, ornithologist and illustrator John James Audubon, owned slaves. An affiliated group, the Washington DC-area Audubon Naturalist Society, is even changing its name. The national organization hasn't announced plans to change its name, but we won't' be surprised when they do.
Anyway, the Audubon letter goes on to explain that because only about 7 percent of our energy needs are currently supplied by wind power, “the U.S. will have to dramatically ramp up deployment of wind energy technology, but some of the most obvious and easily accessible places have already been taken. As a result, finding places to site wind energy that minimizes risk to birds will be increasingly difficult.” So at least they plan to be involved in the “siting process.”
Oh, but wind energy is going to “help birds on a global scale,” they say, by “curbing climate change.” They are correct to say that warming (note: cooling as well) will affect birds’ habitat and range and could certainly endanger them. But they don’t take into account the other scientific experts who say that, regardless of whether or not the planet is warming and whether that has much to do with human activity, America could go to 100 percent renewable energy tomorrow and not significantly affect global temperatures. We could end up with “bird Cuisinarts” up and down our coastlines –- ruining them for birds and people –- and from sea to shining sea and still not be able to control the climate, certainly not with nations such as China actually increasing their use of coal. (China has suddenly said it’s going to work with the U.S. on climate, but we’ll believe that when we see it. Activities will reportedly be “self-policed.”)
China is also having a huge negative environmental impact in Africa.
The Audubon letter doesn’t discuss nuclear energy as an alternative, which would do much more to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels without knocking millions of birds out of the sky.
They acknowledge that wind power facilities can harm birds through “direct collisions,” habitat destruction, disturbance and displacement, and destruction of “important ecological links.” “Placing wind projects in the path of migratory routes makes this problem worse, especially for larger turbine blades that may reach up into the average flight zone of birds that migrate at night. As estimated 140,000 to 500,000 bird deaths occur per year due to turbine collisions, which is substantial, but significantly less than deaths caused by outdoor cats and building collisions.”
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Migratory Bird Program | Conserving America's Birds
But they have just said that wind power currently provides only about 7 percent of our power and that we will need dramatically more wind turbines. They also just said that as more wind turbines are placed, it gets harder and harder to find new locations that won’t impact migratory birds. Half a million birds today could be half a billion before we can generate enough wind and other renewable energy to take the place of fossil fuels, if that is even possible.
The letter goes on to talk about some ways Audubon can approach “advocacy in the siting and operation of wind turbines,” but it's obvious that they won't be trying to modify the scale of these projects.
They do mention one case in which they opposed a 2013 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule that offered 30-year permits to kill and injure Bald and Golden Eagles (protected species), and a judge did overturn that rule. Score one for the birds in a contest that, if wind turbines continue multiplying, they are destined to lose. In its quest to be counted among the “woke,” the National Audubon Society isn't nearly woke enough to that.