Birding at Superfund Sites, Landfills, and Sewage Ponds
Spencer Schaffner -- professor at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign -- wrote the article. The abstract says:
This article describes birding as an example of what I call environmental sporting, an ostensibly green category of sport that relies on both environmental protection and degradation. Three competitive forms of birding are explored in relation to three toxic sites: the birding event called the World Series of Birding and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund sites, big-year birding and landfills, and the competitive practice of listing and sewage ponds.Does that last sentence intrigue you, like it does me? I can't read the article itself without subscribing to the journal, so in lieu of that, we can read this article on PhysOrg.com, which cites portions of the professor's essay.
At each site and in each competitive instantiation of birding, birders seek birds in close proximity with potent environmental toxins. The presence of active birds and birders at such sites works to make toxicity seem both hospitable and harmless. By discussing how birding relies on and ultimately masks the perils of toxic sites, the article suggests contradictions that arise from the relationship between sport and environmentalism.
Schaffner cites seeming contradictions between birding's "green"/conservation aspects and birders' behaviors to find and see birds: the willingness to drive many hours in a car or to fly somewhere to see a single species and/or the blind eye toward the toxicity of landfills and sewage ponds. He also cites the World Series of Birding (in which WildBird has long sponsored a team):
In addition, he said, activities such as the World Series of Birding come across as environmentally friendly events because participants raise money for ecologically minded organizations. However, the event receives generous sponsorships from corporations ranging from binocular manufacturers to power companies. Ironically, many of these corporate sponsors are also major polluters, he said.What do you think of the contradictions that Schaffner discusses? Do you think they're truly contradictions? If so, how do you reconcile them? Please share your thoughts below.