How Many Birds Can You Fit in Your Gas Tank?

I need to go bury my cat. This has actually been on my list of things to do for a good long time—like since he died in 2010. Before you say “eeewww” let me explain that he was cremated and I am burying his ashes. I haven’t really known what to do with him because I was so sad at first that I just had to put him on a shelf. Eventually that’s just where he was. But now, circumstances require me to downsize my stuff and he needs a more permanent location. As a companion animal, his death had emotional consequences. Some animals just die and we don’t do anything with them.

It’s interesting how much value humans place on the remains of loved ones (be they pets or humans) and yet place so little value on the remains of other creatures. I was thinking about how desensitized to dead creatures we are in this culture. Animals killed by cars just lie in the street and rot. We don’t place any value on their remains even though there’s no difference between a pet cat and a stray cat except the emotional attachment we have to one and not the other.

There is a building on the campus where I teach that has glass windows all along one side at street level. If you walk along the sidewalk next to the building, you will find tiny corpses of small songbirds that have flown into the glass and broken their necks. I recently walked along this stretch and relocated three recently deceased sparrows to their final resting places in some bushes near the building. The other option was to allow them to decay on the window ledge. My cat was guilty of killing a few birds in his day too, but his bird murder was not a threat to the population. However, stray and feral cat numbers have actually grown to the point that songbirds are threatened. This is not the cats’ fault though; it is a human failing. Betty White wants you to spay or neuter your pets.

Imagine if we valued all life as much as we do our pets. Maybe we’d be a lot less inclined as a species to want to pave over animal habitats or pipe oil through the countryside. I am so disturbed by the oil spill in California, I can’t even think about it without feeling hopeless about the future of the planet. I was recently on the beach in Florida where a nesting site for sea birds was protected by signs warning off humans. This “protection” was basically a sign and some wooden stakes with an attached string encircling the site. It wasn’t patrolled or particularly secure. It looked like most folks were respecting the string barrier, but it wouldn’t be hard for some horrible excuse for a person to disturb the nesting site, and an oil spill like what just happened in Santa Barbara would wipe them out in a heartbeat. We may have big, fancy brains, but humans really are the stupidest animals on the planet.

Cars are responsible for a lot of our problems. Whether it’s the demand for oil or the road kill, a lot of the animals we kill mindlessly on any given day are victims of our reliance on a desire to get somewhere quickly. I am actually depressed by the prospect of having to commute to a job that I am not remotely close enough to walk to. I try to be vigilant about who might be living along the roadways where I drive. I am a bit less thoughtful about how much gas I am pumping and where it’s coming from.

In summation, I resolve to drive less and walk more.