It was an interesting conversation with Paul my local greengrocer the other day when I remarked on the aisle of birdfeed in his store that has recently appeared. What has caused this contemporary phenomena in Ireland of everyone en masse feeling the need to feed our wild birds? Bird feed has become a regular item on a shopping list as normal as a bag of potatoes. I didn't just wonder this privately but I asked my reliable grocer man to please enlighten as to what is going on. Exactly how did the birds make do for so long before we started feeding them? Judging by the popularity of this current consumer pattern I wonder just how much the wild bird food industry is worth? It must be profitable to the local grocer man who replaced a whole aisle of food for human consumption to make room for it. He smiled at me sardonically as if he'd been waiting for these questions for a while. As if he was in on some sort of ridiculous joke and was waiting for that moment when someone suddenly realized they were being had. He seemed surprisingly ready for the conversation and immediately engaged when I wondered aloud what must we be inadvertently doing to bird foraging habits and diets? The fact is the land where they forage is disappearing. They're running of habitat. According to a CSO report :
Ireland had the smallest percentage of land in the EU designated as a Special Protected Area, under the EU Birds Directive, at only 3% of total land area in 2010.
Ireland at 11% had less land designated as a Special Protected Area under the EU Habitats Directive than the EU average of 14% in 2010.
We're cutting and clearing trees and land to make way for fields for cattle and sheep, creating fields of nothing but neon grass or bare bald land. We're changing and stripping entire ecosystems in the name of big mechanised, subsidised agriculture and meat production that clogs your heart and eventually kills you along with the wildlife it killed first. Not to mention roads and industry which wipe out everything, flora and fauna. He talked about a proposal for a new road to better connect the northern and the southern communities in our county the third largest in Ireland. He shook his head remarking at the apparent stupidity and needlessness of it. 'We're living in a different world' he said. "Don't take me wrong, I mean it in the best possible way, but wildlife is a thing of the past". I'd thought of this concept before but to hear it said out loud by a small shop owner in the west of Ireland jolted me slightly. An earth of the future where species were severely diminished, absent even? Skies, land, oceans empty of wildlife? People living in floating cities in a sterile world? Is that really where we're headed? I recently read George Monbiot's book 'Feral' and hope that instead of the diminished species rates that we seem to be on a course of that the idea of 'rewilding' our earth and oceans will take hold.
I'd only dropped in to pick up some oats. It is surprising the conversations that you can sometimes have while popping out bleary eyed to get something for breakfast. I told Paul we'd continue this discussion another day. "And a lovely day it is too" he said.