National Geographic News
A photo of a Madagascar Fish Eagle with a fish.

An African fish eagle successfully catches a fish from Lake Baringo in Kenya. Eagles, vultures, and other raptors are on the wane throughout Africa.

Photograph by Denis-Huot, Hemis/Corbis

Alanna Mitchell

for Environmental Health News

Published August 25, 2014

Birds are the planet's superheroes, built for survival.

The ice of Antarctica doesn't faze them. Nor does the heat of the tropics. They thrive in the desert, in swamps, on the open ocean, on sheer rock faces, on treeless tundra, atop airless mountaintops, and burrowed into barren soil.

Some fly nonstop for days on end. With just the feathers on their backs, they crisscross the hemisphere, dodging hurricanes and predators along the way, arriving unerringly at a precise spot, year after year.

They have penetrated nearly every ecosystem on Earth and then tailored their own size, habits, and colors to each one, pollinating, dispersing seeds, controlling bugs, cleaning up carrion, and fertilizing plants.

Winged Warnings

But for all their superhero powers, birds are in trouble.

Globally, one in eight—more than 1,300 species—are threatened with extinction, and the status of most of those is deteriorating, according to BirdLife International. And many others are in worrying decline, from the tropics to the poles. (Read about threatened species on each continent.)

In North America's breadbasket, populations of grassland birds such as sweet-trilling meadowlarks are in free fall, along with those everywhere else on the planet. Graceful fliers like swifts and swallows that snap up insects on the wing are showing widespread declines in Europe and North America.

Eagles, vultures, and other raptors are on the wane throughout Africa. Colonies of seabirds such as murres and puffins on the North Atlantic are vanishing, and so are shorebirds, including red knots in the Western Hemisphere.

Sandpipers, spoonbills, pelicans, and storks, among the migratory birds dependent on the intertidal flats of Asia's Yellow Sea, are under threat. Australian and South American parrots are struggling, and some of the iconic penguins of Antarctica face starvation. (See an interactive map of birds threatened around the world.)

While birds sing, they also speak. Much of their decline is driven by the loss of places to live and breed—their marshes, rivers, forests, and plains—or by diminished food supply. But more and more these days, the birds are telling us about new threats to the environment and potentially to human health in the coded language of biochemistry.

Through analysis of the inner workings of birds' cells, scientists have been deciphering increasingly urgent signals from ecosystems around the world.

Like the fabled canaries that miners once thrust into coal mines to check for poisonous gases, birds provide the starkest clues in the animal kingdom about whether humans, too, may be harmed by toxic substances.

And they prophesy what might happen to us as the load of carbon-based, planet-warming gases in the atmosphere and oceans climbs ever higher.

A photo of an Atlantic Puffin in Iceland.
During the summer months, Atlantic puffins, also known as common puffins, live in cliffs along the North Atlantic. Colonies of seabirds such as puffins and murres are vanishing.
Photograph by Cyril Ruoso, Minden Pictures/Corbis

"And No Birds Sing"

Rachel Carson was the earliest and best known scientist to link the fate of birds to that of humans. Alerted by reports of sharp declines in birds of prey and songbirds, she began to examine the effects of the pesticide DDT. It was the first modern synthetic pesticide, in wide use after World War II to control mosquitoes and other insects.

Her book Silent Spring, published in 1962—the title echoes the poet John Keats's celebrated line "And no birds sing"—explained that DDT moved up through food chains, from the insects it was designed to kill to the creatures that ate them. It accumulated inexorably in tissues, organs, and fat in top predators such as peregrine falcons, ospreys, bald eagles, and pelicans

By 1972, after public uproar, DDT was banned in the United States and eventually banned around the world except in malaria-prone countries, mostly in Africa.

Yet DDT's legacy remains. And, again, birds are telling us this tale: A recent study reported that birds of prey in South Carolina still carry as much DDT and other legacy pesticides in their bodies as they did before such chemicals were banned in the 1970s, "suggesting exposure has not declined substantially over the past 40 years."

Globally, one in eight—more than 1,300 species—are threatened with extinction, and the status of most of those is deteriorating.

And in the small town of St. Louis, Michigan, near an old chemical plant, robins are still dropping dead of DDT poisoning, registering some of the highest levels ever recorded in wild birds.

The idea that birds tell us about our own health has gained even more scientific traction in the decades since Silent Spring as biochemical analysis has become more precise. Much of that work stemmed from studies Canadian Wildlife Service toxicologist Glen Fox and others conducted on the Great Lakes, the world's first and biggest testing ground for contaminants and birds.

Fox's work began with tales from terns and other fish-eating birds. He found high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the lakes and their sediments, and enlarged thyroids that were producing little hormone in the birds. Substances that build up in food webs just like DDT, PCBs were banned in the United States in 1978, with the rest of the world to follow.

By the late 1980s, there was so much research about chemicals in the Great Lakes that zoologist Theo Colborn, then at the World Wildlife Fund, began examining the studies to see if she could discern a big picture.

The results were stunning: The Great Lakes's top 16 or 17 bird predators were vanishing. The problem stemmed from assaults on the endocrine system, which controls hormones and reproduction. And that, in turn, was linked to man-made substances in the water and prey. So, birds' ability to reproduce crashed in multiple ways. The concept of the "endocrine disruptor" was born.

"The birds really told the story, elegantly," said Colborn, who co-authored the 1996 book Our Stolen Future, which chronicled the threats of hormone disruption.

A photo of a flock of red knots in flight.
A flock of red knots takes flight from the Snettisham Reserve in Norfolk, England. Shorebirds such as red knots are decreasing in the Western Hemisphere.
Photograph by FLPA/Andrew Mason, Corbis

Proxies for People

Studies have suggested that those same chemicals also may be altering human hormones. A pregnant mother's load of chemicals passes to her baby while it is still in the womb, with evidence mounting that chemicals can alter development of a baby's brain and its reproductive and immune systems, leading to lower intelligence, behavioral problems, and reduced fertility.

Some studies suggest a link between endocrine disruptors and a greater risk of prostate and breast cancers and other diseases. Some research even suggests chemicals can switch genes on and off, affecting grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

When it comes to chemicals and broad planetary changes, birds have shown us that they are in a unique position to tip us off to health threats.

Birds are highly visible. People track them, notice them, care deeply about them. Of all the nonhuman creatures on Earth, birds are by far the most closely scrutinized, said Nicola Crockford, international species policy officer with BirdLife International in England. That translates into a robust body of knowledge about how and where birds live, a baseline for scientists seeking to monitor change.

Looking at birds gives humans the unsurpassed ability to identify and quantify chemical threats across time and space around the globe, noted Christy Morrissey, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. "Birds can tell us a lot about what's going on around us that we might not be able to see," she said.

Perched atop many food webs, birds of prey such as eagles and falcons soak up chemicals from the things they eat. That means looking at birds is a proxy for looking at plants, insects, fish, and small mammals over time. Not only that, but about one in five birds migrates, so those birds are sampling pollutants in many parts of the world.

Scientists can capture birds, test them, band them, let them go, and then catch them years later to see what's changed. Birds also normally maintain relatively stable numbers, unlike small mammals. So when their populations take a dive, it means something noteworthy is going on.

Many birds also live a long time—for eagles and owls, decades—meaning scientists can study a bird's life cycle and then extrapolate what would happen to a human exposed to the same chemicals from birth to death, Morrissey said. Reading birds is a reasonable stand-in for a human epidemiological study, especially when it comes to the endocrine system, she added.

Today, studies on how endocrine-disrupting chemicals affect birds is a main plank of future research that may also have implications for human health. (Related: "4 Videos: Threatened Birds Face Polar Bears, Poop-Sniffing Reporters")

A photo of a black eagle in Botswana.
The Verreaux's eagle, also known as the black eagle, hunts for food above Kgale Hill in Botswana. Birds of prey such as eagles and falcons soak up chemicals from the things they eat.
Photograph by FLPA/Andrew Mason, Corbis

Beyond DDT and PCBs

In the prairies of Canada, Morrissey is trying to build up a picture of where sanderlings, red knots, and semipalmated sandpipers are picking up contaminants as they travel. Then she's tracking those chemicals through the birds' life span, examining whether chemicals affect their ability to fatten up and therefore sustain a long migration.

She's also looking at whether the chemicals affect brain development, robbing the birds of the ability to navigate and to know when to molt. Early results from birds dosed in captivity in the first days of life say the chemicals do have those effects. In other words, she's looking at whether the chemicals affect not just the birds' ability to reproduce, but also their ability to thrive. "If they're not able to fatten, they won't make it," she said.

Morrissey and Pierre Mineau from Carleton University in Ontario, an expert on pesticide ecotoxicology and its effects on birds, are also at the forefront of research globally on the newest class of pesticide, the neonicotinoids or neonics for short. Mineau said he was originally relieved when neonics replaced organophosphates, which are ferocious bird-killers, but that his research on neonics, which includes a report for the American Bird Conservancy, has him concerned.

Looking at birds gives humans the unsurpassed ability to identify and quantify chemical threats across time and space around the globe.

Neonics are extremely persistent in the environment and are water soluble, which means they move around, he said. The compounds also take down nearly any insect or crustacean that comes along.

Other chemicals are immediately life-threatening. Rat-killing poisons can cause agonizing death not just in rodents, but also the birds that eat them. In Southeast Asia, tens of millions of vultures have perished from feasting on carcasses of livestock treated with diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug. Three vulture species now are teetering on the edge of extinction.

Adding to their burden, birds are contaminated with a whole new spate of pollutants, such as perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, used to manufacture such substances as Teflon and stain-resistant coatings. Brominated chemicals used as flame retardants in furniture foam and electronics are collecting in bird tissues, just like PCBs.

Kestrels exposed in laboratories to PFCs have fewer chicks, smaller eggs, and some behavior issues, such as bad parenting skills and more aggression in males. It all adds up to a load of dozens of chemicals, many with consequences still unknown.

In Sweden, for example, ornithologists are racing to figure out why white-tailed sea eagles on the coast of the Baltic Sea, devastated by DDT and PCBs in the 1970s, are again experiencing thin shells and deformed embryos, said Cynthia de Wit, a professor of environmental science at Stockholm University who specializes in human and wildlife exposure to synthetic chemicals. "It's very alarming; we really don't know why," she said.

Scientists also are closely examining the effects of heavy metals such as mercury and lead. Lead, sometimes lethal to birds of prey that ingest it when they eat gut piles left by hunters, also seems to have subtle effects, perhaps interfering with their ability to navigate around obstacles.

A photo of the last male passenger pigeon in 1912.
The last male passenger pigeon, or wild pigeon, died in 1912. About 150 bird species, including wild pigeons, have gone extinct at the hand of humanity.
Photograph by Bettmann/CORBIS

Vigilant Sentinels

Humans have relied on birds' superpowers for millennia. Imagine forest-dwellers of ancient times, anxious to avoid snakes and jaguars, listening for the alarm calls of sharp-sighted, high-flying, omnipresent birds. Think of medieval sailors, following fish-eating birds to find out where they should throw their nets.

Throughout history, humans have considered birds to be our protectors, our vigilant sentinels, writes the Nobel laureate immunologist Peter Doherty in his 2012 book Their Fate Is Our Fate: How Birds Foretell Threats to Our Health and Our World. "Way back to mythological times, guard duty has been part of the avian job description. Gods with the body of a man and the head of a bird, like the ibis, falcon, hawk or heron, watched over the ancient Egyptian," he wrote.

In many Native American and other indigenous cultures, birds are messengers sent by the creator, or symbols of change, or protectors and healers. Today they play that role in a non-spiritual sense: They send warnings to tribes about the health risks of eating fish tainted with industrial pollutants.

Birds also herald the presence of pathogens, such as avian influenza and West Nile virus, noted Nicholas Komar, a biologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Fort Collins, Colorado, who specializes in vector-borne diseases. When birds are found dead of West Nile, it's proof humans also are at risk. Infected birds don't transmit the virus to humans—mosquitoes do—but they are a sign that it is present in the environment.

But apart from data points, birds also provide us with sheer joy—from their songs and striking colors, and from the spectacle of watching them swoop through the air. "Which of us has not wished we could do that?" asked John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York. He said humans intuitively respond to birds' colors and varied voices, which signal that the year is marching on. "They move with the seasons. It's a major annual heartbeat we feel."

And yet, in the past five centuries, about 150 bird species have gone extinct at the hand of humanity, including the passenger pigeon and the dodo, according to research by Duke University biologist Stuart Pimm. That rate is speeding up and will be ten times higher by the end of this century if trends persist, his study calculates.

A photo of bird counters during the annual Christmas Bird Count in Florida.
Three birdwatchers in Florida's Everglades National Park take part in the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count in 2006. The ranges of many North American bird species that stay through the winter have shifted as much as 200 miles north over the past 60 years.
Photograph by Joe Raedle, Getty

Omens of a Dangerous Future

The wild card for birds, the biggest risk of them all, with the potential to magnify all past and future threats, is the high-carbon world humans have created through the burning of fossil fuels for energy. Scientists are struggling to chronicle the intricate layers of fallout from climate change—and to glimpse once again what birds foretell about humanity's fate.

Frank Gill, who wrote the textbook Ornithology and was president of the National Audubon Society, said the scientific effort has shifted dramatically from the time when Rachel Carson's work on chemicals set the standard. Today, biologists are examining complex, continental effects of climate change on birds' abundance and distribution.

For instance, brown pelicans, taken off California's endangered species list in 2009, are in the throes of a catastrophic breeding failure this year, said Dan Anderson, professor emeritus of wildlife biology at University of California, Davis, and an expert on ecotoxicology and marine ornithology. The cause appears to be an El Niño event, with its warm ocean currents and high winds. El Niños are expected to intensify and become more common in our carbon-destabilized world.

A photo of an African Spoonbill in Kenya.
A lone African spoonbill wades in waters at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a 90,000-acre wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. Migratory birds such as spoonbills are under threat as habitat diminishes.
Photograph by Richard Du Toit, Minden Pictures/Corbis

Audubon's Christmas Bird Count found that the "center of abundance" of more than half of North American bird species that stay through the winter has shifted as much as 200 miles north over the past 60 years, a response to warmer average temperatures, said Geoff LeBaron, an ornithologist with the National Audubon Society and international director of the Christmas Bird Count.

And a study of 40 western North American songbird species found that those inhabiting high elevations are moving farther up, rather than farther north, to flee the heat, said David King, a research wildlife biologist at the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station in Massachusetts. Inevitably, they will run out of places to go.

The omens from the birds are not easy to read. But so far, they are telling us that this world is shifting where they can live, forcing them to change the timing of their migrations and nesting, making their food harder to find, and perhaps fostering diseases such as the deadly West Nile virus.

The wild card for birds, the biggest risk of them all, is the high-carbon world humans have created through the burning of fossil fuels for energy.

Birds have many superpowers that humans can only envy. But we have extraordinary powers, too: the ability to alter the chemistry of the air and the sea, and to create synthetic substances that live longer than we do.

We also have the power to make sure birds continue to sing. "Birds do recover," Fitzpatrick said, "if we pay attention to what they're saying."

Follow Alanna Mitchell on Twitter.

The Winged Warnings series is produced by Environmental Health News, an independent, nonprofit news organization, and published in conjunction with National Geographic. Read additional stories in the series at EHN's website. Follow EHN on Twitter.

50 comments
Yimy Nunez
Yimy Nunez

La "idea" de ser...EkoAgroBioAtletoErgos...o AgroAtleta....postpondria  bastante el deterioro EkoLogíko...ke avanza global...   EN Puerto  Rico..la ley de Boskes Auxiliares con su exension tributaria, INCENTIVA...La creasion de BIORESERVAS...para los naturofilos, ke 

como agroatletas...creamos EL AgroDiseño, donde plantamos la fitobase , para otrora ir a las embajadas del pais al cual pedirle parejas de fauna a dar santuario y para la cual esperamos los años necesarios para ke esas plantas den el fruto ke sostenga las espesies ke teniamos intension de AYUDAR.   Por ke .."dando es como se recive "dijo San Fransisco...

Karl Vey
Karl Vey

Please help to save our beautiful birds! Keep you cat inside, and learn about the great diversity of bird species that still exists. We (mankind and all our little brothers and sisters) will all benefit, there are God's Creature's. Hence we must look after them. 

God Bless. all who do this..

Br. Karl SFO.

James Kohl
James Kohl

Like all other organisms, birds reach the limits of their biophysically-constrained ability to adapt to ecological variation. However, until everyone learns how the epigenetic landscape is linked to the physical landscape of DNA in the organized genomes of species from microbes to man, discussions about cause and effect in birds are useless. See for example, the best of the bird models that can be placed into the context of cell type differentiation via amino acid substitutions.

Estrogen receptor α polymorphism in a species with alternative behavioral phenotypes http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/01/08/1317165111.abstract 


Discussion of how endocrine disruptors epigenetically effect polymorphisms and the biodiversity of hormone-organized and hormone-activated behaviors can be placed into the context of ecology in all species because the molecular mechanisms of cell type differentiation are conserved. 

 

Nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled ecological adaptations: from atoms to ecosystems http://figshare.com/articles/Nutrient_dependent_pheromone_controlled_ecological_adaptations_from_atoms_to_ecosystems/994281

This atoms to ecosystems model of ecological adaptations links nutrient-dependent epigenetic effects on base pairs and amino acid substitutions to pheromone-controlled changes in the microRNA / messenger RNA balance and chromosomal rearrangements. The nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled changes are required for the thermodynamic regulation of intercellular signaling, which enables biophysically constrained nutrient-dependent protein folding; experience-dependent receptor-mediated behaviors, and organism-level thermoregulation in ever-changing ecological niches and social niches. Nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled ecological, social, neurogenic and socio-cognitive niche construction are manifested in increasing organismal complexity in species from microbes to man. Species diversity is a biologically-based nutrient-dependent morphological fact and species-specific pheromones control the physiology of reproduction. The reciprocal relationships of species-typical nutrient-dependent morphological and behavioral diversity are enabled by pheromone-controlled reproduction. Ecological variations and biophysically constrained natural selection of nutrients cause the behaviors that enable ecological adaptations. Species diversity is ecologically validated proof-of-concept. Ideas from population genetics, which exclude ecological factors, are integrated with an experimental evidence-based approach that establishes what is currently known. This is known: Olfactory/pheromonal input links food odors and social odors from the epigenetic landscape to the physical landscape of DNA in the organized genomes of species from microbes to man during their development.

Shenden Cromwell
Shenden Cromwell

Don't forget that humans are children of God and the most intelligent life form ever introduced on the earth.  Even though it's important to protect wildlife so as to not be extreme, humanity is most important and should come first.

Barry Wood
Barry Wood

if we know our mistakes,  why are we still doing them

James Shipley
James Shipley

We should be more worried about the mass killing of sharks who are already only about only about 10% left. When we kill all the predators the plant eaters will explode and eat the ocean plants that produce 80% of the world's oxygen. We all will die with the sharks. Who would have thought that shark fin soup would cause the end of mammals.

Lucia Reid
Lucia Reid

Loss of any species is tragic - loss of that many birds catastrophic. Millions of people view this site. We should be able to do something to help. In the 50s there was a heat wave scare. This may be another throw back scare tactic to increase the wealth of specific individuals / corps (Gore, GE).  Many of those green energy companies given millions by the gov't went bankrupt very quickly. Even if it isn't just hype, we can decrease use of chemicals, conserve water and STOP destroying wildlife habitats. Create permanent nature preserves large enough for bears and other animals to live without constant harassment from people. Join in and help! 

Puspanjali Choudhury
Puspanjali Choudhury

The 1,300 Bird Species Facing Extinction Signal Threats to Human Health

anthony superville
anthony superville

It's so sad to see the things entrusted to our care seems beyond our ability, Time we take stock.


Jack Wolf
Jack Wolf

The avian community may fare better than humans.  They are mobile while we are stuck not only in our homes, but in our ways.  Now that climate change is irreversible, and that a 4C rise is expected in the near term even by the most conservative scientific organizations, it would be illogical to think most species wouldn't go extinct.And, it's hubris to think man would not be in that group considering past extinction events and expected future changes.Throw in the lack of action on mitigation or adaption, and it's bye-bye humans. My money's on climate impacts to aging nuclear power plants as the fast-track method of extinction.And, in many ways that would be preferable to the slow torture of heat, starvation and thirst.


Oh, to have wings to fly away on...


John Yeo
John Yeo

We ~ Humanity, are the worst virus that was ever introduced into the Eco system of the planet~ Yet we do think, and we are able and capable of changing our destructive ways. Perhaps it may not be too late to save us from self destruction, if we heed these Avian warning signals. Save the birds and save human life~A  stark warning!

jim adams
jim adams

No, No! You don't understand! 

Bayer and the other large corporations have ASSURED us that these pesticides are not dangerous to us and the important parts of our world. Their stock holders (whom are many) at least believe them, and all the corporate execs and stockholders are very happy with their returns on their investments. If they are deliberately wrong, that would mean (oh, how shocking!) that these corporations get rich by creating evil in the world.

After that ironic and sarcastic intro: Many, many thanks and appreciations, NatGeo for a mind expanding (and hopefully world saving) article. As someone above me wrote: this is an article which we should each spread far and wide.

 

craig hill
craig hill

The anaology of the canary in the coal mine is still apt. The relatives of the canaries are, like the canaries, dropping dead in droves. Except they're not in coal mines, they're in the outside world which we have made into one great coal mine. With their demise, they're still giving us the message it's not safe out any more, but we're too busy making money from poisoning the planet to heed. Like that dead canary, we'll get ours. Just a matter of time, within 20, 30 years max. And if you prefer to argue with the fact all those dead species fell into oblivion because of us, go ahead, be surprised when you and yours fall like flies too.

Mojtaba Najafy
Mojtaba Najafy

We are about to either cause or prevent a widespread extinction among all species. We are too much diverted by everyday challenges of economy, politics, etc. that we can't see where our actions are leading to. 

I think the vital issue of preserving our environment and the ecosystems should go universal by also being put in the hands of the UN. The UN should launch a global project of educating, lobbying, warning ... all countries and companies all around the world. They should have both short term objectives of minimizing the harmful effects at the present time and long term objectives of gradually eliminating all the things that resulted in this calamity.

Christian Miller
Christian Miller

Please help to save our beautiful birds! Keep you cat inside, and learn about the great diversity of bird species that still exists. We (mankind and all our little brothers and sisters) will all benefit.

R Robison
R Robison

Wind "farms", like other industries, are allowed to slaughter birds with impunity.  And every year, concentrated solar "farms" are permitted to burn hundreds of thousands of birds right out of the sky.  More assistance (legal and financial) for homeowners to install individual (and non-lethal) solar collectors would help ease our nation's ever growing need for power and our dependence on an unstable power grid.  Of course industrial energy companies (with their money and political clout) oppose that idea and instead have upped power bills like mine to build new (and VERY expensive) nuclear power plants that the public doesn't want.

Gwendolyn Mugliston
Gwendolyn Mugliston

What has happened to the purple martins?  Even cardinals are becoming rare.  And hummingbirds.  I live in west central PA, 30 miles from even a really small city.  I feed birds throughout the winter.  This next winter may be  a doozy.  I don't know if I can afford the seed anymore.  Not that one person may make a difference, but lots of "one persons" may. 


I hope teachers are helping kids understand that killing hawks is truly a crime, flying birds are not good targets and encouraging them to talk with their parents about pesticides and herbicides. 

Marianne DiAntonio
Marianne DiAntonio

We should share and share and share a substantial article like this one. Our young people, in particular, need to be informed about the human decisions (all too often based on profit) that are quickly depleting the resources of our natural world, just as older generations were informed by Rachel Carson's startling book.


The U.S.'s current population bulge of 20-25-year-olds can make a difference in future public policy. We must all respond to the birds' cry for help! 

Mark Brown
Mark Brown

Are birds not the descendants of dinosaurs? So...

Justin Smith
Justin Smith




If your going to write an article about how mankind is killing off the birds you should at least include Wind Farms that get special permission to kill as many birds as they want with no legal consequence for killing endangered species. But I guess that would not fit in with your political views.




Kersten Jordanmaree
Kersten Jordanmaree

Remember Silent Spring? Pesticides poison bugs then they poison birds and they poison us.

William Mellas
William Mellas

@James Kohl Mr. Kohl, I believe that the words that you know, understand and write does not make me or other "under educated" people understand anything you have just conveyed . Why can't highly educated people realize

that the majority of people are not highly educated and convey in 'simple terms and words' so we may all understand them? 

Lisa Schindler
Lisa Schindler

@Shenden Cromwell  Humans are the reason wildlife is dying off.  We are polluting and killing our planet!  The children of God are obviously not intelligent and we're in this situation because humans come first! 

Toby DeVoss
Toby DeVoss

@Shenden Cromwell   I deeply respect your beliefs, but am astonished that further you do not believe ALL living things are children of your God. As such, they deserve our earnest stewardship. We have needlessly sacrificed so many of them for pleasure or greed.


Can you be sure that what we have done with this earth is pleasing to your God?

Paul Kyprie
Paul Kyprie

@Barry Wood Massive misinformation campaign by Big Oil and Corporate America.  First, pass an Amendment to our Constitution that says Money is not speech and corporations are not people.  Second, vote for politicians that have a "Green" agenda and once elected will take action.

steve herrmann
steve herrmann

@John Yeo Oh! Get real. What is the greatest virus are easily suckered-in, uneducated folks. Yes, we should not follow destructive ways, but to say that "We ~ Humanity, are the worst virus that was ever introduced into the Eco system of the planet" is truly illogical. In saying this you cause people to stop reading what you have written.

David Seabaugh
David Seabaugh

@John Yeo. You very well may be a virus. Most of us are not. Speak for yourself.

David Seabaugh
David Seabaugh

@mojtaba najafy. And by UN you really mean U.S. Hang on to your wallets American taxpayers. The "sky is falling" environmental terrorist are coming for you.

Jack Wolf
Jack Wolf

@Mojtaba Najafy  I think the UN has had it's chance. Thirty years is long enough.   Now it is up to us as individuals.  I heartily suggest everyone attend the Peoples Climate March in NYC on September 21.  If we are to have even a chance at survival, we need to hit the streets to affect change.  The voting box certainly didn't do anything; the environmental organizations did do anything; and the UN didn't do anything to stop this unfolding catastrophe.  The only thing that's happening is greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase.  I'm not promising that this movement will work, but I hold the words of John Paul Jones close to my heart:  We have not yet begun to fight.

http://peoplesclimate.org/march/ 

craig hill
craig hill

@Mojtaba Najafy We're "not about to" cause the 6th Great Extinction, we've been causing it for decades. We're also not about to prevent any more of it, the vast majority of the Violent Apes aka homo stupefied don't give a banana about any of it.

Jack Wolf
Jack Wolf

@R Robison  Studies show that coal and fossil fuels kill a thousand times more birds then wind. 

David Seabaugh
David Seabaugh

Move to Louisiana. We have billions of purple martins and I saw more cardinals and hummingbirds this spring than ever before.

craig hill
craig hill

@Mark Brown Soooo they've finally met their ultimate extinctifiers. Us.

R Robison
R Robison

@Justin Smith  Also include concentrated, commercial solar farms which are literally cooking birds in flight.  Subsidies and other assistance (including legal) to homeowners to install smaller, less concentrated solar collectors would ease our nation's  expanding energy requirements without killing hundreds of thousands of birds in the process.  The largest obstacle to this, however, is legal and financial resistance from utility companies. 

Jared Smith
Jared Smith

@Justin Smith i don't think this article is about how human kind is killing off the birds. i think it is about how we are continuing to threaten our children's future by playing God.

steve herrmann
steve herrmann

@Freedom Fan Yes. The world may be warming, but to say that it is human caused is truly over the edge! There just is NOT the evidence. People love (need) a cause greater than themselves. This is one, so it attracts people like flies to the light. But the evidence is just not there.  Do a search. Read what scientists say. Not all scientists agree with Al Gore (who, let's remember, is a politician. He seeks to rally gullible people to follow him, and insure his "importance" ...and salary.)  

Annika Park
Annika Park

@Jack Wolf @R Robison

we need TESLA industries to develop super batteries, because there is always a solution if you take fast profit out of the issue

David Seabaugh
David Seabaugh

@Jack Wolf. So it's ok that wind farms are killing birds by the thousands? How compassionate.

Astrid Johnsson Vogel
Astrid Johnsson Vogel

@Jack Wolf @R Robison yes, that's right now. But how many wind farms are there? How much fossil fuel do we burn? How many birds will be implicated if wind farms become our main source of electricity? We need to think super-carefully about every step we take because the past 2 centuries have clearly shown that "technology to fix our problems" only CAUSES more problems (and to a certain extent they seem to be getting worse!)

Paul Hess
Paul Hess

@steve herrmann @Freedom Fan 

Mr Herrmann, Mr Herrmann - Where have you been the last fifteen years? How much evidence do you need that Global Warming has been caused by humans. Just look around, where do you think all these man-made emissions go? Face it, the Industrial Age has finally caught up with itself. And I'm sorry to say, but you're the gullible one, thinking all these activities have had no effect on our weather and/or environment. The opening ceremonies to the London Summer Olympics were one of the scariest and most depressing things I've ever seen. On the field they accurately depicted the "evolution" of mankind, changing us from simple hard working farming people to complicated hard working factory workers, continually emitting harmful emissions into what used to be the blue sky. I usually do not take a defeatist attitude, but all we can do now is join together to try to adjust what we do everyday to lesson harm we've done and raise the temperature in the world we all live in.

David Seabaugh
David Seabaugh

@Jack Wolf. Do you enjoy your life at all? Are you such a miserable cretin that that you spend your days commenting on articles trying to make everyone else as miserable as you are? My kids have a great future. I'm sure it's true that yours don't.

Popular Stories

The Future of Food

  • Why Food Matters

    Why Food Matters

    How do we feed nine billion people by 2050, and how do we do so sustainably?

  • Download: Free iPad App

    Download: Free iPad App

    We've made our magazine's best stories about the future of food available in a free iPad app.

See more food news, photos, and videos »