Earth Day 2015: A Reflection and a Video Clip

Another year passes and another Earth Day comes and goes. One measly day. Twenty-four hours is essentially the blink of an eye. Compare it to the Earth as we experience it. Our planet took 4.54 billion years to get this way.

For me, the attraction of Earth Day is the occasion to think beyond our day-to-day schedules and our short individual lives. So much in the natural world happens too quickly for us to notice. And so much happens too slowly for us to notice. Time itself is an interesting concept. We sense and think on a human scale. To understand changes over shorter and longer intervals, we need tools and imaginations.

In this way, Earth Day vaguely resembles attending your relative’s funeral. We remember how things used to be, and we wonder what the future will bring. It’s an invitation to remember that our time for walking around and smelling the roses is limited. Our minds are drawn towards wondering about the world that our grandchildren will inherit. It’s true, we will live on after we’re gone, in the memories of younger generations.

I didn’t read too many Earth Day articles this year, but one headline grabbed me: Rob Stewart’s article published on The Daily Beast, “Ignorance is Killing Our Earth.” It’s a striking idea. The enemy is identified and described. It gives us the hope that we can do something to change the course of history. It’s worth a read. Birding, it seems, is a perfect way to engage ourselves and our neighbors in this endeavor.

Will it work? I don’t know. I hope so. But I am 100% in favor of educating ourselves and our fellow humans about the splendor, beauty, and utmost importance of Earth’s life support systems. The physical and biological processes that sustain life on our planet are truly wonders to behold. In the year 2015, we have amazing tools at our disposal. Our phones are capable of both slow-motion and time-lapse videography. The ubiquitous GoPro camera does slow-mo, time-lapse, night sky photography, and nighttime time-lapse videos! And the tools for disseminating the media that we create have never been easier to use or more efficient.

My goal for myself between now and next April 22nd is to make more of an effort to educate and inspire myself and my fellow humans. Our time on Earth is fleeting, but our impacts are lasting.

Take, for instance, this video clip that I recorded last week of an American Robin capturing, subduing, and consuming a very small snake. The only way that I was able to get this footage was to first get out, walking around and smelling the roses. I set up the spotting scope and iPhone and began shooting the robin not because I was expecting anything exciting, but because the bird was just there right in front of me. I’m not particularly interested in robins, but “maybe I’ll get some slow-mo footage of it eating a worm,” I thought. Instead, I was treated to an amazing sighting, one that I am happy to share.

The lives of the common birds around us are interesting and remarkable, if only we pay attention. I’ve re-watched this clip, noting the robin’s focus and precision trying to immobilize the snake before swallowing it. I knows to focus on the skull and the cervical vertebrae, but it mistakenly picks up the tail end of the snake one time. Was that caused by the snake’s defensive curling? For a split second it worked. Through the ordeal, the bird’s reflexes protected its vulnerable eyes with nictitating membranes. On this Earth Day, consider that the spectacles of the planet don’t just happen on the plains of the Serengeti, but every day in our own backyards.