Thursday, June 3, 2010


Screaming and attacking me over and over, diving with talons stretched forward, the big silver hawk swooped within inches of my frenziedly waving arms. His nest had to be nearly underfoot in the wet prairie. I surely looked berserk, dancing and yelling at the sky. The Harrier’s assaults had me thoroughly discombobulated.

“All right, I’m going,” I shouted and backed away. But then I thought, this is pretty cool. How often do you get attacked by a hawk? So I returned to my route and got chased in the direction I was heading. Good thing since my bird guide was laying on the grass where I had swung my book bag fending off his first dives.

On my way back to the car he nearly nailed me while I took a blurry snapshot. Watching him through the camera’s screen as he tucked his wings high above, then dropped at me like a rock made him look way smaller than the real hawk that swooped by so closely I could feel the wind from his wings.

What a rush, though I felt a little silly running from a bird. Who would have thought?

Like that big oil spill in the Gulf. Who would have thought?

Now they’re all waving their arms at the sky, trying everything they can think of to stop the killer oil. Discombobulated. Since no one thought such a mistake was possible no one had a plan for how to respond. All really smart people, I’m sure, trying their best to do their jobs. Because we can’t think of how such a thing could happen, then it won’t. The definition of hubris?

I’ve spent a little time in Louisiana’s marshes. It is essential habitat for ducks and geese from throughout North America. Even without the oil spill the marsh was vanishing before your eyes. Every 30-45 minutes a football field-sized area of that marsh disappears into open water. Lots of reasons. Salt-water intrusion from oil and gas development in the marshes killing vegetation. Higher water levels from global warming. But mainly it is the loss of sediment recharge from the Mississippi River that drains erosion from the center of the continent. Dams and levees block most of it from reaching the Gulf and its marshes.

For all the hand-wringing now underway the marshes were already doomed. It was just a matter of time and no one was willing to do much about it. The famed marshes now in the news were disappearing quietly. The source of all those Gulf-dependent jobs and that much-ballyhooed Gulf culture was dying quietly.

Now comes Big Oil and its Big Booboo and the politicians and bureaucrats and oil mucky-mucks are tripping over themselves to save the priceless Gulf marshes. Maybe that is the silver lining in this tragedy. Maybe in the long run it will provide impetus for protecting and restoring the marshes.

But I doubt it. Today I heard that they just issued a permit for another offshore well in waters off the Rockefeller refuge in western Louisiana. It’s only in 117 feet of ocean instead of a mile. And they are taking extra-special care to do it right. I’m sure they will be careful. Until the next inevitable discombobulation.

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