October 20, 2011
Hopefully this male Vermilion Flycatcher will Ignite Phoenix to birding
Hopefully this male Vermilion Flycatcher will Ignite Phoenix to birding
Despite what you may have heard, I am not a Luddite.  We are a two vehicle, two computer household and I do have a cellphone, though it’s always on vibrate which may explain why I don’t use it much.  Nonetheless it was an LOL moment last month when I ran into a former student I hadn’t seen to talk with for fifteen years.  As she came toward me across a crowded room, a big smile on her face, the first words out of her mouth were “Did you ever get a television?”  When I shook my head “No,” the whole room was laughing with us.

Knowing that someone would remember me in that context reminds me the decision not to own a television was the second best decision I ever made. Disbelieving friends are always quick to remind me about all the wonderful nature programs I could be watching while seated on my couch in front of mankind’s worst invention, but I’ve never been much of a spectator.  I want real, not virtual.  I want to be out there seeing it live, living it, doing it, recording it myself.  I want to be channeling my inner Richard Louv (jimburnsphotos.com/pages/10-9-08.html)

On October 28 I’m doing a presentation at Ignite Phoenix #11, and I’m calling it “Bird Is A Verb.”  The purpose behind the Ignite Phoenix programs is to introduce, incite, and excite a broader spectrum of Phoenicians to activities, disciplines, and pursuits they may not know are out there.  The guidelines stress diversity and passion.  Birders are diverse and passionate, but we’re definitely not mainstream yet.

The surveys suggest 70 million(!) people are involved with birding in one form or another, but we have not yet attained critical mass.  For evidence of this you need look no further than the demise of the Arizona Republic’s Environmental Page.  Tell a stranger you’re a birder and you’ll get the same look I get when I mention I don’t own a television.  That may speak to the non-birding public’s entertainment choices, but it’s really shame on us.  We need to do a better job of getting the word out about what’s out there and why it is important.  That was my motivation for doing Ignite Phoenix #11.

When this column began on that Arizona Republic Environmental Page back in 2005, it was headlined “Bird Is A Verb.”  “Bird” used to be just a noun, a thing with feathers and wings.  In the last four decades its usage as a verb has entered the vernacular.  “Bird” is now something you do.  It’s participatory.  It involves exercise.  It involves study.  It involves social interaction.  Most importantly it involves environmental awareness—saving this planet we share with what’s flying around out there.

Non-birders are unaware.  We need to spread the faith.  Awareness begets knowledge, knowledge begets caring, caring begets preservation.  Share your passion with a non-birder.  Show them a spectacle—eight Osprey fishing Tempe Town Lake at the same time, an Anna’s Hummingbird hovering six inches from your red ball cap, a warbler bathing in a rain pool.  Grow our game, one person at a time.  It’s better than television.