We have nature reserves on land and at sea, but the sky has never been considered a habitat, let alone one worth preserving, until now
By Lesley Evans Ogden
THE Federal Bureau of Investigation has a spectacular view of the city skyline from its Chicago office tower. But when special agent Julia Meredith arrived at work one Monday morning, her eyes were focused firmly on the ground. That’s where the bodies were – more than 10 of them.
Some of the dead were Blackburnian warblers, birds with bright yellow and orange plumage that are rarely seen in the city. They had been on their way to their wintering grounds in South America when they had collided with the building’s glass facade. “They had come all this way and here they were, dead,” says Meredith.
It’s not an isolated incident. Just last month, 395 migrating birds were killed in one building strike in Galveston, Texas. The world over, wherever humans are extending their buildings, machines and light into the sky, the lives of aerial creatures are at increasing risk. We don’t have very accurate figures, but in the US, casualties are thought to run into the hundreds of millions every year. Yet while efforts to protect areas on land and in water have accelerated since the 1970s, the sky has been almost entirely ignored.
That could be about to change if a new wave of conservationists have their way. They want to reclaim the air for its inhabitants, creating protected areas that extend into the sky and designing buildings to avoid death. If this noble aim is to succeed, however, we must first address a more fundamental question: what exactly is it that we are