Canaries in the Clearcut?

by Rolf Skar

June 25, 2007

Before high-tech monitoring systems, miners brought canaries into coal mines to detect dangerous levels of methane and carbon monoxide gases.  When the sensitive birds fell ill or died, miners knew they could be next and quickly left the mines.

Birds aren’t used in mines anymore, but they can still help us figure out if there’s something wrong in our environment.  A recent headline-grabbing report shows that even some common birds – the kind Americans are used to seeing in their backyards and nearby natural areas – are disappearing at alarming rates.

The report lists twenty common birds whose numbers have dropped by an average of 68% since 1967.  A big reason for the declines is habitat destruction, especially in the Boreal Forest.  No surprise there.  About half of North America’s bird species depend on the Boreal Forest for habitat.  As clearcuts and logging roads slice and dice the Boreal, migrating birds wrestling with other problems like global warming may be pushed over the edge.

Of course, beloved backyard birds don’t need to go the way of the dodo. The solution is pretty simple.  Most of the logging in the Boreal ends up in the United States.  And most of that wood is used to make paper products – things like Kleenex tissues.  If enough of us speak up, Kimberly-Clark, the world’s largest tissue maker and a big user of Boreal wood, would have to change its ways.

By using recycled paper and fiber from Forest Stewardship Council certified wood, Kimberly-Clark could protect sensitive bird habitat and blaze a responsible trail for other tissue companies to follow.

While birds can sing, they can’t make phone calls or write emails.  That’s your job.  So, go to the campaign site and speak up for the birds!


Rolf Skar

By Rolf Skar

Rolf Skar is the Campaigns Director at Greenpeace USA. Since 2007, Rolf has contributed to international Greenpeace campaigns to stop deforestation in the Canadian boreal forest, the Paradise forests of Southeast Asia, and the Brazilian Amazon.

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