Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Bird Miles

So let's face facts, very often birding expeditions will involve an extensive amount of car travel. Even in a nation as small as ours, public transport just can't cover the job. The problem is, whether you are aware of your carbon footprint or not, the more you drive to see wildlife, the more you imperil it through your own personal contribution to Global Warming. I don't know about anybody else, but that came as quite a frightful notion for me.

It has been with that thought in mind, that I've begun to think about 'bird miles', the distance we're willing to drive in pursuit of our hobby and that perhaps we should do our bit to save the planet and restrict ourselves - after all, for most birders it counts as purely a recreational habit.
Now any limit can only be arbitrary, but it occurred to me, that a 200-mile-a-month limit wouldn't be a bad commitment for most birders to make, it ought to allow one or two decent journeys to big nationally important sites (or to find must-see a rarity), or several more closer to home. Not only could that limit decrease the carbon released by hobbying birders, it may very well prove to be a renaissance for local sites if we paid more attention to them.

I have emailed the RSPB's magazine about this, and the editor said that although the next issue is full, the one after that may very well include something on the topic.
I proposed to him a members' commitment, if you could just imagine a million members cutting even just a third off their 'bird miles', then maybe you can understand why I'm enthusiastic about the idea. We could be talking millions of miles worth of petrol not burnt, a worthy contribution to the enormous overall challenge our societies face and a top example for us to set.

In a couple of other online birding forums I broached the subject, and was met with a generally indifferent reception, at other times it was blatant unpologetic opposition - 'it's my right to drive however much I want' etc...
Such reactions I simply do not understand, and they leave me quite dispirited. These are folks supposedly interested in the plight of our wildlife and the environment, and yet they found that moderating their car use was unthinkable, so what hope for the regular punter cutting his emissions?
Some of them cover well over 100,000 miles a year on bird trips!

Anyway, I remain hopeful of a more positive reflection from the RSPB.

ETA: I decided to try out some rough figures. If the RSPB has a million members, let's say that each of them individually covers 100 miles on birding trips per year. Less than 10 miles per month, which might even out it we consider shared journeys.
Now extrapolating from the fact that the average car travels 12,000 miles per year emitting 4.3 tonnes of CO2, that 100 million miles jointly covered by RSPB members equates to the average carbon emissions of 3,500 households (at 10.3 tonnes each per year).
Even if my figures are off the mark, it's clear to see there is a significant issue here that the RSPB really should think about. I don't know the answer, perhaps a parking charge for vehicles visiting reserves could fund an RSPB lobby for extra bus routes, or maybe the solution is the simple one; we all drive less.

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