Second of two parts
When the Year of the Bird campaign on behalf of endangered species kicked off one year ago, National Geographic magazine turned to a unique voice for its cover story. One of the country’s leading novelists, Jonathan Franzen, took up the question of “Why Birds Matter.’’
The National Book Award winner’s article blended his fascination for birds with his literary firepower. Drawing from his decades of birding all over the world, Franzen walked through the attributes of 49 different species on the way to an appeal for us to change our careless ways.
“Now humans are changing the planet – its surface, its climate, its oceans – too quickly for birds to adapt by evolving,’’ he wrote. “Crows and gulls may thrive at our garbage dumps, blackbirds and cowbirds at our feedlots, robins and bulbuls in our city parks.
“But the future of most bird species depends on our commitment to preserving them. Are they valuable enough for us to make the effort?”
The Year of the Bird project, led by the Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Geographic and Birdlife International, comes to a close on Monday with a long list of accomplishments to its credit.
One of the most notable was the story-telling that came with the campaign. Over the course of the year, essays, journalism, photography and videos drew an enormous audience reaching tens of millions of people to the question of whether and how to preserve the world’s endangered species. Last week, Flying Lessons explored the impacts of this sprawling project. Today’s post looks at the way the coalition told its story.
National Geographic’s coverage included magazine stories on exotic and threatened species, its unrivaled nature photography, books and videos that put you, for instance, alongside wet-suited photographers bobbing in the frigid ocean to get a close-up bird shot.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology used advances in social media and apps to collect huge amounts of data from birdwatchers. The data fuels both scientific studies and storytelling with graphics and animation. The most impressive element is a new animation technique that lets you watch how migrations unfold over the seasons across the hemisphere.
The Audubon Society and BirdLife International used their increasingly sophisticated websites to share birding news, post photographs and make the arguments central to the Year of the Bird project. Audubon’s president, David Yarnold, is a former newspaper editor who writes regular advocacy pieces that draw on his journalism background.