Sunday, January 5, 2014

* The Apocalyptic Pigeon

Sometimes an entire piece of writing is justified by one eye-catching sentence. This week's New Yorker article "The Birds: Why the passenger  pigeon became extinct" by Jonathan Rosen is a case in point:

Here's the sentence -------------

The bird's propensity for eating everything and taking over earth and sky makes it seem, frankly, a little like us.  

(p. 65)

Thornton Wilder once observed:
Nature has one purpose and one purpose only, to cover the earth with as much protoplasm as it can as fast as it can. 

 (I suppose "protoplasm"  included cytoplasm in his view).

BONUS quote:
     'They would roost in one place until they broke all the limbs off the trees," one old timer recalled, "then they would move to Joining timber & treat it likewise, then fire would break out in the old Roost and destroy the remainder of the timber." Their droppings, which coated branches and lay a foot thick on the ground, like snow, proved toxic to the uinderstory and fatal to the trees.
One hunter recalled a nighttime visit to the swamp in Ohio in 1845, when he was sixteen,  he mistook for haystacks what were in fact alder and willow trees, bowed to the ground under gigantic pyramids of birds many bodies deep. As late at 1971 a single nesting ground in Sparta, Wisconsin, covered eight hundred and fifty square miles, hosting more than a hundred million birds.

(p. 64)

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