Opinion: The California oil spill is a disaster for birds — and a warning about fossil fuels’ threat to the planet

| October 6, 2021 | Leave a Comment

a wave made of oil

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Author(s): Peter H. Gleick

Peter H. Gleick is a hydroclimatologist, a MacArthur fellow and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

There’s never a good time for an oil spill. But the most recent ones — in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Ida last month, and then this past weekend, in the ocean off Huntington Beach, Calif. — have come right in the heart of the fall migration of hundreds of millions of birds.

Like tens of millions of other Americans, I’m a birder. Last week, my wife, son and I watched waves of raptors and shorebirds flying south past the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay. These birds — born in the Arctic, Alaska, and the forests of Canada and North America — take off each year on journeys that often extend for thousands of miles, down the four ancient flyways along the Pacific Coast, through the Great Plains and the Mississippi River Basin, or down the Eastern Seaboard, before reaching their wintering grounds in Central and South America.

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