The recent article published in the peer-reviewed journal Science reporting the sighting of a male Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, long thought to be extinct in the United States, is more than a feel-good story for eco-freaks. It’s also a religious story for some of us.
First of all, how often do we get good news about ecology? Mostly the news brings us a litany of ecological disasters. I’m a Universalist, so I know everything is going to turn out all right in the long run — but it’s nice to know that good things are happening right now, as a little encouragement for those of us who are trying to make the world better now, rather than waiting for some kind of afterlife.
There’s more theology than that involved. Those of us who are interested in ecological theology find a religious significance in bio-diversity. We ecological theologians hold that individual religion, individual salvation for individual human beings, is not enough. By extending religious principles to all species, and to eco-systems in general, we are saying that the category of evil also includes destruction of species and of eco-systems — that we can’t create the kingdom of heaven here on earth without rich bio-diversity. (For those of you who are theology geeks, yes, we stole most of this from the Social Gospelers.)
But the heck with theology — let’s just celebrate. Check out the news coverage on NewScientist.com, which includes a copy of the primary evidence involved — the five-second blurry video showing an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker flying — http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7319. Yes, it’s a blurry video, but I’m just enough of a birder to know that ain’t no Pileated Woodpecker flying along through the swamp.
It will take time for the scientific community to go over the data. In the mean time, the Nature Conservancy has received a multi-million dollar gift to protect more potential habitat of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. Check out their report of their efforts to save this habitat at http://www.nature.org/ivorybill/habitat/saving.html — and click on the link in the upper right=hand corner of this Web page to make your own contribution towards saving the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker’s habitat. Heck, you were just going to spend that money at the mall, anyway. Give it to the crazy-looking woodpecker instead. What better way to celebrate?