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from our readers

Both Sides Now

Thank you for printing the editorial letter from Karen Sundell (“No Politics Please,” Summer 2009). I, too, have considered no longer supporting the Lab due to the increasing political nature of the articles.

I am disillusioned with your support of the unproven theory of human-caused global catastrophes, and am frankly tired of being blamed for the demise of species that have disappeared for unknown reasons.

Shape up, and return your publication to a scientifically factual and educational magazine about birds and bird watching, or I, for one, am gone.


I read with awe the letter from Karen Sundell, a “biochemist (i.e. educated)” who, in only about 471 words (I counted them) convinced me that she is an outstanding writer. However, as an “educated” person with a scientific background, she apparently feels that global warming is a political device and is not really happening.

I too am “educated” (Cornell ’49, B.S. AE in ME), and being a mechanical engineer, I feel that, confronted with facts, I have to consider them true unless something contrary is shown. Global warming is here, and it makes no difference what one’s political viewpoint is, it is here still, truly.

Whatever reasoning any political party may use to debunk this “rumor,” it will still be true. The evidence is overwhelming. The Lab of Ornithology (I’ve been a supporter of the Lab for 43 years) has a duty to show the effects of environmental changes on our wildlife, even if it may appear “political” to some.


I am a long-time reader of Living Bird and read Ms. Karen Sundell’s letter in your Summer 2009 issue. She stated in very eloquent terms what I have been feeling for the last couple of years. And, I would strongly recommend that you take her suggestions to heart. Thank you for your consideration.


How can anyone see a “political agenda” in descriptions of humans’ negative effects on disappearing species? If a species is endangered, surely that is an important part of the knowledge about it that readers need to know.

The writer knocks the photograph of the polar bear on melting ice, saying “they do know how to swim,” but they can swim only so far, and they require ice for hunting. With ice receding all over North America, it is not surprising that polar bear numbers are declining.

The writer complains about the space devoted to scientific “theories” (her quotation marks) that she doesn’t “agree with.” One cannot just agree or disagree with scientific theories—one must consider evidence pro or con. My evaluation and that of the vast majority of American scientists is that the evidence supports the theory of global warming and also supports it as an explanation for the decline of polar bear populations and some bird species.


I just want to support what Karen Sundell from Mooresville, Indiana, said in the Letters section of the Summer 2009 issue. She echoes what I’ve been thinking for some time now.


Where does one begin to respond to Karen Sundell’s letter to the editor in the Summer 2009 issue? We suppose it is possible to be a “bird watcher” without having a “political agenda,” but as soon as we consider where and how birds live, bird watching becomes intensely political, as does nearly everything else in our lives. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology would not be doing its job if it did not weigh in on policy matters that affect the near- and long-term future of the environment. Your positions—no matter how firmly grounded scientifically—will necessarily offend some people, but you must persevere in writing the truth.

Keep up the good work.


Bravo, ditto, and amen to Karen Sundell’s letter!


The letter from Karen Sundell is somewhat ironic. I’ve actually been thinking for quite some time that the Lab of Ornithology should do much more in the way of conservation advocacy. It’s all well and good to be objective in your scientific research and your reporting, but when you see serious problems developing, you owe it to the health and viability of the planet to let people know what’s going on and what we can do about it. The world environment is in far too precarious a position to remain passive. While we coast along doing nothing, wildlife populations are being decimated, massive swaths of habitat are being destroyed, and the climate is changing (perhaps irretrievably) at an unprecedented rate. We should all be shouting that from the rooftops. I appreciate the fact that you have highlighted some endangered animals, but we all need to do far more. You know it and I know it.


Living Bird Magazine

Autumn 2009

Table of Contents

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