Sunday, December 12, 2010


I shot this guy, or gal, through my living room window, using maximum zoom. It was difficult to hold the camera still enough to get a decent image, but this seems good enough to share. The owl sat in that hemlock, staring directly at my house, and seemingly at me, for several minutes. It does indeed have a wise, contemplative look. It seems to want to tell me something, but I don't speak its language.

I suppose owls are a symbol of wisdom because of this appearance -- the big eyes and steady gaze are the key. What this one says to me is that there are still wild places, but we are in the midst of the greatest mass extinction since that asteroid hit off of Yucutan and wiped out the dinosaurs, with the happy exception of the owl's ancestors. Dozens of species of plants and metazoans are disappearing from the planet every day, due to climate change, pollution, interactions with alien species, and most of all destruction of habitat.

At some point, will the web of life become so unraveled that biological productivity crashes and along with it the basis of human life? E.O. Wilson, in The Diversity of Life, tells us that it has taken millions of years following earlier mass extinctions for diversity, and productivity, to return to previous levels.

The expansion of the human population, from a few million to more than 6 billion and rising, was fed entirely by fossil fuels. One way or another, that will stop, and it will reverse. If we had any wisdom, we would find a path to fewer people on a still fecund planet that doesn't take us through a vale of horror and inhumanity. But right now, we haven't found any of that wisdom. We still pursue only our greed, for the next day or season.


  1. BTW, I believe this is a barred owl. If anybody wants to confirm or dispute that identification, let me know.

  2. What a great shot of that owl! We never get to see owls, not sure why. Ever hopeful though. Well, except for the ecological nightmare we are creating and the very real mass extinction occurring right before our eyes. How to get from six billion humans to a number more in line with the carry capacity of the planet will never occur without horror and inhumanity. That owl looks says, "I'm watching and waiting for you all to leave."

  3. Barred for sure.

    Beautiful shot and out your window! You live in Paradise, methinks.

    And, yes, I agree with what Robin says. So many species that I used to see/hear all the time as a kid, now startlingly absent. Two much-loved and much-missed species: whippoorwills and hog-nosed snakes.