Thursday, 26 January 2012

On estuaries and airports

As anyone and everyone interested in birds knows, the remarkable spoon-billed sandpiper is on its last legs. Despite the heroic recent efforts of conservation organisations including the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the sandpiper is, so to speak, in extinction’s waiting room and its appointment may well be soon. One of the chief reasons for the species’ cataclysmic decline has almost certainly been the reclamation for industry of great areas of its migratory and winter habitat in South and Southeast Asia. This habitat, of course, is estuarine mud.

Now spin your globe a long way to the northwest, to where a rotund and generally jocund mayor proposes a new airport, an airport to be built on Kent’s estuarine mud. This airport would spell destruction for a big slab of the gloopy biological powerhouse of the Thames Estuary. In addition to countless other species, this mud, so featureless in the vote-centric minds of our politicians, is the migratory and winter home of hundreds of thousands of wading birds: close cousins of the spoon-billed sandpiper. Equally vulnerable.

Are we really so stupid?

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