Silent Spring

By Matthieu Ricard on June 19, 2011

In France, according to a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 26% of the breeding birds (568 species) are considered to be endangered. Urban concentration and the massive use of pesticides are deemed to be the main causes. Due to a careful study that was conducted by a thousand ornithologists, the ‟Suivi temporal des oiseaux communs” (STOC) program, which is organized by the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, revealed in 2009 that the number of birds that nest on the French territory had already decreased by 10% in the last twenty years. Moreover, due to global warming, a large-scale displacement of bird populations 100 km to the North has been monitored.

I can still remember the sandbanks of the Traict du Croisic, which I would observe from the home of my uncle, the sailor Jacques-Yves Le Toumelin; this was forty years ago, before I left for the Himalayas. The shores were strewn with flocks of Eurasian oystercatchers, curlews, bar-tailed godwits, plovers, and other shorebirds, and the coast resounded with the polyphony of their resonant calls. Today, these shores are silent and deserted. Only a few black geese, which come to winter, now in small numbers, bring back to mind the beauty of the wilderness. From year to year, this slow and progressive disappearance is not obvious to those who live there. But for a witness, such as myself, who only visits from time to time, the difference is staggering.