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The American Bird Conservancy last week released a commercial built around a viral video of a vulture hitting a wind turbine a couple of years ago. The video is intended to drive support for the group’s effort to ensure wind development guidelines include provisions to protect birds and other wildlife.

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The ABC isn’t opposed to wind power, it just wants to protect birds. “Wind power can be bird-smart if developed appropriately,” the group’s website says, “but industry will not do this unless mandated.”

That seems perfectly reasonable, but perspective matters. You may recall a story from a few weeks ago that cited ABC numbers showing domestic cats kill up to 500 million birds each year, as opposed to the 440,000 birds that the Fish and Wildlife Service says are killed by wind turbines.

And so it will be interesting to see what meaning this video takes on this time around.

The video was originally posted in 2009, and was quickly picked up by another user named “ClimateScam,” whose profile page informs us that global warming is “a crock of shit” and “an evil and calculated LIE designed to erode national sovereignty.”

While the ABC may not be opposed to wind power, plenty of people who are opposed to wind power — but otherwise couldn’t give a rat’s behind about birds — will use the video, stripped of its context, to further their cause.

So I thought it might be fun to do a little spelunking on YouTube to find videos of birds being hit by other things. I wonder if they’ll inspire the same type of outrage? Here’s a sampling:


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Police cars:

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Tennis balls:

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Golf balls:

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And, of course, cats:

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And, just for the heck of it, here are the greatest hits of Larry Bird:

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My point here is not to be dismissive of ABC’s campaign or be flippant about the impacts that humans (and their pets) have on wildlife. The point is that perspective matters.

As Andrew Revkin points out, all of our energy choices involve trade-offs.

I’m all for “bird smart” deployment of wind turbines, as long as there’s also “bird smart” deployment of cats, as well. And keep in mind that buildings kill hundreds of millions of birds a year.

But either way, I’ll bet if a wind turbine gets into the paint with Larry Bird, the turbine doesn’t stand a chance.

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Ken Paulman

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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