Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Haley Reading Group: Barry Yeoman’s "Billions to None"


[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2015)]

Barry Yeoman’s article “Billions to None” addresses a project that seeks to bring the passenger pigeon back after threats to their extinction. Scientists are working to genetically engineer the biology of the bird with related pigeon species. Ideally, they would like to come up with a passenger pigeon (adjacent) creature. However, bringing the bird back into current ecosystems could lead to various unpredictable consequences.

What did you find most useful or interesting about Yeoman’s article? Why? Please provide a page number citation.

39 comments:

Isaiah J. said...

It surprised me to learn how far animal rights have come. I knew that we used to be more cruel to animals, but I didn't know that we brutally massacred an entire species of pigeon(300). It's good that animals have more rights now, but I feel like we should not have been so cruel even back then.

Alexis S. said...

I found it to be interesting how the pigeon's used their massive population to their advantage to get food and scare animals and humans away. The article stated that they used "a strategy known as "predator satiation"". (299) Overall it was sad to read that these pigeons used to have millions in population but were hunted and killed so badly that they became extinct.

- Alexis S.

Anonymous said...

It was interesting learning about Brand and Phelan's project, Revive & Restore, as it is extraordinary that a species can possibly be restored through knowledge of their genetic code. I also found that it is useful that "the pigeon's story serves as a jumping-off point for exploring the many ways humans influence, and often jeopardize, their own environment" (303). It is essential that people know that we impact the environment much more than we think, which jeopardizes the animals and plants.

Samantha A.

Anonymous said...

One of the most interesting points the author made in this story was when he noted the similarity between the lack of concern shown by people of the rapid hunting of the passenger pigeons and the common attitude towards climate change today. "If public disinterest helped exterminate the passenger pigeon, then one modern day parallel might be public skepticism about climate change"(304). In simple terms, Yeoman is saying if people cared so little about the rapid extinction of the passenger pigeon, will we also be naive enough to continue to deny climate change until it has a direct impact on us?

Jason A.

Anonymous said...

It was interesting to me to hear how abundant passenger pigeons used to be. The description given made it much more clear than just hearing numbers. Yeoman described a typical pigeon migration, stating that "they took hours to pass over a single spot, darkening the firmament and rendering normal conversation inaudible" (297). This is an amazing feat of nature that we no longer see.

Marina T.

Anonymous said...

I found it most interesting that the passenger pigeon had been extinct for so long. I think that its sad that the pigeons were hunted out of existence. The story said “This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon’s extinction. In the intervening years researchers have agreed that the bird was hunted out of existence, victimized by the fallacy that no amount of exploitation could endanger a creature so abundant” (298). It seems that people didn’t care about preserving the lives of the passenger pigeons. I think people need to be more concerned with what they do and realize the impact that it has on animals and our environment as a whole.

Alyria B.

Linda H. said...

I found it most interesting that scientists actually wanted to bring this passenger pigeon back. These massive groups of pigeons are described in the passage as "fast, gargantuan flocks" that would pass through towns leaving "a world plated with pigeon ejecta." (pg. 299). I don't generally like birds to begin with but these descriptions sound nightmarish and leave me wondering why anyone would want to bring these birds back. Also, the use of genetic engineering on pigeons of all animals seems like a waste of resources in my opinion.



Linda H.

Thomas Siganga said...

It was true that people lacked knowledge and did not even care about the population of passenger pigeons. I am glad that cenetaries are used to educate people with questions like, "How was it possible that this extinction happened" to help them learn first about the animal, but about what is needed to be done so that the problem does not occur again. Of course, this is a sad subject, but as time goes on humans need to be able to move on and improve from their old sins.
-Thomas Siganga

Anonymous said...

One of the things I found the most interesting was the many ways they were able to hunt and kill the pigeons "They shot the pigeons and trapped them with nets, torched their roosts, and asphyxiated them with burning sulfur" (300). When I think about hunting especially animals that can fly I only think of shooting them down, so I thought the numerous ways they thought of were creative. This is however a sad topic showing the devastating effect humans can have on animal populations.

Alexis R.

LaTrina Brown said...

I found it interesting how there is a project solely dedicated to bringing the passenger pigeon back to life. In the article, it is stated that the project plans to use the tools of molecular biology to resurrect extinct animals. The project also plans to breed birds in captivity and then release them to the wild in the 2030s. (page 302) It is interesting how people are so dedicated to birds that they will make prototypes of them to continue their legacy.

Unknown said...

Alexis H.

The concept of them wanting to genetically reproduce the pigeon is interesting to me. As on page 298 it states that move in big flocks, so that would mean that they would have to produce multiples.

Also bringing back more attention to zoos is interesting to me as well. Yes genetically reproducing extinct animals will be cool and nice to see, it’s still going to be scary to me. I would feel as if they could clone me and whoever else.

Anonymous said...

As I read the title of this week's article, I was excited thinking that the story would be about a rich person who either fell on hard times and recovered or one that decided to give away his riches to others less fortunate (After all, it is the holiday season). But as I started reading, I quickly realized that I was wrong...very wrong. I also felt dumb...very dumb because I am one of those people that ecologist, David Blockstein states (page 298) are "completely unaware that the passenger pigeon ever existed". I only knew of the pigeons seen in open market areas or in the cities that scrounge for food (just like everyone else my age). I did find the whole over-abundance to extinction story fascinating! Reading the passage on on page 299 that spoke about "children screamed and ran home. Women gathered their long skirts and hurried for the shelter of stores" I couldn't help but to think about Hitchcock's 1963 classic, The Birds! I watched it with my mom and aunt years ago! It is a must see! Moving on to the research to "resurrect extinct animals" (pg 302)... Is this for real? Jurassic Park was just a movie and look what happened in the end! I don't agree with this idea! I did take interest in the mission of Project Passenger Pigeon. They have done so much to preserve the legacy of the passenger pigeon and it's history. I know that I, ultimately, learned so much more than I had ever expected with this article and I didn't even touch on how global warming/climate change (pg 304-305) are current concerns that are beginning to impact many populations of species. - Miles W.

Unknown said...

The most interesting part to me was that the project was created to bring the passenger pigeons' number back up to where they were. I also think that this article made it more clear to people that everything we do affects the environment around us. With that being said we need to be more conscious when it comes to the decisions that we are making and thinking about how those actions will affect the world around us.

Cecelia S.

Caleb Abernathy said...

To me, the most interesting aspect of the entire passage was the amount of people that were, and can be, so myopic and unaware of certain situations. For instance, it states that, "people believed that no amount of exploitation could rid of a species so abundant." Then, all of the sudden, the species which had billions was wiped off the face of the earth do to being hunted.

This is why it is so important that their are groups similar to the one within the passage that make people aware of certain situations. Otherwise, things of this nature could happen again.

Anonymous said...

The most interesting parts of Yeoman’s article, was how the passenger pigeons used their large flocks to hunt (pg.299), and how the last known passenger pigeon died around the age of twenty-nine. (pg.298) I didn't know birds lived that long. Also, reading about how there is an effort to de-extinct some animals. I don't think we should that though. Like Temple said,"The ecosystem has moved on.""If you put the organism back in it could be disruptive to a new dynamic equilibrium." (pg.303) We don't know what kind of repercussions bringing back an animal or one similar to it could do.
~Lillien W.

Justin J said...

I found it interesting that the passenger pigeon was the most abundant bird in North America, and would take hours to pass over a single spot, making the sky dark (297). It's incredible how much damage hunting can do to an animal population and the causes this has on the different ecosystems around North America. I also learned about the effects of climate change on animal populations.

-Justin J

Dasmin W. said...

The most interesting part in the article for me was discovering how the times have changed for animals. Society went from being barbaric with animals to the 21th century , where there are laws against animal cruelty. The author explains the cruelness with this quote, " People just slaughtered them more intensely. They killed them until the very end'(301). I am happy that society has changed and I think it is a great idea to bring back the pigeons, even though, it could have some negative effects.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of passenger pigeons! I am a huge animal fan and as always humans are aware of the impact the have on the environment. I would say that we need to be more aware of our surrounds and how we affect them but I highly doubt we will do anything until it is too late.
Breann Walton

Anonymous said...

Kami Douglas
The most interesting part of this article to me, was the fact that people were hunting these pigeons so often. It was baffling that a whole species were almost extincted within a human beings lifetime. For instance, the article says, "Pokagon recorded these memories in 1895..... By then he was in his final years. Passenger pigeons too were in their final years" (298).
This was intriguing to me because Pokagon had witnessed a large amount of Passenger pigeons within his life time. Yet, before he had even passed away, they were already on the verge of extinction. It is quite baffling how selfish and self absorbed humans can be.

Caulder Brantley said...

What I found interesting is how the author was able to connect the attitudes of the people during the pigeon era to the attitudes of the people today. It was interesting because when the author stated "its the same kind of argument:'The world is so big and the atmosphere is so big;how could we possibly have an impact on the global climate'" (305) it was clear as day how people's attitude and perspective on things truly impact the future of our environment. Because people were nonchalant and dismissive the passenger pigeons went extinct; I can only hope to imagine how those perspectives can shape a inhabitable future not only for the animals but for ourselves.

Gabrielle H. said...

It is very interesting how unaware we are of active life around us. I wouldn't have a clue about the passenger pigeons extinction if I never read this article. I wonder if raising awareness would have forced our hand to make a change. Joel greenberg explains, "there was virtually no effort to save them" (301). He continued this thought by informing us that people killed faster than the pigeons could reproduce. I feel like if there was an effort made to inform the public about this epidemic, people would be more cautious while hunting before it was too late.

Sable M. said...

I found it interesting that the author drew a correlation between the way not only the pigeons but animals as a whole and even climate change. He showed that human interest only begins to spike or become immersed in the subject so to speak when times get
rough and the issue is nearing its extinction or end. People think that because something is in abundance that it's okay to hunt them to the ends of the earth basically (301). Then I turn try to think of a way to bring the animals back from the verge of extinction or mixing their genetics in with other pidgeon species.

Brian Green said...

What I found interesting is the fact that hunters were always destroying the nesting grounds for the passenger pigeons(301). The hunters were killing the species faster than they could reproduce. This made it so that the passenger pigeons could not survive and became extinct.

There was not a definitive approach to what the hunters were doing. The hunters did not know why they were destroying the passenger pigeons. They really just followed orders, which is not the way to go in my opinion.

Brian G.

Rachael Gray said...

This actually reminds me of Jurassic Park. They are trying to being back pigeons like they brought back dinosaurs in the movie. It makes me wonder if bringing back the pigeons would be dangerous because in the Jurassic Park movies something always goes wrong. I think some people's dramatic reactions to the pigeons when they were still abundant was kind of funny. I hate how people today just kill everything. Americans waste so much food and they kill way too many animals. It makes me,really angry how they put the bird protection laws in place after all of the passenger pigeons were already dead. Nobody cares until it is too late to care. The Native Americans had it right. They only killed the animals they absolutely needed and they used every part of the animals they killed.
-Rachael Gray

Anonymous said...

The most interesting part of the article to me was when it mentioned how humans “influence, and often jeopardize, their own environment” (Yeoman 303-304). This stuck out to me because of the percentage shown of the amount each species is considered threatened. I feel that people often don’t think about how their actions can affect the things around them and are too busy “living in the now” and not considering the consequences associated.

-Gianna T.

Anonymous said...

I found interesting the fact that there are people out there who care about the well-being of animals. although I'm not an animal activist, I felt concerned about the fact that we as human are somehow unbothered when it comes to animal rights. We have such a beautiful planet with multiple species that we perhaps have not discovered yet. we do not pay much attention to those animals until it is too late. But, I wonder how much damage their reinstitution in nature will cause. I am a believer of wonders of nature. It has always ways to recreate and repair itself. Do not get me wrong,I completely disagree with the fact that poachers go in nature to kill animals for fun, but I really hope those animals will not suffer from our mistakes.

Geonel M.

Fontez M. said...

I found it interesting that the pigeons' defense mechanism is what indirectly led to their endangerment,"The flocks were so thick that hunting was easy"(300). Hunting the birds became a common thing , which is crazy, because there were so many birds that killing them was normalized.

Anonymous said...

Personally I found it interesting that out of all the different species of animals they poachers decided on pigeons. I mean don't get me wrong, no animal deserves to be killed for no reason, but out of all animals it just seems dumb to choose pigeons. However, I also found it interesting how humans are trying to bring them back. Which all good and all but the first thing that comes to mind is how in Jurassic Park they tried to bring back dinosaurs. And everyone knows how that went. So I think instead of trying to bring back extinct species we should be more focused on restricting poaching.


Jasmine S.

Anonymous said...

Something that really stood out to me in this article was that there were once such massive populations of pigeons. How they could be so little with just one of them but they were smart enough to know that if a massive flock of them got together that they could scare a bigger predator away. Known as predator satiation (p. 229). This was very cool to me. And it makes sense, I just always thought that pigeons and birds in general had such little brains, and could not think of much. Let alone know how to work the system to be able to eat.
Amira F.

Anonymous said...

First off it baffles me how someone could stand next to the most breathtaking waterfalls and still be more amazed by flocking pigeons. Also this just demonstrated how human advancement is a gift and a curse because as mentioned on page 300 “But after the Civil War came two technological developments that set in motion the pigeon’s extinction: the national expansions of the telegraph and the railroad.” These advancements were not created to aid the extinction of the passenger pigeon’s but with man’s demented mind they assisted in their extinction. Lastly, it was foolish for man to believe that just because a creature was so abundant, the population could not be affected by hunting. Ronald A.

Anonymous said...

I find it disturbing that some people want to bring these pigeons back, knowing that we already have a mass number of birds and that they would poop everywhere they went and towns would be covered with it. In the text it was described as, "a world plated with pigeon ejecta." (pg. 299). I have never liked birds and I probably never will so the thought of having this mass number of pigeons, is terrifying and not at all a movement I would be able to stand behind.

-Jasmine D.

Deja Thornton said...

What I found most interesting is that, the hunting of these pigeons was so severe that it caused its extinction. I really had no knowledge of this pigeon just like many other people in the world. On pg 298 it states, "It's surprising to me how many educated people I talk to who are completely unaware that the passenger pigeon even existed,". I feel like this should be talked about more in classrooms, not just about the pigeons, but extinction period. It's a topic that many people overlook and just swipe under the rug.

Unknown said...

It is interesting to see that as we gained knowledge it led to a duality of positive and negative effects. In the case of lacking animal knowledge in thd past peopple seemed to assume the about of pigeons are infinite and thus became targets for hunting or were deemed pests to be exterminated. Unfortunately because of the lack of better ways to deal with what were "problems". It's a nearly disgusting sight to imagine a pudgeon thag "burst open upon hitting the ground"(300) because they were hunted so brutally. Now that we have knowledge we know how to protect species, but those who do not care about them have even more efficient ways to exterminate them, whether they are aware of it or not.
Andrew H.

Anonymous said...

The most interesting thing that I read about was how the pigeons were brought back to life even though they were close to extinction. On page 298 it says " This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon's extinction." Even though certain pigeons were extinct, the other ones were able to come back to life. However, I really don't like birds, especially larger birds but the people really wanted them to come back to life.

- Kennedy M.

Anonymous said...

Fatima Bashir
Although I would not really consider myself an animal activist, reading pieces like this shock me. There are so many animals in the world that went extinct and no one knows about such as the passenger pigeons.
For the pigeons in particular, it could raise awareness for all animal rights. People never thought the pigeons could go extinct because there were so many of them. However, any species can go extinct, so every species should be treated as such. People shouldn't wait to protect species until they are endanger. They should protect them before they even become endanger.

Anonymous said...

The most interesting thing that I read about was how the pigeons were brought back to life even though they were close to extinction. On page 298 it says " This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon's extinction." Even though certain pigeons were extinct, the other ones were able to come back to life. However, I really don't like birds, especially larger birds but the people really wanted them to come back to life.

- Kennedy M.

David D said...

What I found most interesting was that, “researchers agreed that the bird was hunted out of existence, victimized by the fallacy that no amount of exploitation could endanger a creature so abundant” (Yeoman, p 298). Earlier in the text it was stated how abundant this creature was so for them to go completely extinct, I begin to wonder what other factors could’ve caused it. They mentioned a female pigeon who never laid one fertile egg in a 29 year lifespan so was there a reproduction issue? This point has peaked my interest in the descent of the carrier pigeon population into extinction and sheds new light that even with abundant species now, we shouldn’t over hunt them.
-David D.

Markel Rose said...

What i find interesting about the passage is how people are blind to environmental conservation. "In the intervening years researchers have revealed that the bird was hunted out of existence, victimized by the fallacy that no amount of exploitation could endanger a creature so abundant." (pg. 298) A bird that was once known as the most abundant in the US hunted because people are so oblivious.

Anonymous said...

What I think is interesting was that "'If you're unfortunate enough to be a species that concentrates in time and space, you make yourself very, very vulnerable,'" (Yeoman, p 300). This being true in a lot of ways, because hunters to tend to hunt things that travel is a very linear way, to make a much easier time for themselves. Also with that being said it might mess with other birds flight patterns also, or even be aggressive towards a certain species and take them out, or worst case they will be hunted by other animals.

-Patrick G.