By Cosetta Veronese
I was browsing the internet in search of a photo featuring both a bird and an airplane for a presentation on zooanthropology. I needed a captivating image to illustrate Roberto Marchesini’s foundational statement about anthropopoiesis: “It is by watching birds that we realized that it is possible to fly.”
That epiphanic moment, hidden in the depths of history, marked a pivotal point in human development—the realization that a different existential dimension is possible.
My Google search produced a list of real and fake photos, showcasing solitary birds or flocks, along with links to blogs and articles. One particular article caught my attention: “How dangerous are bird strikes to planes?” I paused, rereading the title. Something didn’t sound quite right. Shouldn’t it be: “How dangerous are planes to birds?” I wondered.
My mild gush of irritation intensified as I read on. Not only did the article suggest that birds might strike airplanes like bullets, rockets, or other weapons, but it also seemed to take for granted that the sky is a human space. Besides mentioning that “2,300 wildlife strikes were reported in 2023,” the author informed us that 97% of these cases involved birds, with a small minority including bats or other ground-dwelling creatures like deer, coyotes, turtles, or alligators. Shockingly, “more than 300 people were killed because of wildlife strikes, and nearly 300 planes were destroyed between 1988 and 2021.” Hassan Shahidi, President and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, concluded unequivocally: “Bird strikes are a hazard to aviation,” affecting all types of aircraft.
The article suggested that airports should manage habitats to reduce or eliminate trees and plants that shelter birds or address wetlands that attract them. There was no consideration for the essential role trees and plants play in mitigating climate change or the pollution caused by aircraft emitting 3.16 kg of CO2 per 1 kg of fuel consumed—a jet consumes 3,200 L of fuel per hour. Not to mention that birds, regardless of species, are individuals with lives that matter to them, independent of humans and their planes.
Mr. Shahidi proposed that airports should modify habitats to discourage birds, disregarding the environmental impact. Regular fliers might be alarmed to learn that “the cost of wildlife strikes to the aviation industry in the United States in 2021 was projected to be $328 million.” I was dismayed by the univocal and uncritical perspective of the article, highlighting the anthropocentric bias of one of the world’s most influential newspapers.
This raises crucial questions: What is the value of animals’ lives? How many animal lives is a human life worth? When will we realize that to the animal, other of whatever species, I am an ‘other’ too? Only then can we extend the awareness that a dignified life is not just a privilege of Homo sapiens but a right of all species. We need to rethink our living spaces on the ground and in the sky accordingly.