13 July 2011

The Lord God Bird

Today I listened to The Lord God Bird by Sufjan Stevens.

Hear the story of The Lord God Bird on NPR. You can also download the song at the second link. NPR has great stories. The Republicans wanted to cut funding to the station. Because they are Republicans. They probably succeeded. Can you imagine the ABC running beer ads?

The Ivory-billed woodpecker, believed extinct, was sighted again after 60 years in Brinkley, Arkansas. When somebody sees this bird, they tend to say, "O my Lord God", or, "Great God", due to its 75 centremetre wingspan. The story examines the economic and social impacts of the bird's reappearance on Brinkley. In the 2000 Census, close to a third of the city's population lived below the poverty line. A situation that Wall Street is unlikely to have improved since.

Duck hunting is a major source of income to the town, but since the sighting there has been a conservation imperative, along with an influx of twitchers. Observing birds, particularly in flight, speaks to the ancient freedom of our soul; does it not? America has created a wonderful solution in respect of the tension between the nature-lover-artist and the hunter.

When President Hoover authorised the acquisition and preservation of wetlands as waterfowl habitat in 1929 under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, he did not provide ongoing funding for the purchase and care of any land. To solve this conundra, President Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting And Conservation Stamp Act in 1934. Since then, artists have painted birds to feature on stamps which the hunter buys as permit to shoot birds. The money raised has created a National Wildlife Refuge System.

The paintings are pretty cool. I was a part-time philatelist way back. Except it is hard to imagine these stamps are found on any envelopes and they are not valid unless the hunter has signed the front, preventing them from changing hands. Below are some of my favourites and here is a link to the entire Federal Duck Stamp Gallery which generously provided the images.

Join the Duck Stamp Design Competition!

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