Feeding frenzy

Nov. 8, 2001

Feeding Frenzy

By Ralph Hood

November/December 2001

Wife Gail feeds birds in the backyard. (She also recycles, flosses, rescues sick animals, gives to the church, and keeps me out of jail, but this story is about feeding birds.) Gail started by putting up a bird feeder just for the few birds that were then in our yard. Squirrels ate some of the bird food, so Gail added a few squirrel feeders. When chipmunks showed up, she started feeding them, too.

Next thing we knew, we had more birds, more squirrels and more chipmunks. The birds were smallish at first, until the pigeons arrived. The pigeons hogged the bird feeders, so Gail asked me to put up additional feeders designed specifically for little birds. Doves arrived in large numbers and, being ground feeders, they ate food dropped from the feeders. Gail started putting special food on the ground for the doves. She also put up birdhouses for homeless birds. (Gail takes in all helpless, pitiful creatures. That’s how she ended up with me.)
Well, you should see our backyard now. On a typical day, there are 20 or more pigeons, plus untold numbers of smaller birds mixed in with chipmunks and squirrels. Walk out our back door and there is a rush and roar as maybe a hundred birds take off at once.
Gail buys food in 50-pound sacks. Every now and then, I ask her how much we’re spending on birds and rodents. She never knows exactly, but assures me it is, "Not a whole lot." This from the same woman who can tell you, to the penny, exactly how many minutes I talked long distance last month and year-to-date.
In other words, Gail saw a need for a few birds and she filled that need. More came and she expanded the program. She has adjusted for every additional bird and animal. She has met their every need. The result? We have more birds than ever and the end is nowhere in sight.
Across the country, guvmints at all levels are beginning to realize this as a universal problem. Solving needs can and does attract more people with more needs. More welfare begets more people who need welfare. More highways don’t solve traffic problems; they just allow more people to participate. (I think they are even beginning to realize — dare I say it? — that California has too many people, rather than too few services).
And — finally getting to the point — bigger airports beget more flights carrying more people. Several recent reports admit that building more runways at already-crowded airports may not (probably will not) solve the problem, but will instead allow those few airports to become even more crowded and more miserable. If you build it, they will indeed come until the misery index is maximized. There really is a maximum number of people that O’Hare can comfortably, safely, and reasonably serve. Ditto Atlanta, D/FW, et. al.
We need more airports in more locations. That will mean both better usage of underutilized existing airports and also the building of new airports. Discount airlines have long since proved that people will willingly fly from alternative airports in major cities. Isn’t it time that knowledge becomes a part of public policy?
I would explain this more fully, but I’ve got to quit now. Gail wants me to put up a specialized feeder for California Condors (Gail fears one might show up any day). Then I’ve got to drive 100 miles to catch the discount airline at the alternative airport.