Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Difference

Yesterday, I wrote about the 2,600 geese rounded up and gassed last year from city parks -- most of it "without public knowledge."
The "without public knowledge" is important.
The fact is, we would also not be aware of the 368 geese and goslings rounded up and gassed from Prospect Park last summer except for the vigilance, persistence and avian knowledge of two regular Prospect Park observers.
Anne-Katrin Titze is a wildlife rehabilitater and she and her partner, Ed Bahlman are regular visitors to Prospect Park.
When Anne-Katrin and Ed noticed the sudden disappearance of Prospect Park's entire goose population last July 8th, along with clumps of feathers in the ground and discarded plastic ties, they knew something drastic had occurred.
Knowing that the molting geese and recently hatched goslings were incapable of flight at that time,  Anne-Katrin and Ed did not believe the "story" they were told from park officials -- That being that the geese had suddenly "flown off" to Jamaica Wildlife Refuge.
(Full story here in Anne-Katrin's own words: .)
Persistence and gathered evidence finally paid off when Anne-Katrin and Ed contacted the New York Times who immediately put a reporter on the story. 
And the rest, as they say, is history.
The story broke nationally and for the first time New Yorkers were learning that even the wildlife in their public parks was not safe from reckless, heartless and irresponsible bureaucratic decisions resulting in mass, clandestine animal massacres.
What is perhaps most troubling about this series of events is the way questioning park goers were initially lied to about what had occurred.
How can a concerned public be involved in community decisions when it is being lied to and deliberately mislead?
Cover-ups and denials of truths are generally considered serious crimes which, in one case, brought down a Presidency in this country.
To this day, it is still not clear who specifically lied about the Prospect Park goose gassings and if these individuals were ever held accountable for the unconscionable lies and attempted cover-up.
However, what inevitably occurs in instances like these is an erosion of public trust.
In other areas of the city where goose roundups and gassings occurred, were questioning park goers similarly lied to?
We have to suspect so. And we also have to suspect that perhaps not being as avian savvy  as Titze and Bahlman, the people believed what they were told.
That would explain why, though these hideous and cruel roundups and gassings occurred in other areas of the city, the media only focused on Prospect Park.
The difference is that two informed and aware park goers did not buy the lies and instead, took decisive action to expose the truth.
Another question that has to be raised in these matters, is why did goose gassings occur at Prospect Park which is more than nine miles from the airports and not Central Park which is, in fact, closer to area airports?
The answer is simple.
It would have been much harder to get away with at Central Park.
Too many park goers to notice and question an early morning roundup of wildlife.  Too much media, too close by.  And too many wealthy Central Park contributors to raise hell if word of a park massacre of wildlife to get out.
So, what one learns in instances like these is that the whole truth is rarely what we are being told by those in decision-making positions.
Indeed, if the goose gassings were truly done strictly for "airline safety" concerns then the geese would have been rounded up and gassed at Central Park.
But, they weren't.
In addition to the obvious reason that a potential goose massacre at Central Park would have been much harder to hide and lie about, there is also the reality that there were not as many geese at Central Park as there obviously were at Prospect Park.
This goes to the other reason for the goose "cullings." --  That of alleged "overpopulation" of the geese at Prospect Park (though that is not what was officially stated.)
The reason overpopulation was not stated as the official reason for the PP goose massacre, is that under federal law, the use of non-lethal population control measures would have had to be implemented first before a lethal culling could be done.  Federal law also requires an "Environmental Impact Statement" and community notification before any lethal takings of protected wildlife.  (None of these measures were taken at Prospect Park and presumably other locations where goose gassings occcurred.)
The way to get around most of those federal requirements (with the exception of community notification) is to claim that the cullings are done for "airline safety."
But, once again, Prospect Park is outside the designated 7 mile radius from airports to justify killing the geese for "airline safety" reasons.
In essence, the real reasons the geese were rounded up at Prospect Park, trucked to Kennedy Airport and gassed were:
1-- Bureaucrats and various city officials decided there were "too many geese" at Prospect Park and rather than spend money implementing non-lethal alternatives for population control, it was easier and cheaper to hire the USDA to kill off the entire population of Prospect Park geese in the wee hours of the morning.
2-- Decision makers gambled that no one would notice the sudden disappearance of all the Prospect Park geese. If any park goers did notice and question, they would simply be told that the geese suddenly "flew away."  This, at a time when anyone knowledgeable about the flying limitations of molting geese would know such could not be possible.  Decision makers thus gambled that park goers are not knowledgeable about goose flying patterns and presumably want to keep them that way:  Uninformed.
But, ultimately, the difference between Prospect Park and the other locations where goose roundups and gassings were successfully carried out without media or public scrutiny, is that the gamble with Prospect Park did not pay off.
Two aware and informed park goers noticed, questioned and ultimately did not buy the lies.
Instead, they took it to the media and to the public.
That is the difference we need to see everywhere. -- PCA

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