I've been thinking about this picture since I saw it on Saturday in the Los Angeles Times. You see, I have never had children. Instead I have shared my life with birds. Right now I have two budgies, a conure and a big white umbrella cockatoo.
Birds always look at you with one eye, just like the one in the oil spill (you might click to see the picture full size). They are also incredibly human-like and intelligent. I believe a blazing intelligence is apparent in the pelican's eye just as much as it is in the eyes of my own birds who peer at me with their little wheels cranking as they figure out ways to lie, cheat, manipulate and steal from me. This bird, of course, doesn't want to steal anything. It just wants to get away but cannot.
I think that birds should have lawyers. If they had lawyers, the lawyers would be able to argue that they have the right to full bodily integrity, that they should not have their lives and homes ruined by oil spills, that they should have real food to eat, not plastic bags, caps and lighters, that they should have clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe, and that they should have clean wetlands and intact old-growth forests to raise their babies. If lawyers argued for the rights of birds, we'd all be better off.
If birds had access to lawyers, they'd probably succeed where environmentally-minded humans have failed. Because the compensation a bird would want is not financial but simply their natural birdness fully intact. It's what we humans should want, but we've long forgotten what our natural humanness is and can no longer ask for it. I believe hiking a long trail gives you a glimpse of what that might be, and that might be why it is so hard to come back to a world that as a matter of routine produces such horrors as the image above.