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In Allison Funks’ “The Whooping Cranes” the relationship where humans take on an influential role in the development and subsequent life style of wild animals tends to present the reader with the generalization that places humans at a kind of tipping point. We are, instead, connected to other species in such a way that, due to our good fortune as to have become the dominant species we have a sort of responsibility to maintain whatever we can. This paper intends to show that humans are not as disconnected from nature and our planet as many have often incorrectly presumed. It will do so by analyzing the poetic and literary devices used in “The Whooping Cranes”.
The animals in this poem lead fragile lives, as they are being encroached upon by human expansion into the marshes they call home. Funk notes some of the factors humans have forced on these animals when she lists the ““Farmers, hunters, “and” high power lines”” all of which, with the exception of hunters, have been caused by human expansion into the marsh territories. The power lines which interrupt migratory pathways; and the farmers whom actively expand their land to feed the ever growing population of humans have contributed to the decrease in biodiversity. In the views of this text these issues are addressed only briefly but I do not believe that it is for lack of importance but for how commonplace these intrusions have become. That is to say, human beings either are or are becoming desensitized to our impacts on nature. Thankfully, all hope is not lost there are people out there who do try their best to repair the damage humans have caused.
Funk relates the incredible work done by a biologist to aid a species with a population so low that it was considered endangered to that of the work that would be done by the mature adults of the species saying “the biologist starting in the bulrushes / with the olive-buff eggs he’ll protect”. This is to mean that this biologist from that point on has committed himself to this task of raising these young birds to adulthood. I find the final word in that is particularly powerful “protect”. To protect something not only means to try and make sure that individual survives but also, in the case of this text, to make sure that this animal has a future. The way that humans interact with these animals is far too often an air of awe and admiration assuming things will go on regardless of us without realizing the fragility of the nature that we must protect. When the biologist dons his crane costume and begins his flight to guide the cranes and introduce them to a safer migratory path he “confuses himself with the cranes / as they do themselves with him”.
I believe this is Funks’ way of suggesting an alternative path for humanity to take. It would be a more forward thinking society where before acting out of greed and selfish desires people would consider the repercussions that it would inflict upon the environment. Funk also acknowledges that human behaviour is a difficult thing to change when she says “ it’s only the beginning of a long migration” which relates directly to the cranes annual journey, as well as the journey people must take and the steps that are required to shape the future of our earth before it is too late.
In conclusion this poem applies as much today as it did in 2002 when it was published. Though the characters have changed the story remains the same. Where once was an endangered bird right in the backyard of so many people has now evolved to encompass more species that do not get the necessary attention they require from people like the biologist. This shows that despite our technological advances we are like the biologist in his outfit as we can only do so much. Over the past 16 years humans have made numerous discoveries that could help the planet but we are still having difficulties fixing the issues we cause. Humans have to become more responsible for their surroundings before it all goes to wrong and we lose this planet which we are so lucky to inhabit.
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