Occupy to the Sky: #PickOutTheHayseeds

by Adam

Mickey Z.

“Buy the sky and sell the sky and lift your arms up to the sky…”

Michael Stipe

It’s warm for early January. Climate change warm, you might say. I’m checking the mail when I decide to step outside my apartment building for a little air: Astoria, Queens, New York City, USA air…as it were.

I notice five sea gulls flying overhead—north to south—well above the buildings, asphalt, and internal combustion engines. No more than a few seconds later, another eight gulls pass so I decide to count. Why not? In no time, my impromptu census is at 40.

To my right, in the beautifully symmetrical little tree that graces my block, the sparrows are chirping up a storm—a symphony of cheeps, peeps, and (non-Twitter) tweets.

I’m at 75 sea gulls now. Not sure if this is atypical or perhaps just a daily occurrence I’ve somehow never detected. As my count nears the century mark in about a ten-minute span, the sparrows are louder than ever.

Are there more sea gulls passing than sparrows in the beautifully symmetrical little tree? I’ll never know…but I’m digging the fine, feathered experience, no matter what.

It’s what passes for nature in these parts. Outside of the rare raccoon sighting, we’ve got cats and dogs and squirrels and plenty of birds: pigeons, crows, starlings, sparrows, and sea gulls—to name but a few.

125-126-127…but I can’t help but imagine what it might have been like in pre-Industrial—hell, pre-Colombian—days.

“I have never seen a river full of fish,” Derrick Jensen writes in Endgame. “I have never seen a sky darkened for days by a single flock of birds. (I have, however, seen skies perpetually darkened by smog.)”

A sky darkened for days by a single flock of birds…

As Jensen highlights above, we inherited a planet upon which the rivers were teeming with fish, forests dense with trees, the water drinkable, the air breathable, the skies often darkened by passing birds. By any sane standard, we’ve squandered this gift.


As if they can read my overburdened mind, the sparrows quiet a bit—allowing me to discern a forlorn squawk from my neighbor’s imprisoned parakeet. I can almost imagine it as a Tennessee Williams drawl: “Caged birds accept each other, but flight is what they long for.”

Does that feathered urban captive comprehend sparrow talk, I wonder? For that matter, do different types of sparrows understand each other?

Hmm…sounds like the ideal time for me to stray into a tale of two sparrows…

Dusky Seaside Sparrow

Once found mainly on Florida’s Merritt Island and along the St. John’s River, the doomed Dusky Seaside Sparrow had its salt marsh habitat sprayed with DDT in the early 70s. Why?

“Someone thought Merritt Island should be flooded to deal with the mosquito problem at the Kennedy Space Center,” writes Robert J. Waller. “The water rose and took their nests. Ultimately the St. John’s River marshes were drained for the construction of highways. Pollution and pesticides did the rest.”

By 1979, only five male Duskies remained and in an eerily illuminating cultural move, they were brought to Disney World’s Discovery Island to live out their remaining days. Within seven years, the only remaining Dusky was a small male nicknamed “Orange Band.”

“He became blind in one eye, became old for a sparrow, and yet he persisted as if he knew his sole task was to sustain the bloodline as long as possible,” says Waller. “I wondered if he felt sorrow or excruciating panic at the thought of his oneness.”

On June 18, 1987, Orange Band shuffled off this mortal coil. Waller muses:

“The day Orange Band died there was a faint sound out there in the universe, hardly noticeable unless you were expecting it and listening. It was a small cry, the last one, that arched upward from a cage in Florida. If you were listening closely though, you could hear it.”

If you listen closely now, all you might hear are some of the destructive reverberations of the Kennedy Space Center—say, NASA bombing the Moon.

But when it gets quiet enough and if you really focus, you’ll recognize that the Dusky Seaside Sparrow is calling for justice, calling to us to change course before it’s too late, urging us to learn from its enterprising cousin…

European House Sparrow

In 1853, the future founders of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden set free several pairs of the previously unknown European House Sparrow inside Brooklyn’s Green-wood Cemetery. By picking hayseeds out of horse droppings from the carts used for funerals, these tiny birds flourished and are today one of the continent’s most ubiquitous creatures.

#OccupyThisLesson: When all they can supply is horseshit, it’s up to us to pick out the hayseeds that enable and empower us not only to survive…but to thrive.

Yes, we’ve squandered far too many gifts but astonishingly, the universe refuses to give up on us. One more masked bequest has arrived and a global movement for justice is growing.

So, I ask you, my co-conspirators: Which sparrow’s fate will we #Occupy in 2012?

Will we allow ourselves to be fumigated and evicted into extinction or will we survive and thrive by choosing hayseeds over horseshit?

We are the 99%. Expect us. Join us…



Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook