21 April 2010

Birdstrike Educational Opportunity Missed in Omaha

An Earth Day celebration was held at the Union Pacific Center in downtown Omaha on Wednesday, April 21st. Despite the rain, same time was taken to bicycle down from midtown and see what was being presented.

Tables were setup for use by a variety of companies and others promoting a suitable Earth Day related activity. They included the Omaha Pedalers, Bicycle Club, the Nature Conservancy, Omaha Public Power District, Keep Omaha Beautiful, Lowes, Whole Foods, Sierra Club, the Missouri River Recovery Program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sprint and others.

My particular interest was to see if there would be any information available about what Union Pacific Railroad was doing to address bird strikes at their building, where there have been numerous instances of bird mortality.

Noticed first was a sign near the escalators to the staff work areas, urging employees to turn off unnecessary lights and to keep the window blinds closed. This information is similar to that in an email sent to employees on April 16th.

UP environmental management personnel at a booth were asked if they were providing any handouts on the bird strike issue. The only thing they knew about was the new "bird crossing" signs, which they noted they had nothing to do about putting in place. One comment made was that they "try not to hand out too much."

This was at a table with lots of material to provide to attendees, and where a cloth carry bag was handed out at the doors for people use for the ample amount of material provided at the display tables.

The UP people handing out the bags wore tshirts saying, "Think Globally - Act Locally."

The company should have taken advantage of the opportunity to "Act Locally" and educate the hundreds of visitors about bird strikes and helpful measures. Especially since most of the visitors were workers in other local buildings.

It was certainly a lost opportunity.

There were about 125 people present during the time spent walking about the lobby of the building.

While there, I took the following picture of the west wall of the Union Pacific Center, which according to officials, is comprised of fritted glass. There are some small sections of this type of glass but obviously it was not entirely composed of this type of glass. The glass is not opaque and is still reflective, as noted by the neighboring structures obvious in the photograph.

It is very questionable how UP can claim this is helping to address the bird strike issue, as they did in the company email, since nothing was actually done since the glass was installed during the original construction. There have been instances of bird strikes in this vicinity of the building.

The company is also not taking the initiative and removing interior plants prominently notable on the north side of the building, which has confused many birds and led to their demise.

Anything that can be done to reduce the mortality to migratory birds is helpful, but the company can easily do more.

According to a federal official, the reason that fritted glass would not be put in place was that it was too expensive.

On Earth Day, 22 April 2010, the news reported a company profit of $516 million for the first quarter of 2010.

It is ironic that the millions of profit were announced on this particular day, in a directly opposite perspective of what is being done to protect migratory birds that die at the Union Pacific Center. It seems blatantly obvious that profits are the main concern of the corporation, not doing what is right to avoid bird deaths at their downtown Omaha corporate headquarters!

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