Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Migratory amimals

Like a migratory bird, bent on following the sun, I've landed in my new wintering grounds or, in this case, summering grounds. For the last month and a half -- by coincidence for the same amount of time this blog has gone unupdated -- I've been back in Northern California, in a drastically different environment than urban-dwelling, full-time working, CERN life in Geneva.

To my surprise leaving Geneva, when it finally came, was a relief. I had spent the previous three weeks in that intensified mode which always takes over when you are about to jump in to a big geographic change: saying goodbye, organizing the minutiae, desperately savoring the place while you still have the chance.

I quite like the image, I must say, of myself as a migratory animal. Where ever these animals are calling home they contribute to, and get what they need from, their area. Where ever they are they have a purpose, a role in their ecosystem (one beyond collecting fridge magnets from all the capital cities of Europe). For example, now I'm living with extended family in Napa County, California. This unit of my family currently includes young kids. Part of my "ecosystem services" in Napa involve diaper changing and dinner cooking. While it is not what I want my life to look like forever, at the moment, its not so bad. I know in time I'll migrate on.

One of our favorite migratory mammals along the whale-watching Californian coast is the Humpback. These whales travel up to 16,000 miles annually, feeding during the summer in fish-rich sub-Arctic waters, and traveling down to tropical environs to calve and over-winter. Salmon also migrate, spending the start and end of their life in freshwater streams, cruising the rest of the time on the open seas. By coming upstream to spawn, they transfer nutrients from the ocean to the rivers. This helps zooplankton and phytoplankton flourish, which in turn becomes food for the next generation of salmon. The small fry are literally sustained by their parents. Aside from whales and fish, insects, antelope and of course the iconic migratory birds all have second homes. Birds generally eat around a third of their body weight in insects each day -- keeping insect populations in check where ever they are. (Worryingly, many migratory populations have crashed, as the populations disappear they take with them the ecological services they provided. For more read Going, Going, Gone: Is Animal Migration Disappearing?)

When you've lived in many places, you begin to feel less like you are native to anywhere and more like a citizen of the world. You take something from, and leave something in, each place. I'm sure my fellow migratory species would agree with me.

1 comment:

  1. Although migration can "globalize" the way of life and thinking and beliefs, not having a home where you can rely on, I think, is really a pain. When I came back to home, I thought about refugees, who can't come back to their native soil, it's really terrible.