OF FOWL AND FUNGI
Harvard students, by definition, are all somewhat socially stinted and judging by the "Ahhh-chu-eee!!" signs in the dining halls, they are fully unaware of proper food hygiene and are likely to project a germy wave of saliva into communal food at any time. Totally out of the loop, Harvard kids haven't picked up on the cool new thing--the bird-watching craze. "More and more young people are interested in birding. It's the fastest growing hobby in the country" says the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Natural History Help-line.
The Help-line also mentions that "20 percent of Americans are 'birders,' spending $14.4 billion a year on trips, equipment, magazines, etc." Damian Wisniewski '01 questions the data saying, "It sounds downright sketchy. I believe that it is Audubon propaganda and I would like to see some evidence to back up that statement." Rich Parr '01 agrees with Wisniewski's skepticism and wonders, "Does the 20 percent count people who 'birdwatch' with guns?"
There are prime bird viewing spots near Harvard Square for those interested in getting in on some serious bird action. The Help-line reports that in the Spring, Mount Auburn Cemetery is a hot-spot for migrant birds, and in the winter Plum Island and other coastal areas harbor wintering ducks. Mass. Audubon even has a sanctuary in Newton with an extensive data base for hardcore bird addicts. Yet despite the proliferation of bird-watching opportunities, some students remain unenthusiastic. "It seems like it would be kind of boring," comments Kristin A. Bevington '01.
The National Audubon Society asks that people help birds help themselves by drinking shade-grown coffee. The practice of razing the rainforest to grow coffee in full sun destroys the habitat for many migratory songbirds. Traditional shade-growing preserves the habitat for these birds. Not surprisingly, the Audubon Society sells shade-grown java beans called Cafe Audubon (say it with a French accent). Next time in Starbucks, order an "organic shade-grown skim latte." Do it for the birds.
Harvard students are also missing out on the thrilling sport of mushroom-hunting. Interest in mushrooming, or "mycology," has been sprouting up around campus especially in the FOP community.
FOP leader Kristin A. Bevington `01 says, "It would be cool if you were trying to get into witchcraft or something. I mean, don't witchcraft people hunt for herbs and mushrooms and stuff?" Notwithstanding our general ignorance concerning fungi, a secret culture of mushroom afficionados quietly exists in America, stalking the forest floor in search of these rare delicacies.
Hayden F. Hirschfeld `99, also a FOP leader, is a folklore and mythology concentrator writing his thesis on a mushroom. He explains that the very fact that people are even interested in mushrooms intrigues him. "This is a culture that is `fungaphobic' and most people believe that if you go out in the forest and eat a mushroom, you'll die," he notes, adding that "despite that, people are still into them."
And are these mushroom-hunters seeking `shrooms for so-called recreational purposes? "Some people enjoy studying them, and some people enjoy eating them--not to get high but just to cook," Hirschfeld clarifies.
The Boston Mycological Club, the Oldest Amateur Mycological Club in North America, can help fungiphiles learn to grow their own yummy portabello and shitake `shrooms or get the more intrepid myco-hunter involved in local mushroom forays. Harvard students could benefit from a bit more savoir-faire. As June Beack `01 comments, "I think mushrooming would be a fun sport, what with the pigs and everything."