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"Get 'em while they're hot because we're turning off the gas to keep the world cool!"

-- blog post headline, Terra Studios

What’s the point?

The makers of the Bluebird of Happiness deserve credit for their willingness to end production for a cause they earnestly believe in.

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[DROPCAP] The Bluebird of Happiness, those adorable glass creations of Terra Studios in Durham first hatched by glass blower Leo Ward 37 years ago, may soon earn a spot as an endangered species.

The nonprofit group that now runs Terra Studios says it will sacrifice production of the tiny bluebirds as part of their commitment to battle climate change.

The translucent bird is promoted as "a light-catching, life-affirming symbol of love, happiness, and inspiration." Since 1982, more than 8 million of the handmade novelty have been sold.

In a blog post, the organization announced it is "suspending production" of bluebirds in January, although it has socked away enough of a flock that sales will continue throughout 2020.

Explaining the decision, the organization cited its pledge to use "art to create a better world."

As when someone parks a car under a bird-filled tree, it's not so much the winged critters that are the problem, but what they leave behind. In the case of glass birds, that comes in the form of carbon dioxide emissions that harm the environment. The makers of the bluebirds say they can hardly be contributing to a better world when the bird-making process produces such a carbon footprint.

Terra Studios' gas furnace runs 24 hours a day for up to a year at a time, burning about 1 million BTUs of energy per year. That translates, according to the blog post, to burning about 55 cubic feet of natural gas for every Bluebird of Happiness.

For lovers of such tchotchkes, the announcement descended like a finch of forlornness.

Still, it's difficult to have anything but respect for the decision. It doesn't even require agreement on the issue of climate change. The folks at the nonprofit group Using Art to Create a Better World say they "accept the overwhelming consensus of the world's scientists who predict catastrophic events if we don't make necessary changes." So the makers of the Bluebird of Happiness decided it's more important to give wing to their concerns about global climate change than to preserve production. How can they take a firm stand for the climate if the very process by which they produce their best-selling product is a major contributor to harming the environment?

Theirs is no less a statement than when Swede Greta Thunberg chose to sail, emission free, across the Atlantic to climate conferences rather than hop aboard a polluting airplane or motorized ship.

Terra Studios deserves commendation for putting their money where their mouths are: Even though the bluebirds make the organization money, they're willing to stop production for a cause they believe in.

Of course, scarcity often increases demand. On Friday, the Terra Studios website offered this message to visitors: "Due to high demand, fulfillment of orders may be delayed by 5 business days." Plenty of Bluebirds of Happiness are destined to fly away in the months to come.

Once inventory runs out, does that mean the bluebirds are gone forever? Perhaps not, the organization says. The search is on for technology that would allow for production with a much smaller impact on the environment.

Many happy returns, we say.

Commentary on 11/30/2019

Print Headline: A rare bird

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