April 20, 2021


In addition to a property developer, several environmental scientists, and an expert in ornithology, the Bethlehem Area Public Library’s upcoming Chimney Swift presentation will have one panelist who notably doesn’t have a PhD. In fact, she hasn’t yet graduated fourth grade. The speaker will be Emma Huertas, a fourth grader from Freemansburg Elementary School. “She’s like our own Greta Thunberg with a smile,” says Emma’s teacher, Jennie Gilrain, who is also active in the “Save Our Swifts Campaign.”

Emma was among the fourth graders who recently lobbied Bethlehem’s City Council to make the Chimney Swift the official bird of Bethlehem, with the hope of preserving their dwindling populations, and specifically saving a chimney at the Masonic Temple where many roost.  “The birds, they’re like family to us, because they live here in the City of Bethlehem with us,” Emma says.

The forum will be held online on Wednesday, April 21 at 7:00PM. It is called “Modeling a Solution of Cooperation between Conservation and Development.” Visit bapl.org/saveourswifts to register.

The other presenters at Wednesday’s Zoom event include: John Noble, Developer and property owner of Masonic Temple and Wilbur Mansion; Peter Saenger, Ornithologist, Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, President; Lynn F. Rothman, Environmental Scientist, Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, Chair; Karen Beck Pooley, Professor of Practice, Director of Environmental Policy; Scott Burnet, Chair of the Habitat Committee of the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society; and Lehigh University Breena Holland, Professor of Political Science and the Environmental Initiative, Lehigh University.

Developer and property owner, John Noble will tell the story of his commitment to conservation, his discovery of the birds in the Masonic Temple Chimney in South Bethlehem, his decision to save the birds by saving an important part of their migratory habitat and the impact of this decision on his development project. Questions will be raised such as: How might the symbolic gesture of naming the Chimney Swift the Bird of Bethlehem impact our relationship to the species? How might we implement policy changes that reflect that changing relationship? How might this story encourage a city-wide attitude of respect for wildlife, a changing relationship to the earth?

And with Emma’s help, we will ask everyone to answer the question: What does it mean for a city to befriend a bird?

Wednesday, April 21, 7:00PM “Modeling a Solution of Cooperation between Conservation and Development: A Panel Discussion”

Visit bapl.org/saveourswifts to register