People join Audubon for a variety of reasons, but it’s safe to say that all share an interest in the natural world and, likely, concern for its future. Concern for the natural world makes sense, even for human-centered reasons, given our fate’s inseparability from that of other living things. The challenge is maintaining interest and joy in the natural world while also acknowledging its losses and problems and acting on them. In early May, IPBES, an international organization assessing biodiversity and its effects on human well-being, issued a sobering report about the rapid loss of biodiversity and its implications for people. (https://www.ipbes.net/news/ipbes-global-assessment-summary-policymakers-pdf.) IPBES is the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, with 132 member nations. The conclusions were no surprise to most Audubon members, I’m sure; but wide media coverage provided a strong reminder of what has been lost, and what more will be, if we as this planet’s dominant species don’t quickly get our act together.
We do need reminders like this report, but for our frame of mind, it’s good it appeared in May. The return of migratory birds – Western Tanagers, Common Yellowthroats, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Wilson’s Warblers… - reminds us of the surviving beauty and diversity of the natural world around us. All is not lost. There remains much to celebrate and enjoy. There’s reason to not decide it’s too late to act.
In taking action, we can find much to attend to close to home. In May, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife collected public comments on its recovery plan for the Tufted Puffin. The Washington population of this striking-looking bird has declined 90% in recent years and continues to drop. Speculation on why points to a range of culprits; starting with climate change and its effects on forage fish, the small species important in the diets of so many marine birds, mammals, and larger fish in the Salish Sea. Again the question arises: how to remain hopeful and motivated in the face of huge declines in wild populations and global warming’s existential threat to nature and people? Focusing on the living, natural world that takes the brunt of our poor decisions and practices can be an effective answer.
It helps, for example, to concentrate on learning about a declining species, such as the Tufted Puffin, picturing its life and the world it needs. And then consider the proposed actions to bring back at least a semblance of the world’s vanished abundance and diversity and call on elected leaders and agency staff to make it so, contributing our own efforts as we can. If we do what’s needed to recover diminished species, we’ll be doing much of what has to be done to ensure a livable earth for people as well. The wild world, and our future, depend on our caring and then moving from feeling to action.