From the Magazine
Audubon View

The Respect and Compassion Vote

During a historically uncivil election season, David Yarnold, Audubon's president and CEO, says it’s time to remember what really matters.

“Your children watch what you do.” That’s the powerful advice I got recently from a faith leader who also happened to be an Audubon chapter head. Fair enough. Here’s what I want our children to see when they watch Audubon in their communities and their lives: respect and compassion. Those enduring Audubon values have worked for 110 years and they can help guide us in the run-up to November’s election.

Every four years, people say, “This is a pivotal election.” I’ll leave it to you to decide whether this one is more consequential than most. I believe it is.

In an election season filled with nastiness and division it can feel like
 the world is a place of danger and chaos. But it isn’t true. Birds help us find common ground. We know that the first time a child sees a Black-capped Chickadee, a gateway into nature swings wide. And we know that, historically, conservation doesn’t have a party; Audubon has always been a centrist organization that is local everywhere and active across incredible landscapes.

Birds create the opportunity for Americans to come together to make real and lasting change, leaving the world a better place than we found it. We choose to be fundamentally optimistic, yes, even while being vigilant and tenacious and, where needed, unmovable. Audubon’s vision has always been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Consider these recent examples:

  • In the sagebrush country of the Western United States, where the Greater Sage-Grouse is under dire threat, we worked with federal agencies, states, private landowners, industry, and other environmental organizations to create new management plans this year that help protect that species and its 65-million-acre ecosystem—without throttling economic growth.
  • In Florida, Audubon worked to support the passage of Amendment 1, also known as the Land and Water Legacy Amendment. And our chapters and state office have fought hard to ensure that Florida’s elected officials follow the will of the people, generating up to $10 billion for conservation work during the next 20 years.
  • In Alaska, Audubon basically drew the maps for federal agencies, protecting 11 million acres in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve.

All of these big wins have something in common: They were achieved by committed staff and volunteers who know the solutions to the world’s problems aren’t black and white. In the heat of an epically uncivil political season, simple solutions are seductive. But there’s no bird-proof wind turbine; while imperative to pursue, even renewable-energy technologies are imperfect. And there’s no way to stave off development in every Latin American forest that migratory birds need. These are hard problems—but nobody thought it would be possible to ban DDT or to stop the slaughter of birds for their feathers for hats. That only happened because of determination, good science, and a willingness to listen to one another.

Birds amaze us with their migratory heroics, they dazzle us with their beauty, and they’re remarkably adaptable. But they can’t vote. Only you can do that for them. And I intend to vote with Audubon values in mind. Engagement. Respect. Compassion. Please join me.


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