It took seven years of investigation to complete our new study on the future of birds in a climate-changed world, but the response to the September-October issue about that report was immediate and resounding. In the first two weeks after publication, Audubon's climate website had more than 450,000 visitors, while stories in the media and social sphere reached tens of millions of people. At press time, the "impressions," or opportunities for the report to be read, heard, or viewed, had already topped two billion. Because of that penetration, a new fact has become fixed in the American landscape of ideas: Nearly half of our birds are threatened by climate change, and some may suffer extinction.
And that fact has become a rallying cry for Audubon chapters from South Texas to Seattle to northwest Arkansas. The message I received is that Audubon is a welcome and valuable voice for hope. Other scientists are using the report's data to bolster their research, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it will use the report to help guide its conservation planning.
We also heard a lot of good feedback from friends and colleagues in the bird and conservation communities—people we can generally rely on to be fair critics. I was particularly gratified by something noted bird authority Kenn Kaufman (who serves as field editor of the magazine) wrote: "So many conservation orgs today are sticking to 'safe' issues, avoiding any potential friction with the forces of climate change denial. It required institutional guts for Audubon to get into this at all, and it required incredible skill and balance and diplomacy to do it in a way that would reach across divides and connect with people."
I don't know about guts. But I do know that this was the right thing for Audubon to do. At the end of the day, climate change is a bird issue. But you know that. You live it in the spring, when you see fewer common birds; you know it in December, when 60 percent of our birds are wintering farther north than they did just a few decades ago.
Pete Myers, Audubon's former VP of science and current CEO and chief scientist at Environmental Health Services, figured it was about time. He wrote: "Been following Audubon's new engagement with both climate and migration corridors. That was what I tried to introduce them to 25 years ago. Kudos."
And in Arkansas, Audubon national board member Jack Stewart said, "Perhaps it will mark the moment when America woke up to the need for action on climate change."
Thanks, Jack, but all we're doing is following our passion for birds. And we'll be there right beside you.