Editor’s Note

Beach battle rages on; black swifts' uncertain future; presidential candidates keep mum.

With halloween just around the corner, we are proud to present our own horror show, in three acts. The first takes place at scenic Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina. Even though ORV drivers have miles and miles of beach to barrel along in their behemoth vehicles, the most noxious among them oppose any driving restrictions whatsoever that would protect beach-nesting birds—even if ignoring those rules means crushing imperiled piping plover and least tern chicks (“Beach Bullies, page 58). They have even posted this obscene sign near a school. Those responsible for this vulgarity, particularly the parents among them, must be so proud. Meanwhile, in an act of what passes for bipartisanship in Washington these days, shameless demagogues from both parties’ North Carolina congressional delegation are trying to reverse the progress. Please go to “Speak Up” (page 66) to learn how you, your friends, and your family can defend the park service and the birds. 

The second act occurs 2,000 miles away, where another bird species faces its own clouded future. From Colorado caves to Montana grizzly country, articles editor Alisa Opar reports on efforts to solve the riddle of one of the most secretive and fascinating birds on earth (“Out of the Shadows,” page 42). What little is known about the black swift is that the speed at which it flies, often exceeding 100 mph, virtually parallels the speed at which its population is free-falling. Nor is the black swift fast enough to escape the twin threats to its wet and woodsy habitats: global warming and deforestation. If you live in the Rocky Mountain West, contact your local Audubon chapter to see if you can help search for nesting sites (only about 200 have been found so far). “It’s the canary in the coal mine where climate change is concerned,” notes one biologist. “We could see it blink out as the effects worsen.”

Of course, as the world heats up, nightmarish scenarios loom not just for black swifts but for most living things. Alas, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney has uttered anything significant about the environment—or hardly any other issue, but that’s another matter (“The Big Crackup,” page 36). Our ailing economy is, understandably, what’s on everyone’s mind. Polls are showing that Americans’ concerns about air and drinking water pollution have sunk to new lows, giving the candidates little reason to debate such issues as climate change or air and water pollution. For their part, green groups have been unable to break through with a “coherent, compelling message to rally voters,” notes Brad Plumer, a reporter for The Washington Post. That’s a real shame. For at the end of the day, aren’t elections precisely the time to have an adult discussion about important matters?