The official international theme of Earth Day this year is #RestoreOurEarth, and rarely have we had a moment quite like the present one to recommit ourselves to conservation. The extended pause that has affected much of our lives due to the pandemic has forced us to reconsider some of the very foundations of everyday life, and as the United States takes steps to reassert itself in the global effort to address climate change, we have the opportunity to listen to nature when it comes to rebuilding for a cleaner future.
Here at Audubon, we base everything we do on our own scientific observations, and that means listening to what birds are telling us. And they have a lot to say. When it comes to climate change, we learned that allowing global temperatures to rise unchecked at current levels will have catastrophic consequences for the places that birds need to survive, with two-thirds of North American bird species vulnerable to extinction. But, birds also tell us that if we take immediate action, we can increase the chance of survival for the majority of those vulnerable birds.
That’s why we’re taking that message to heart this Earth Day, and emphasizing the need to heed the signs that birds are showing us if we are to address the effects of climate change. In particular, we will be emphasizing the need to trust that nature knows best how to protect itself from climate change, but needs our help to overcome some of the worst effects that have made natural recovery impossible on its own.
This means maintaining and restoring natural landscapes as part of our infrastructure system. Preserving landscapes like forests, coasts, wetlands, and grasslands offers natural solutions to flooding and absorbing carbon pollution. And it just so happens that most of the areas that are important to birds are also important for the climate.
Climate change is the biggest threat to birds’ survival, and requires a response equal to the moment. That’s why we need bold policy action from both sides of the aisle. An example of meaningful climate policy that transcends partisanship is the Growing Climate Solutions Act, introduced and sponsored by a truly bipartisan group of senators, that recognizes the key role that the agricultural sector plays in confronting climate change, and provides incentives to farmers, ranchers, and foresters to reduce emissions on their lands.
One of the most prominent examples of how we can Restore Our Earth and help birds in the process is to support the largest ecosystem restoration project in the country right now: bringing wildlife back to the Gulf Coast in the continuing aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. In addition to the devastating loss of human lives and wildlife, the Louisiana coast that was already struggling against the effects of climate change suffered an enormous blow. But a project called the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion will help rebuild more wetlands in the region than any other restoration project in the world. We are urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to see this project through.
This is just one of many restoration projects that Audubon supports, from our Conservation Ranching Program that helps ranchers maintain wildlife habitat and natural landscapes to helping preserve the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world in the Great Lakes, conserving our natural spaces is a central tenant of our work on Earth Day, and every day.
Whether we’re building bird-friendly communities or engaging governments at the global level, we pledge to join the collective effort to not only restore our earth, but to create a safer and better world for both people and wildlife. The challenge before us is great but I know we have the will to succeed. Happy Earth Day.