This week we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, and it is a perfect moment to stop and listen to what birds are telling us about the changes in their habitat, how these changes also affect our own communities, and what we can do to meet the moment. Listening to birds means so much more than just delighting in the beauty and joy they bring to our lives. Over the past century, we have learned that to create a better future for birds, we need to also protect the places they need to survive. Climate change is the biggest threat to birds. As our 2019 report shows, two-thirds of North American bird species will be vulnerable to extinction if we fail to slow the rate of global temperature rise. That is a staggering number.
I recently came on board as the vice president of climate at the National Audubon Society after several years leading Audubon California and working for the California League of Conservation Voters. My commitment to this work is driven by a personal passion for wildlife and the outdoors, and a desire to preserve the wonder of nature for my own children, as well as every child and generations after ours. For my children to share in many of the same experiences that have meant so much to me, we must all recognize that the effects of a changing climate will only continue to intensify if left unchecked, and will not be experienced equally by all communities. We must come together with a powerful voice for birds.
I am consistently inspired by the passion of our members, and immensely proud of the work that Audubon has done to combine the expertise of my colleagues and our scientists with the incredible commitment of our membership to make change for birds. Among recent highlights of Audubon’s work that is helping to address climate include:
Our Clean Energy Initiative team who continues their work with other conservation organizations and energy companies to make sure that wind, solar, and geothermal power facilities are constructed in areas and in ways that avoid, minimize, and mitigate harm to surrounding wildlife, including migratory birds and native raptors.
A report from the science team detailing natural climate solutions to both storing carbon and maintaining critical wildlife habitat. The report found that landscapes that best naturally capture carbon – wetlands, grasslands, forests, and urban green spaces – are also key to birds’ survival, and it is helping inform our public lands and working lands efforts.
Our members weighed in to urge lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to support climate provisions of the historic infrastructure bill that passed in November, and at the local and state level our members participated in workshops to advocate for initiatives like native plant resolutions in their towns and cities.
Our international work extended the length of the continent from the boreal forest in Canada -- where we support Indigenous-led conservation efforts to promote biodiversity and carbon storage -- to South America, where we work in countries like Colombia to promote reforestation and the protection of their rich diversity of bird species.
We also recognize that the human communities that already face disproportionate climate burdens and risks that will suffer more acutely from a lack of collective action. Any solutions that we pursue must take care not to add to these burdens, and help vulnerable communities and wildlife species adapt and avoid further harm.
I know that we face challenges on the road ahead, and urgency to meet our local, national, and global climate commitments. I am excited to meet these challenges with the support of the incredible Audubon network and our partners. Whether it is working with producers like farmers and ranchers to support climate- and bird-friendly stewardship of the land, working across the aisle with both parties to pass legislation that ensures cleaner futures for us all, or engaging with the global community at international climate and biodiversity conferences, we have so much opportunity in front of us. This Earth Day, let’s listen to what birds are telling us, and commit to a better future for birds and all of us.