To kick off the United Nations Biodiversity Summit, seventy-five world leaders signed the Pledge for Nature to dedicate their countries to a new higher level of support for nature conservation. The list of signature nations includes so many that are critical to the birds of the Americas including Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Panama.
Some of the world leaders took an even bolder step. Canada, the UK, the European Union, and a number of other countries committed to protecting 30 percent of their lands and waters by the year 2030 and urged the other nations of the world to follow suit.
These are the kinds of higher-level goals that science tells us are necessary if we are to stop the massive losses of birds and other wildlife that we are seeing around the globe. In fact, a new report by BirdLife International (Audubon is a Birdlife partner), “Birds and Biodiversity Targets” not only points out the drastic declines in bird populations globally but also describes the positive stories of success in saving birds that have happened when people and government adopt high-level conservation aspirations and work together for good.
In this age of COVID we can all sometimes feel pretty distant from the goings on of the rest of the world. But you only have to step outside and spend some time looking and listening for birds to be quickly reminded of the many ways we are indeed connected.
Take the Blackpoll Warblers that have been passing through southern Canada and the eastern U.S. in recent weeks. After a summer of singing across their cool Boreal Forest breeding range, they fly southeasterly to the northeastern U.S. and Maritimes of Canada. Considering their breeding range extends from Alaska across Canada to Newfoundland (and with scattered pockets on mountaintops from Maine south to the Catskill Mountains of New York), their autumnal migration is especially remarkable. Once they reach the northeastern U.S. and Canadian Maritimes, these tiny birds, smaller than your fist, strike out across the ocean in the dark of night. They fly nonstop for many days, some eventually resting on islands in the Caribbean, others making a direct flight all the way to the South American continent where they will spend the winter.
That’s just one of hundreds of examples of birds that connect us across the hemisphere.
That’s why world events going on now at the United Nations are so important to all of us.
In a video presented as part of the UN event, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said explicitly that partnerships with Indigenous Nations are essential for achieving Canada’s goals of protecting 25 percent of land and freshwaters by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030. Already Indigenous Nations in Canada have been among the world’s leaders in conservation, establishing millions of acres of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCA) as part of reconciliation efforts with federal, provincial and territorial governments. One of these, the 6.5 million-acre Thaidene Nene IPCA in the Northwest Territories, was honored this year with the prestigious Equator Prize for being at the leading edge of conservation worldwide. And more proposals for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas are being advanced across Canada like that for the spectacular 12-million-acre Seal River Watershed in northern Manitoba.
Leadership that makes bold commitments to deal with the loss of birds and other biodiversity at the scale needed—like that shown by Canada and other countries and by Indigenous governments—is vital if we are to ensure a healthy and livable planet thriving with birds, wildlife, plants and people. We need to support such leaders and encourage them to bring the higher levels of government funding resources that are needed as described so well in a recent Paulson Institute report.
We must have leaders that care about making sure we have a healthy world for our birds, wildlife, forests, and for our kids and grandkids. Here in the U.S. we have a host of opportunities to contribute to meeting these ambitious goals, and that’s why voting is so important. The birds and the children can’t vote but we can. Join the leaders of the world in showing your support for nature—get out and vote, for leaders who value nature!