Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Climate change, birds & wonder

I started my second year volunteering as a hawk watcher for Golden Gate Raptor Observatory a couple weeks back, which involves being part of a team tracking the fall migration of raptors, adding to a large effort "to inspire the preservation of California raptor populations." It's very hard not to be inspiring standing atop the Marin Headlands, looking over the amazing Bay Area, as the largest west coast migration goes flying by. I recommend anyone with a few hours to spare, get themselves up to Hawk Hill in the next few months.
I came off the hill yesterday, wonder restored, only to read the article Climate Change Will Disrupt Half of North America’s Bird Species, Study Says. The New York Times report on the National Audubon's findings that 'the ranges of some species are predicted to shrink at least 50 percent by 2080,' was chilling.  My momentary cold thought was that I was thankful I likely wouldn't be around to see it, as I don't know I could bear it. But the truth is, 'it' is happening now, it just might not be so obvious yet.
Climate change = shrinking habitat

 So much of my experience of being in place, of living, is affected by the birds around me: hearing the sound of a towhee peeping when I wake up, seeing a hawk learning to fly from a coastal stage, and watching Western bluebirds flitting along a fence line at the park provide context.  I see a bird and something in me remembers hey, the world is vast and marvelous beyond my wildest imaginings.
I know not everyone is this way.  I've lived in enough urban environments where the diversity of birds is slim to know that many people's life experience simply doesn't account for feathered animals, while my sensibility is shaped by having grown up in the country surrounded by trees and birds and insects. My family charted the seasons by swarming bees, returning swallows and Pyracantha-gorging waxwings. Volunteering to Hawk watch puts me back in that stream, which reminds me to care.
Back to the very uncomfortable topic of climate change, the UN is having a summit in New York in a couple of weeks, and climate activists are rallying to call for action. As environmental author and leader Bill McKibbon writes 'Marching doesn’t solve anything by itself. But movements can shift political power—in fact, little else ever does.'
You can sign up to march or donate to the cause here http://act.350.org/signup/readytomarch

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