Coping with Big Numbers and Big Declines in Biodiversity

When I first read this big headline last fall: 3 Billion Birds Lost Since 1970, I had barely even begun to process the previous big environmental headline just a few months prior, which was, if you remember: 1 Million Species at Risk of Extinction.  I am currently of the opinion that these wide-sweeping types of studies are too big to effect any type of practical change. It seems as if the Ecology news now mimics the Economy news. The financial debt and the ecological debt we have accrued are both incomprehensibly large. And we are absolutely immune to the headlines. 

When I was a residence assistant in college we called it “sign blindness.” Put up a sign announcing an event happening in the dorms and by 2nd semester the freshmen had seen so many of these signs they became absolutely blind to them. This is the case with environmental alarmism. This is not a critique of the environmental movement. This is true of media across issues, on both sides of the aisle.  Rather than massive sweeping studies we need to prioritize our problems. We need a rubric for determining which ecological problems most deserve our attention. We need to do this locally first and then regionally. 

Several important categories worth putting forward in a Top Ten list for your local area:

  1. Water quality 
  2. Air quality 
  3. Acres of natural landscape
  4. Biodiversity 
  5. Soil fertility 

A recent article from the American Bird Conservancy took the 3 Billion Birds report and pulled the five American birds with the sharpest population declines. By presenting a limited number of priority species in this fashion land owners, wildlife managers, scientists, politicians, and the informed public at large can better digest the state of affairs and move forward thoughtfully. 

To a Waterfowl

A student recently sent me this as an encouragement. It meant so much to me. He was saying “I get you, Mr. B. and Bryant understood, too.” Absolutely beautiful. 

To a Waterfowl
By William Cullen Bryant

Whither, ‘midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
Thy solitary way?

Vainly the fowler’s eye
Might mark thy distant flight, to do thee wrong,
As, darkly seen against the crimson sky,
Thy figure floats along.

Seek’st thou the plashy brink
Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,
Or where the rocking billows rise and sink
On the chaféd ocean side?

There is a Power, whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast,—
The desert and illimitable air
Lone wandering, but not lost.

All day thy wings have fanned,
At that far height, the cold thin atmosphere;
Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,
Though the dark night is near.

And soon that toil shall end,
Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest,
And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend,
Soon, o’er thy sheltered nest.

Thou’rt gone, the abyss of heaven
Hath swallowed up thy form, yet, on my heart
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given,
And shall not soon depart.

He, who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must trace alone,
Will lead my steps aright.