Year 3, Month 3, Day 13: The Pelicans In The Coal Mine

The Marin Independent Journal (CA) runs an article on a study detailing the threat posed by climate change to a great many local bird species:

Several bird species in Marin and around the state are at risk because of climate change as the sea level rises and affects habitat, according to a new study.

The brown pelican, western snowy plover and California clapper rail are among the species in Marin that could be affected by changing temperatures, states the report issued by PRBO Conservation Science and the Department of Fish and Game. The study was published last week in the journal PLoS ONE.

The study found that wetland species are more vulnerable than other groups of birds because they are in specialized habitats along bay areas. Those habitats will be threatened as ice caps melt and the sea level rises, which could affect the California black rail, seen along Tomales Bay.

Written in a Boston restaurant close to New England Conservatory; I’m on my way to sing a raga-ized adaptation of “Barbara Allen” at an NEC concert. Sent March 7:

Marin county’s shorebirds are a microcosm of the countless varieties of Earthly life that are threatened by the effects of global warming. Tragically, human beings often seem unable to grasp the gravity of the situation. And no wonder, for what’s needed is a form of wisdom that is in very short supply. Few of us can imagine anything outside our own regional environments, or beyond the timespan of our own limited lives — and climate change is both larger and longer than anything we recognize.

It’s useful to keep this in mind when reading the derisive comments of climate-change denialists, who are increasingly grasping at straws to maintain their locally-based illusions, while the scientific evidence confirming the greenhouse effect’s human origin accumulates. They may use the argument from incredulity (an inability to imagine any human actions affecting the entire planet), the argument from incomprehension (an inadequate grasp of basic science), or the argument from selfishness (unwillingness to give up a convenient and comfortable lifestyle). All the snide put-downs of Al Gore, attempts to resurrect the long-debunked “climategate” non-scandal, cherry-picked temperature measurements, irrelevancies and red herrings — all of these represent failures of imagination, understanding, or morality.

If losing a few species of bird to a changing climate seems no great tragedy, it is because we have chosen to ignore that what is happening in Marin is happening everywhere around the world. Whether we know it or not, our lives are impoverished thereby.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 5, Day 10: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes…

The Charlotte Observer notes that climate change is having an impact on regional bird populations as well as forests:

Each December a hardy flock of birdwatchers scatters across Mecklenburg County for the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, which has tracked bird movements for more than a century.

Here’s what the numbers say about Charlotte’s birds: They’re moving north as temperatures warm. Eighteen of the 20 most common backyard species spotted last Dec. 27 have shifted their winter ranges northward over the past 40 years, national data show. The average distance was 116 miles.

It seemed to me that if our species had remained in closer touch with the ecosystems of which we are a part, we would probably not have fucked things up so badly to begin with.

Sent May 1:

It’s unsurprising that close observation of patterns in the natural world reveals the impact of climate change; the subtle and complex interrelationships between the various forms of Earthly life are profoundly interwoven with climatic factors. We must also recognize that as industrial culture has grown over the past several centuries, humans have become increasingly separated from the environment and oblivious to its transformations. This distance from nature means that for most of us, “climate change” is something scientists and the media discuss, not something we observe in the ecosystems around us. Northward motion of bird populations and crippled spruce forests are just two examples of global warming’s impact — but when Americans are more likely to see nature on TV than in real life, the shape of this terrifying threat will remain hidden until the changes are too big to ignore. At which point it will be too late.

Warren Senders