Time to act
News about the health of our planet has been difficult to absorb lately. You may have heard about two shocking reports issued this past October. First, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the world has about 12 years to reign in greenhouse gas emissions to keep the Earth’s temperatures from rising no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels by the end of the century.
Then, the World Wildlife Fund issued its biennial Living Planet Report, a global assessment of the health of animal populations all over the world. Its primary finding is that the average vertebrate (birds, fish, mammals, amphibians) population has declined 60 percent since 1970. The survey is based on data on 16,704 populations of vertebrates, representing 4,000 species.
In our January/February 2019 issue, we report on a new study that correlates to both the IPCC and WWF reports: Researchers say that in the Arctic, the changing climate is giving predators easier access to shorebird nests, further threatening the populations of these long-distance migrants.
Sure, we can wallow in the doom and gloom. But there’s no time for that. The world needs action. And fortunately, we have plenty of heroes to turn to for inspiration.
One is Jamie Margolin. In 2017, at age 16, she founded Zero Hour, a climate justice activist group made up entirely of young people. They’re tired of waiting for adults “to protect our right to the clean and safe environment, the natural resources we need to not just survive, but flourish.” So, they have led marches and partnered with the Sierra Club and many other groups to work toward solutions.
Another person who leads by example is Russ Mittermeier, the 2018 recipient of the Indianapolis Prize — the world’s leading award for animal conservation. Mittermeier, 69, the chief conservation officer for Global Wildlife Conservation, is a primatologist and herpetologist who has advocated for biodiversity conservation in countries around the globe. He has been particularly successful in preventing extinctions of primates.
He’s also the author of 36 books and more than 700 scientific and popular articles.
“Defeat is not part of my vocabulary,” he says. “You have to be optimistic, and you have to continue pushing.”
Words we can all live by.
Matt Mendenhall, editor