Be an Audubon Activist to avoid the Sixth Extinction and save our planet

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
November 2017

We need Audubon Activists. All of us should be concerned about the possibility of an impending nuclear war, which is something that must never take place. Surprisingly, many are less worried about the longer term – the predicted Sixth Extinction on our planet as described in the 2014 non-fiction book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert, staff writer at The New Yorker. The author reports that many prominent scientists have stated that the Earth is undergoing a modern, human-caused extinction event. Ms. Kolbert writes that humans have become a geological force, driving vast swaths of creation over the brink. Terrestrial and marine ecosystems are collapsing, and the great majority of all plant and animal species, including ourselves, are in serious jeopardy.

Artwork by student in the Pelican Island Audubon after school program.

Scientists have confirmed that she might be right. Global warming resulting from increased carbon dioxide and methane outputs is wreaking havoc on earth’s delicately balanced ecosystems, threatening species in our web of life. Our oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic, depleting coral reefs that are our most diverse marine ecosystems on which one quarter of all ocean species depend for food and shelter, and affecting the base of marine food webs. Widespread droughts cause increased fires and dust storms. Melting freshwater stored in glaciers and Arctic ice causes the oceans to rise. Paving over nature and widespread use of chemicals like glyphosate and chlorpyrifos that harm many animals including humans are causing a massive decline in earth’s species.

Many of our animals including birds and butterflies are heading for extinction. The National Audubon science team’s seven-year study found that more than half of U.S. bird species (314 of 588) will be seriously threatened by 2080, and many of those could disappear forever. Of the 314 species, 126 were classified as “Climate-endangered” and are projected to lose more than 50% of their current ranges by 2050 and may face extinction (Bald Eagle, Osprey, and Brown Pelican, to name a few).

This is not surprising. Professor Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature home- How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants quotes: “Most of our native plant-eaters are not able to eat alien plants, and we are replacing native plants with alien species at an alarming rate, especially in the suburban gardens on which our wildlife increasingly depends.” Tallamy thinks we can still stop the extinction and save most of the plants and animals, by restoring native plants to our human-dominated landscapes. This is relatively easy to do. You can find out how from Dr. Tallamy in person, our keynote speaker at our January 19-20, 2018 Conference entitled “Transforming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future” at the Emerson Center!

Many species could live in sustainable harmony with us if we redesign our landscapes to accommodate those species by providing food, shelter, and nesting sites using native plant species. Our conference is an opportunity for you, as a builder, landscaper, home-owner association board member, and/or homeowner in Indian River County, to learn how to landscape in a way that is sustainable, cost-effective and helps enhance our quality of life and our community’s health

Let’s all actively work together to preserve our native lands and also to help redesign our landscapes. Pelican Island Audubon invites you to become an Audubon Activist to learn how we can work towards transforming our community using, as an example the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA), which is one of Florida’s natural habitats surrounding the Audubon House.  This free monthly course “How to be an Audubon Activist: Nature Education, Advocacy, & Volunteer Opportunity Class” involves field walks with scientists and experienced naturalists exploring the outdoors together. Classes begin Friday, November 17th, from 9:00 am -12:00 pm at the Audubon House, 195 9th St. SE (Oslo Road) in Vero Beach.  Tell your friends, neighbors, and those sharing conservation concerns who want to learn more about our natural resources, the plants and animals that inhabit our local area, volunteer opportunities, and ways we can all protect our fragile and imperiled natural resources. 

Also, find ways and reasons to bring Florida nature to your backyard.  Meet old friends and new people who share an interest in Florida’s habitats.  Help join our community to enhance natural habitats everywhere! Hope to see you there.

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