A picture of my granddaughter, Adeline, sent from my daughter a few weeks ago, has been haunting me ever since. It was taken at the Climate Strike on Sept. 20 in Ann Arbor, Mich., where students and adults gathered to join millions of others across the globe to protest lack of action on global climate change prior to a Global Climate Summit being held in New York.
I must confess to not having heard about the climate crisis protests until seeing a piece in the Post Bulletin after the fact. Had I known, I think I would have at least showed up to support the effort, which sounded like it drew a couple hundred local students and adults.
Reading about other groups around the globe that gathered that day, or during that week, I got the sense that there was a bit more urgency in terms of numbers and messages in other countries. That did not totally surprise me, as leaders of many other nations around the globe appear to be paying more attention to it than leaders here in the U.S.
At about the same time as these protests regarding the climate crisis were taking place, another big story hit the news related to the loss of billions of birds over the past half century, with numbers dwindling from near 10 billion to near 7 billion. When I heard this, I realized I didn’t need the study that accumulated that data, because in the past 50 years I have been living these reductions of birds I’ve not seen as many of, such as meadow larks, red-headed woodpeckers, and even red-winged blackbirds, to name a few.
I recalled watching one my daughter’s soccer games at the vocational school fields in the '80s, and for most of the one-hour game seeing an almost endless stream of probably hundreds of thousands of south-flying "blackbirds," which could have included red-winged blackbirds, starlings, and grackles. I’ve not seen anything near that since, and occasionally note when I might see a few hundred together on the move.
What we as humans have wrought upon the Earth can most easily be broken down into two main causes. Chief among them is the sheer number of humans inhabiting Earth, on the rise, while other species decline or are driven to extinction. With close to 7 billion people now on Earth, the destruction our presence has caused to natural habitats is unequaled by any other species in history, and greatly impacts most all of them. But it is the pollution the billions of us have unleashed on the environment, land, water, and especially air, that is leading to the rapidly changing global climate.
And, again, I don’t need data from scientists or even politicians to tell me the global climate is changing faster than it normally would. All one need do is look at the extreme weather events that have now become commonplace, and see the vanishing glaciers to know something is happening. I, for one, feel like I will unfortunately leave this Earth in worse shape for my children and grandchildren than when I came in.
At the Ann Arbor protest, Adeline and her mother showed up, with Addie holding up a sign reading, "Climate Change is Bird Murder." I’m not sure I would have used that word, but it got the point across. And although Adeline told me, “It was really cool, and fun to see so many people supportive of stopping climate change,” she may not yet realize the challenge that faces her generation. I can only hope they will be up to the being "the next great generation."
In the meantime, we could all do a little bit during our time on Earth to make them feel we did not totally abandon them.