Updated: Jan 7
Spring migration is the ultimate statement of defiance. When I see the white-throated sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, and rose-breasted grosbeaks, I know these birds have already survived thousands of miles migrating last fall and thousands more by the time they arrive this spring for a stopover in my Michigan yard.
The risks migratory birds face both in the U.S. and in Central and South America include decreasing habitat, agricultural chemicals, climate change, window strikes, and diminishing insects they must have for crucial fat stores and raising their young.
The May 6 report just released by the United Nations IPBES Global Assessment says one million plant and animal species on Earth are on the brink of extinction—virtually all due to human actions. We really don’t know how much more time we have to get a grip on the climate change trajectory to reduce CO2, maybe a decade—and that means immediate drastic, global action needs to happen now. And in the meantime, the Trump GOP barrels onward with deregulation that increases greenhouse emissions and puts birds and all wildlife at ever-greater risk.
If we’re feeling overwhelmed and defeated, it’s no wonder. Our government is in disorder, a disorder unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. A disorder we didn’t think possible. Every day we are overwhelmed with political news that leaves us in disbelief, disillusioned and exhausted.
The Trump administration’s attacks on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) now give corporate polluters a free pass with no consequences if they ‘inadvertently’ harm birds. Voluntary compliance to do the right thing may work with some corporations but it will never work with all. Birds die when basic prevention guidelines (such as covering oil pits so birds won’t drown) are ignored by corporate polluters. We need this 100-year-old law restored because it’s reasonable, sensible, and it works.
I care deeply about birds and won’t sit back and see their chances of survival keep worsening. The natural world can save us, but it’s under more attacks than what we as humans can mentally process—we’re struggling just to make it through the problem-solving each day demands of us in our jobs, families, and communities.
When feeling a loss of control, we can look to our own backyard and the natural world to find clarity and answers. Getting our hands dirty, digging in the soil, planting native shrubs and flowers to create habitat for the birds, insects, and pollinators is within our control; we don’t have to wait years for politicians to pass bills. Every backyard and balcony can contribute to give wildlife a fighting chance. And, a simple raised-bed organic vegetable garden to grow your own food is empowering.
If you’re feeling immobilized not knowing what more you can do, start by going to your yard, balcony, a shared community garden, a friend’s backyard, whatever is there for you. Any project you can start, however small it may seem, will give you more energy to persevere. Backyard wildlife habitat will reward you with physical and psychological strength every day of the year.