Like all life, we must evolve too

Greater intervention is needed on a planet-wide basis, and it must come from us humans.

Spring is a time for change and growth.

Hibernating bears emerge their dens, bleary-eyed with matted fur, blinded by the sunlight and very, very hungry. Bees and bugs crawl from the dirt and firewood to return life to our gardens and meadows.

The environment around us is beautiful and wondrous to behold, but the beasts and the plants don’t do what they do for our pleasure.

The forces of nature operate according to natural selection; stay alive, adapt to new challenges, and try to raise the next generation to do it all over again.

As it is for the other animals, so it is for humans and the things we build.

This year is also a time of evolution for organizations like the Vashon Bird Alliance, formerly known as the Vashon Audubon — charting a new name just as the birds its members love begin to nest and raise new generations of their own. Their new name reflects a desire to no longer venerate the stained legacy of John James Audubon — which in turn could encourage a more diverse array of birders to join Vashon’s ranks.

It also brings attention to the plight of avian decline in North America: bird populations are in trouble across the continent. They can’t adapt fast enough to the environmental changes that humans have wrought, and many are perishing. Research published in Science Magazine indicates a net loss of nearly three billion birds in North American from 1970 to 2019.

As we close out Earth Month, let’s think about a bigger kind of change our species must embrace — shifting our industries, consumption and manner of treating the planet so as to slow climate change, reduce pollution and restore the lives and health of crucial organisms from bees to orcas.

According to NASA: “The effects of human-caused global warming are happening now, are irreversible for people alive today, and will worsen as long as humans add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.”

Rising global temperatures and intensifying weather events will make the planet a more difficult place for us to survive. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will buy us time, reduce these effects and, optimistically, cause elevated global temperatures to plateau but remain elevated for centuries to come, according to NASA.

There’s plenty of low hanging fruit. Improving the efficiency of vehicles, appliances and homes means we’ll save money simultaneous to reducing emissions. At a local level, investing in a compost facility on Vashon bypasses the need to truck our compostable materials off-island and makes us more economically and socially resilient, too.

But low-hanging fruit will not save us — nor will asking or forcing everyone on the planet to voluntarily, radically, change their lifestyle. Greater intervention is needed on a planet-wide basis, too, and it must come from us humans.

We must direct our advocacy toward drastically reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. We must demand that our politicians push for regulation on carbon emissions and invest in clean, renewable energy — and in revolutionary technologies that will turn fossil fuels into a quaint archaism.

We must build circular economies that make it easier to fix, trade and recycle things — rather than buying and later tossing a thousand plastic clam-shell covered bits and baubles.

And we must protect the health of forests, swamps, oceans, glaciers, rivers and our other resources that, for millions of years, have helped our planet weather and recover from extremes of all kinds.

It’s not impossible. Life has adapted and evolved for billions of years on this big space rock of ours. We can — and must — do it too.