Indian pond heron walking over water lilies
It is unthinkable (or is it?) that we might lose the birds – like this Indian pond heron in breeding plumage. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

One man’s reason to do something every day

Here’s a bonus post that should inspire us all and be of particular interest to Australians trying to decide where to cast their votes in this month’s Federal Election.

The following edited extracts are from a May 2019 Birdlife International Q&A with Jonathan Franzen, US author of The End of the End of the Earth essays (among other things).

Climate change

‘I think the number one imperative is to admit that we failed to stop it … The other thing is that if you are trying to motivate people to do something for nature, trying to frighten them or make them feel guilty is not a winning strategy. But this, unfortunately, has become the strategy with climate change. It hasn’t worked.

Seeing visible changes in environments that people love is what is going to motivate them to protect nature.’

Flock of avocets landing
Elegant red-necked avocets and a couple of black-tailed godwits (breeding colours) landing on the Hunter River, NSW. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

A better world for birds

‘It has to be tailored to the particular place … If you have a cat you should keep it indoors, and the results will be visible: you will see more birds in your backyard. Improvement of local habitat would have to be high on the list.

The most moving thing I witnessed in my reporting for this collection was on Chatham Island off the coast of New Zealand. One sheep and cattle-farming family decided they were going to devote decades of their lives to improving the habitats of the magenta petrel Pterodroma magenta. Soon, other neighbours started to get the same idea. For decades, there had been no concern for what invasive species are doing to Chatham Island. Now, scores of neighbours are starting to fence their bush and to get the introduced predators out.

It’s about people’s ownership and pride in their own backyard.’

The future of the planet

‘If we stopped emitting all carbon globally tomorrow, temperatures would still rise for several centuries. Certain vicious circles have been set in place, particularly in the Arctic: possibly mega-releases of methane when the ice melts. Which it will, regardless of what we do. It is difficult to be optimistic. Yes, the wonderful world that was largely extant when I was growing up may be gone in a century and a half, but I love those birds so much – it gives me a reason to do something every day.

My life has meaning right now and that is all you can ask for.’

(Thanks Jonathan, your final comments have definitely given me a reason to “do something [meaningful] every day”.)

Natural Images 2019


©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.


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