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Two people walk in beauty

….Enough to Deal with the Complexities of These Challenging Times

As 2021 draws to a close and we greet the New Year of 2022, economic, social, public health, and environmental instability looms for an uncertain future. As conservationists we have been struggling on behalf of habitat and the environment for decades. The battles never seem to resolve, and the future of our planet has serious pressures with 7.9 billion human inhabitants consuming resources unsustainably. What will we see in the New Year? More of the same, I’m afraid. I cannot be optimistic about true positive change.

I find my Audubon volunteer work, contacts, and outdoor pastimes a refreshing counterpoint to the negative energy of our world. One of the only real positives I see on a day-to-day basis is the pleasure and beauty we can find in the natural world. My husband and I bird watch as we walk our dogs, work on our property, or visit other locations. Regardless of the weather, we take time to smell, watch, and listen to our natural surroundings. Watching whatever birds might be nearby gives us a sense of expectation, excitement, and an excuse to get out and explore wherever we visit. The enjoyment of birds and birding provide a connection to our surroundings and to our social contacts. I’m not sure any other activity could offer the same interconnectedness.

None of this enjoyment changes the deep concerns we share about our social and natural environment. It does, however, allow me to keep a sense of balance and hold nature’s beauty in my life, so I can do the rest of the work of living in today’s challenging world. Sharing our birding stories, group bird walks, and the powerful appeal of birds in their natural habitats keeps us strong on the path of doing our part to protect and preserve the natural wonders we observe. I am unwilling to give up hope that we can make a difference in the world around us.

Fall gratitude leaves
Fall gratitude mandala–Photo and design by Julia Siporin

As Audubon members who value nature and wildlife, we need to increase our efforts to connect, inform, and educate our youth about how cool and amazing nature is. We need to share our awe and reverence for the natural world around us. Share the wonder of both the complexity and simplicity of natural ecosystems. Even after generations of study by humans, we still know and understand only a small part of how underlying natural processes work to support our life systems on the earth.

Humans need a sense of urgency that our own survival as a species depends upon how we care for the earth we inhabit. If we nurture, protect, and preserve the earth’s natural places, it will be our own species we save, as well as the other species with whom we coexist.

While I am a realist, I cannot give up the hope that a future generation will be able to breathe in clean air, drink clear water, and gaze out at lovely natural wonders for inspiration. Please remember, humans need nature and nature depends on us to cherish and protect it.

-Maeve Sowles