We are not separate from nature. We are part of it. Whatever happens to the air that spotted owls breathe, and the water and soil that nourishes the forests they inhabit, also happens to the air we breathe, the trees that filter the carbon we produce, the water we drinking, the climate that affects it all. This is what Kameran Onley, the director of North American policy and government relations at the Nature Conservancy, means when she says that “America’s loss of biodiversity is not just a crisis for the species that make up the country’s unique and iconic fauna. – it is a threat to our future†
It would be great if Americans understood that other beings have inherent value regardless of their usefulness to us. That plants and animals are worth preserving for no reason at all but their own right to live among us undisturbed. I have little hope for such a transformation. Recognizing that our lives are interconnected, however, seems entirely possible, even in these contentious times.
The human species cannot live safely on this planet unless we maintain a deep and rich and multifarious diversity of insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, plants, fungi and every other irreplaceable life form. Knowing that more than a third of the food we eat relies on insect pollinators, for example, should go a long way in making it clear to everyone, regardless of bias, why protecting pollinators is not a political position.
But as RAWA’s main sponsor, Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, told NPR’s Laura Benshofftoo many people don’t realize that “about a third of our wildlife is at increased risk of extinction.”
Humans are a stubborn, cursed bunch, and finding a way to make that point without a knee-jerk “Yeah, but” requires speaking the same language. That’s part of why RAWA stands to accomplish what the Endangered Species Act doesn’t: Local conservationists and leaders tend to understand better than federal officials how to engage local communities to protect their habitat and reduce the pressure on wildlife before populations drop to critical levels. Skeptics are more likely to believe the testimony of their own ears when the hunter next door notes that the bobwhite quail, which used to be the soundtrack of summer, is all but gone. A fellow angler observing the devastating effect of invasive carp on freshwater fish can often be more convincing than any news expert.