Everyone deserves the opportunity to share in the wonder of nature, but the fact is that many species around the world need our help. The United Nations last week released urgent and sobering findings from a three-year research project forecasting the extinction of nearly 1 million animal and plant species due to climate change and human impacts to the environment.
In the report, 450 scientists sounded the alarm and clearly described the impending extinction crisis. It is hard not to feel overwhelmed and even paralyzed by what seems to be a global disaster that none of us can avert. As leaders of two of the region’s best-known cultural institutions focused on conserving the environment — Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo — we feel it is vitally important, at what feels like an especially dark moment in time, to stress that we are not too late to act.
We say this because here in the Pacific Northwest we have already seen how people taking action to help our environment has made a real difference. In Washington state, we drove the wolf and the wolverine to extinction back in the 1930s — but the care we have taken with our wilderness areas and new wildlife protection policies has led to both populations growing and expanding in the state. For years, the Aquarium has provided critical research and fieldwork that has helped protect and recover sea otter, six-gill shark and canary rockfish populations. The western pond turtle was down to 200 animals in the 1980s and rapidly declining, but a concerted recovery program by the Zoo has resulted in the release of more than 2,100 turtles back into the wild. Every year, our organizations protect forests, clean up beaches, and provide conservation education to a combined 2.2 million schoolchildren and families. We are committed to making a difference.
Our policy makers in state government are also leading this charge. Five new climate initiatives were just signed by the governor on renewable power, electric vehicles, and improving sustainable building and appliance requirements. Each moves us toward a 100 percent clean and renewable energy portfolio. This puts our state in a real leadership position, not just nationally, but globally in the fight against climate change. We have made great progress and look forward to continuing to accelerate these efforts.
We have only one planet, and it is speaking to us. There is a growing movement in Washington state — one that is drawing the world’s attention because we are making a real difference. It is critical that we bring all communities and voices together to tackle the challenges we face. It is imperative that we see these recent reports as further motivation and make sure that we are all working to make a difference in improving our planet’s future.
Each of us can do this through small and easy-to-implement steps, if we all commit to them. You can reduce your fossil-fuel consumption just by taking the bus one more time a week than normal. Avoiding single-use plastics keeps them out of our waterways. Shorter showers save water, committing to recycling and composting lowers our carbon footprint, and planting native species sustains pollinators. Write your lawmakers. And vote! These individual steps have a collective and significant impact on our planet’s health, and on species conservation.
We have no doubt that we can tackle climate change and save the species we all love. It will require a commitment to bold and transformative change by all — and we see these recent reports as a call to action. The Pacific Northwest is already showing leadership for a better tomorrow, but our future rests in our collective hands. Come join us.