Others’ Opinion: Hear the cry of the loon before it’s gone

Published 9:31 am Wednesday, September 24, 2014

—Mankato Free Press

Instead of the canary in the coal mine to warn of impending danger, we could have the listless loon.

Because of climate change, the survival of loons and a number of other birds is at risk, according to a seven-year study by the prestigious National Audubon Society.

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The critical ranges of more than half the 588 North American bird species will either shrink significantly or shift during the next six decades or so, threatening their survival either way, the study said. The loon, our Minnesota bird, is one of those sensitive species.

Bird watchers are well aware that birds seldom found in certain ranges before are now more commonly spotted. Although it might be a temporary joy to spot such birds without traveling, birders know it’s not a good sign from Mother Nature.

The report about birds at risk isn’t just alarming news for birders. Man-made change in climate affects all of us whether we own a pair of binoculars or not. The change of birds’ habitat means a change in our own habitat, including the foods we can grow, water availability, energy needs, pollution control.

Climate change is not a new topic, but it’s one what we have to keep in the spotlight. Waiting until the damage is done and then trying to fix it doesn’t work. Once the most sensitive birds are gone, they’re gone for good.

Action needs to be sooner than later. In that vein an environmental group at Minnesota State University is inviting campus and community members to provide input on how to reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions. The group is hosting a brainstorming session Sept. 24 so there are lots of ideas to choose from in determining a plan of how to reduce the campus’ carbon footprint.

Following through on ideas and implementing them will be the key for all communities, not just universities, in combating climate change at every level, including the local one.

The cry of the loon is an eerie one, but it would be more haunting to hear silence instead of their calls.