This new year promises a return to some type of normalcy as we hope to move past the pandemic. However, the same climate problems facing humanity are still present. There are signs that the global climate patterns are shifting in a big way. 2020 saw catastrophic wildfires, temperature extremes on both ends of the spectrum, floods, and droughts. There continues to be a loss of habitats causing declining numbers of birds, animals, insects, and sea life, which are all crucial to mankind’s survival. The delicate balance of nature is at a tipping point. We need solutions and mass participation on a global scale. If we work together, we can find new ways to reduce humanity’s negative effects on the environment. The planet faces human pressure from every imaginable angle: deforestation, over-fishing, over-development, and plastic pollution to name just a few. The crush of humanity is taking its toll.
As we rush toward the point of no return, there is still some hope that we can turn it around. It will take a sense of urgency though. The effects of climate change will eventually touch all our lives in some way, and unevenly. A poll conducted in the United States in 2016 showed 42% of Americans identify themselves as environmentalists. This is a sad statistic, just when we need environmental concerns to be of utmost importance. In the 1980s and early 1990s nearly 80% of Americans identified themselves as environmentalists.
Besides political acts and supporting environmental organizations, there are things we can all do to help in our own communities. All the plants and creatures that share our world are at risk, including those in our own backyards. Whether it’s caring for a bird feeder or bird bath, not using pesticides, planting native species, planting flowers for bees and hummingbirds, all of these can help offset the loss of natural habitats. There are habitat programs available to help households provide food, water, and shelter for their backyard creatures. One is a joint program created by Columbia Land Trust (2) and Portland Audubon (3) entitled Backyard Habitats. (4) It is a wonderful program that has grown exponentially since it was created in 2009. Much more participation is needed though to stem the tide of habitat loss. Since launching in Portland in 2009, more than 5,250 properties have joined, spanning over 1,400 acres of our metro area. (5) As of the 2010 census, there were 867,794 total households in the Portland Metro area. That is less than 1% participation even using 2010 numbers.
As of the beginning of 2018, there were approximately 867,794 total households in the Portland Oregon Metro area with only around 4500 certified Backyard Habitats as of 2017. That is less than 1% participation.) Another example is the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat (6) program. There are 139 million households in the United States, and yet in the 47 years of the Certified Wildlife Habitat program, there have been only around 150,000 participants. (7) That’s about 1 tenth of 1 percent participation nationwide. We can do better. If just 10% of the U.S. households participated, we could raise that number to well over 1 million Certified Wildlife Habitats nationwide. Even without certification, every household could do something. Development destroys habitats, so creating backyard habitats is important for birds, insects, squirrels, and other creatures even for the smallest yards