Yesterday I alluded to spoon billed sandpipers as creatures in need of our support. I first heard about them through the wildfowl and wetland trust. I’ve seen video footage. They are tiny birds, the sort you could easily fail to spot, but rather sweet. There are only 100 breeding pairs left in the wild, and the WWT are breeding them in captivity. More information here:
Being migrants, the spoon billed sandpipers move through a lot of different environments. Birds don’t notice human borders, but when they move between boundaries they are vulnerable to the variances in laws. So many migrant birds are in decline. Habitat loss and being hunted feature prominently in the explanations.
As is often the way of it, the spoon billed sandpipers are ‘posterboys’ for a great many other creatures who all live in the places they pass through. Save the iconic creature and a whole host of less photogenic ones also benefit. And we benefit too. The loss of species and the loss of habitat is also the degradation of our habitat. It is the loss of beauty and inspiration from the world, the loss of genetic diversity. It is the loss of living things that do not deserve to die.
Most of the time, there doesn’t seem to be much that we can do in daily life to support distant and endangered creatures. Throwing money at things does help, if you have money to throw. It brings me back to a question I keep asking – what do we prioritise? Every time we put commerce before sustainability, every time we sacrifice another life form to our hunger for economic growth… As Jo pointed out on her blog this week, every time we spend our money, we make our voices heard. Just a little bit. There’s no shopping choice that will help the spoon billed sandpipers survive. There’s no specific company to boycott, no easy thing to point at as a way of making a good contribution.
But still we can consider the question about how we contribute. How our own priorities and day to day actions shape this world, in which trade is a constant political priority, and extinction barely gets a mention. Judge us as a species and it looks like we value shopping more than we do life, and that’s a pretty scary thought, for me at least.
While projects to save individual species who are on the brink, are undoubtedly good, it’s fire fighting. The causes of endangerment and extinction are not being entirely tackled by this. Causes like pollution, poaching, habitat destruction and war, which have their own causes in human poverty and desperation, and in the desire for wealth. We have so much wealth in the world, so much technology. As a species we could probably address any issue, if we had consensus over it, but mostly we don’t. There’s always something else more ‘important’ to talk about, some short term, money orientated agenda that takes precedence.
Time is finite, and this is our habitat too. If we push ourselves onto the endangered list through mistreatment of the planet, there will be no one to come and rescue us.