Wild Notes Winter 2011 edition

Winter 2011

*You can also download the entire issue in PDF form.

Cosmo the flying squirrel


You can also download the entire issue in printable PDF form

Here we are in 2011, and like you, we're looking to the year ahead with optimism and excitement. Did you make any resolutions this year? The practice dates back to the ancient Romans, who believed that the God Janus (after whom January is named) had the power to forgive wrongdoings. They asked forgiveness and made promises to do better in the year to come.

Resolutions are promises, often born of regret, we make to ourselves to improve in some way, be it a slimmer waist line, more time spent with family, or a reduced carbon footprint. They're no-regrets actions that we know will pay off — if we keep them.

So what would be some good New Year's resolutions for protecting our natural resources? How about:

  • Developing an early detection system for new invasive species and pathogens and controlling their spread
  • Identifying and protecting vital migration corridors and refuges for native species
  • Reducing environmental stressors
  • Restoring and expanding riparian buffers
  • Preserving crop and livestock genetic diversity
  • Developing a statewide network of colleges and universities to monitor at-risk species and habitats

A riparian buffer consists of trees, shrubs and other vegetation around a river, stream or pond.
(Photo: John Munro)

I think everyone would agree that these are good, no-regret things to do. They also happen to be the recommendations that were recently proposed as part of the state's climate change adaptation plan. They're no-regrets because even if we woke up tomorrow to learn that climate change was just a bad dream, these actions would still lead to major environmental improvements.
While there's very little debate in the scientific community about the reality of climate change, the same can't be said for the general public or our lawmakers. In the U.S. there continues to be significant skepticism about whether the earth's climate is changing and if the change is due to human activities, even in the face of continually mounting data to the affirmative.
It's interesting to note that this skepticism isn't nearly as widespread in the rest of the world. Even conservative business sectors like insurance and banking are now focusing on climate change.(1) The Dali Lama, who for more than 50 years has devoted himself to eliminating the political oppression of Tibet, now says that climate change has replaced Chinese oppression as the greatest threat facing Tibet.(2)

Adapting to the effects of climate change might protect native wildlife species, like this Eastern meadowlark.
(Photo: Jacob Dingel, PGC)

So until our citizens and lawmakers catch on to what most of the rest of the world already seems to know, let's focus on the co-benefits of combating climate change. Cleaner water, control of invasive species, increased genetic and species diversity, a better understanding of the threats our species face and protected habitat are all good, no matter why we do them. Let's not find ourselves 50 years from now asking Janus for forgiveness and making resolutions a half century too late.



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Pennsylvania Wild Resource Program