Rea Cris, Parliamentary Officer with RSPB Scotland, tells us why she'll be joining Scotland's Climate March on November 28 in Edinburgh.
Why I’m Marching
Is the swallow a British bird that winters in Africa or an African bird that summers in Britain? An elegant conundrum that serves a more important purpose of highlighting that everything in nature is interconnected.
The swallow is adapted to take advantage of our long daylight hours, to rear one or more broods of young and feed them on the wealth of flying insects around during ‘our’ summer. It then returns to Africa, crossing the Sahara and the expanding Sahel, to catch flies around pastoralists’ camps in South Africa. So many steps, so many ways a changing climate could affect ‘our’ swallows.
For many, climate change is an abstract concept that happens elsewhere, to someone else. Yet we all inhabit the same singular world which works similarly to a giant intricate machine, when something is put under pressure or breaks in one area, it affects neighbouring parts or causes malfunctions in the whole system. The impacts of climate change on the world are similar. What does this have to do with birds? Climate change is having an impact on our wildlife and it is only expected to get worse. Scientists have estimated that for every 1°C rise in global temperatures 10 per cent of the world’s species will become extinct.
Birds, along with the majority of wildlife do not think in terms of borders or boundaries. The envy of the bird is that they can go where they please and winter in warmer parts of the world. Migratory birds cover a huge mileage to reach breeding or feeding grounds yet these various places are either directly impacted by climate change or human activity contributing to climate change.
Take the spoon-billed sandpiper, a gorgeous unique wading bird threatened by extinction. It is about the size of a house sparrow with a small spoon-shaped beak, that filters microorganisms from muddy estuaries, it undergoes a migration of nearly 5,000 miles (8,000km).
Its breeding grounds are in Siberia but its wintering grounds are in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Along the way it rests and feeds in tidal habitats along the coast of south-east Asia, but increasingly it has to fly for longer and further to find rest because coastal development has destroyed its habitat. Exhausted, stretched to its limit, this tiny bird is already rare and disappearing. What hope is there when climate change puts further pressure on this migrant? When sea level rise covers its remaining coastal feeding grounds, when water gets scarce in droughts, when more frequent and unseasonal storms blow it off course?
Which country is responsible for these birds? My answer is what we are all responsible, just as we are all responsible for the world’s wildlife as well as wider climate justice for those most affected. A cruel irony is that climate change is already affecting countries and people in the global south who have done the least to contribute to the historic carbon emissions our industries have produced.
In December 2015, the United Nations will hold a climate summit in Paris, where it is expected that political leaders from across the world will agree to commitments in order to avoid the worst affects of climate change, safeguard wildlife and provide money for developing countries to help them adapt. The weekend before these negotiations are due to begin is a weekend of global action, where people will take to the streets to call for the Paris summit to reach serious and ambitious commitments to tackle the problem, and so will we here in Edinburgh.
Everyone has their own reason to march: green jobs, a low-carbon future, climate justice, and yes wildlife. I’ll be marching for all wildlife not only that found here in Scotland but across the world as well, because there are no borders when it comes to wildlife. We all have it in common in its multiple and exquisite variations and we would all be devastated if it was relegated to picture books as a faint memory.
Mark November 28 in your calendar for Scotland’s Climate March; come and march for what you care about, for nature’s future, for our future.