-Louie Psihoyos, director, Racing Extinction
I watched Racing Extinction last night, which was gut-wrenching. Went to bed thinking about it and woke up still thinking about it. What I found most haunting was the recorded song of the last known O'o bird, a honeyeater endemic to Hawaii's Kauai. A lone male singing his part of what was supposed to be a duet with a female, who would never answer him.
My mom called me afterwards telling me that she couldn't stop crying and if she had a million dollars, she would donate. That she felt so helpless. I tried to reassure her that her and her husband were doing their part by living frugally. That their carbon footprint was relatively minimal. They rarely eat beef...they keep their dollhouse condo at a coat-worthy 64 degrees for crying out loud...they never fly in airplanes.
I would guess that the majority of people who watched the documentary felt just like my mom did. Helpless. What can we really do to curb extinctions associated with the Anthropocene?
It's easy to feel apathetic when you hear about O'o birds going extinct in Hawaii or Northern white rhinos in Africa. These places are so far away...what can I really do from central Wisconsin?
As Sia croons in a song she and J. Ralph recorded for the movie, "It's better to light one candle than curse the darkness."
Focus your effort locally.
Three endangered species are staring us right in the face right here in south central Wisconsin.
The oak and pine barrens and prairie communities that pepper the sandy acres of Marquette county provide refuge for the state endangered Western slender glass lizard and grey wolf and the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly. As potatoes, corn and soybeans march on to the detriment of these native ecosystems, habitat preservation and restoration is key. Although it's tough to protect 100 acres to encourage a sustainable wolf population if you don't own 100 acres, you can protect or restore what you do have, even if it's a small space.
If you happen to own a few sandy acres, reduce your lawn and plant a prairie; heavy on the lupine, which is the only known food source for the caterpillar stage of the Karner blue. Your prairie may even attract the ever-elusive legless glass lizard; which you will probably never see, but feel some comfort knowing that you provided a refuge. These relatively small species especially benefit so much from even a few hundred square feet of effort. Plus, a diversity of species in addition to endangered ones will benefit.
Light your candle. Plant a refuge.