Anyway, he came back from his paddle last weekend and told me that he'd actually seen dolphins in Mission Bay! It is not all that unusual to see dolphins in the ocean, but I'd never heard of them coming into the bay. He thought maybe the fact that there were almost no motor boats out had something to do with it. It had looked like it might rain that morning. Mr. Snarky decided to try for his paddle, but perhaps the folks who like to take their motor boats or jet skis out for fun decided to skip it.
At the time, I just agreed that this might be the reason, felt intense jealousy that Mr. Snarky got to kayak near dolphins, and then went back to whatever chore I was working on. But the more I think about it, the more profoundly sad the story makes me. Think of all the wildlife we routinely chase out of places with our noise. What would our world look like if we got rid of as many noisy motors as we possibly could? How many more animals would we see? And how much more peaceful would our world seem?
I'm not necessarily advocating for going back to wind and people power (although maybe we should try to do that more). Electric motors can be quiet. I wonder how much noise reduction it would take to make dolphin sightings in Mission Bay less rare?
By coincidence, I'm also re-reading Douglas Adams' Last Chance to See. In fact, I'm reading it aloud to Pumpkin, because there is a section on kākāpōs and she loves kākāpōs. The chapter on the kākāpōs was a relatively happy one to read, because we know that their situation has improved since the book was written. They are currently in the middle of a really good breeding season, in fact. (Here's a recent article about them.)
The chapter on the Northern White Rhino was less cheerful: I had to report that those animals are now functionally extinct, because the last male (who lived at our local Safari Park) has died. There are last ditch efforts to save the species with preserved sperm and eggs from the remaining females, but the chances seem slim.
And now we've gotten to the chapter on the baiji dolphins of the Yangtze river. They are presumed to be functionally extinct, as well - although there may have been a recent sighting. Noise on the river is one of the reasons given for their demise.
And then, against my better judgment, I listened to David Roberts (the Vox reporter on the environment/climate change beat, whose stories I always find informative and useful) interview David Wallace-Wells, who wrote a book about how our climate situation is worse than we think.
The interview is not hopeful, but it is not hopeless, either. It is a clear-eyed look at where we are actually heading on climate (spoiler: we're going to warm by two degrees, and we'll probably warm by more, and that is going to have far-reaching effects), but it also makes a really persuasive argument that we hold the power to limit the damage, both by acting decisively now on carbon usage and by making choices about how to respond to the wider changes the changing climate will bring.
It is probably the thing I've listened to or read recently that has most changed how I think about an issue. I can't sell it as an uplifting listen, but I urge you to listen to it anyway, and think about what world we want for our kids (and their kids), and what we're going to do to respond to the world our past choices have made for us.
One of the points Wallace-Wells makes is that we've focused too much on ocean levels and not enough on the other ways a changing climate is going to disrupt things. We're getting better at recognizing things like last year's catastrophic wildfires as related to climate change. We need to get better still, and we need to find the courage and imagination to fight for some actions that seem impossible to achieve.
The thread that runs through my three stories tonight is this: We have taken actions that have damaged our world. The consequences of that damage stretch beyond us, but they impact us in ways big and small. But we can always make different choices. We can change things. It may seem too hard to contemplate, but making the changes is actually the easier route than living with the damage we're doing with our current choices, if only we could see that.