Earlier today, thanks to the webcam at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., people all over the world had the opportunity to marvel over the birth of one of two eaglets. Later today, people were able to watch the baby eagle as he ate his first meal – fresh fish, courtesy of his father. The observation of the nation’s attention on the bald eagle serves as a perfect example of the type of attention needed to address environmental issues like climate change – which affects not only the bald eagle – but life as we know it. This is a perfect opportunity to focus attention on improving the public health and general welfare of people across the country – particularly those vulnerable populations most at risk from climate change.
The birth of the eaglet is particularly notable TODAY – when climate change issues are of paramount concern. As is well known, the bald eagle was historically afforded protection under the Endangered Species Act. Currently, the bald eagle has been removed from the list of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, but is still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
The Fish and Wildlife Service considers the bald eagle to have recovered from near extinction due to environmental contamination. However, the truth is that because the bald eagle lives near rivers, lakes and marshes, and feeds on fish, waterfowl, turtles, rabbits, snakes and other small animals, they and other living creatures, are still endangered – as a result of climate changes.
As reported in a newsletter from the Minnesota Sea Grant, the Anishinabe tribe believes that the American bald eagle, also known as Mi-Ge-Zi, connects humans to the creator (http://www.seagrant.umn.edu/newsletter/2006/10/young_eagles_tell_story_of_great_lakes_pollution.html). The bald eagle is also considered by some to serve as a warning beacon and sentinel of environmental threats. Maybe that is why the nation is so captivated by the eaglets. Maybe their birth provides hope that we will triumph against climate change, recover from its devastating effects, and live abundant lives.
We need to generate the same level of excitement witnessed today surrounding the birth of the baby bald eagles – once an endangered species because of exposure to environmental contaminants – around climate change. The level of rapt attention given to the eaglet’s emergence from its shell this morning is the same level of attention everyone must have if we are to successfully address climate change. With acknowledgement and apologies to Isaiah 40:31, which happens to be my favorite quote…I take the quote out of context … stating that those who fight against climate change and its effects … they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not tire; they shall walk, and not faint.
Dr. Adrienne L. Hollis Esq,
Director of Federal Policy
WE ACT for Environmental Justice
The views expressed here are only those of the author and do not represent the views of the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change.
(Courtesy of the American Eagle Foundation)