The Era of Climate Disruption and Caring for the Wild

As I write this, Hurricane Ophelia, the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, is making landfall on Ireland’s southwest coast as a category one storm. An actual hurricane hasn’t reached the shores of Ireland since 1961.

Meanwhile, Houston has been buried under Hurricane Harvey’s unprecedented 60 inches of rain. Puerto Rico has been devastated by category 4 storm, Hurricane Maria. And much closer to home, for us, wildfires more typical of Southern California are currently burning in communities north of the Golden Gate Bridge, with a cost in human lives currently at 40 people, with thousands of structures, including homes and businesses, destroyed, tens of thousands of acres scorched, and nearly 50,000 people evacuated, waiting to learn if they still have a home.

This is the new normal.

And we’ve seen it coming for a long time now…

Bird Ally X was founded by people who had extensive experience working in the relatively well-funded field of oiled wildlife response. While more financial support would’ve made the care we provided better by allowing us to employ and train more staff in the delicate art and science of oiled seabird care, still we had resources and materials at hand that enabled us to do what we needed to do in order to get the greatest number of spill-impacted wild animals back to their lives… The reason we had this funding was because of a few simple laws that mandate that oil polluters have to pay for the rehabilitation and restoration of the natural “resources” that are damaged by a spill. Without that law, no oil company would spend a dime cleaning up their mess – an obvious truth.

What prompted the founding of Bird Ally X was our concern that the skills and protocols we’d developed and were continuing to refine were not going to survive the coming ecological crises that we could all see looming on the horizon. Why? The answer is simple. Money.

As storms intensify, as wildfires rage, as oceans rise, as temperatures climb, as human refugees flee their uninhabitable homes, the legally mandated resources available for wild animals in need, scant now, will evaporate.

Right now, humane politics, ordinary civilized things such as healthcare and support for our neighbors less fortunate are under attack. Right now war is being waged across the world in a grab for hegemony that is stupidly sold and pitifully purchased as a war against a religion and culture. Right now, we have an actual known sexual assailant in office as the President of the Untied States. Neo-nazis parade in the streets! Socially these are the worst times since the fall of the Weimar Republic. The demands on our attention are extreme, but the demands come from places that no one wants to see.

We live in an age of terrifying distraction. Scattered, we move from one calamity to the next at breakneck speed. It is hard to face the actual world, even if we are remote from the worst scenes of destruction, or distant from the crimes perpetrated against those who are targets of hatred, who’ve suffered thefts of land, resources, – thefts of lives.

As I write this the commonwealth, our shared ownership of the natural world, shrinks. What was our natural heritage is now converted to cash and moved into the wealthiest hands as quickly as possible without regard for what is lost. On the day that I write this, dozens of species will go extinct. No one knows the future, but we can no longer can refute the doomsayer, the Cassandra, the catastrophist. Our world is in a mass extinction event, the sixth in the history of the Earth, this time caused by the industrial world.

This is the world in which our hopes, our desires, our loved ones, our futures all live. This is the world that we founded Bird Ally X to address. No matter how disastrous, no matter how dire, no matter how precarious, no matter how despoiled, no matter how poor our society becomes, some of us will be needed to provide care for innocent wild lives who are caught in the maelstrom of human-caused catastrophe.

BAX is founded on the idea that knowledge of how to care for injured and orphaned wild neighbors needs to be widespread – that as the center cannot hold, centralized knowledge needs to disperse or be lost. As the situation for cities and industry becomes more dire, resources that are put toward the care of anthropogenic injured and orphaned wild animals, will dwindle. The economic burden of cleaning up their messes will overwhelm industries if forced to pay. The high costs of protecting human infrastructure from the predictable and predicted results of petroleum and coal fueled industrialization – that is, everything from vaccinations to seawalls to geo-engineered climate solutions – will absorb everything.

Already we struggle daily to keep our small wildlife hospital open. It’s clear that as climate disruption’s effects worsen and accumulate, raising the support to continue to operate in a professional manner will become harder, not easier.

At Humboldt Wildlife Care Center we have the challenge and opportunity to work on all aspects of our mission. So far in 2017 we’ve treated nearly 950 wild animals. Year to date 2017 has brought our heaviest caseload with patients coming from as far away as Ukiah, Redding, and southern Oregon. We’ve already surpassed the total caseload of 2013 and all other years are bound to be beaten as well.

Our facility not only provides care for this always increasing caseload, but it it also functions as a working model for accomplishing high quality care with a very slender budget. Obviously one way that we manage to get our bills paid is to rely on volunteers – if every crucial member of our team received financial compensation, we would shortly have no money for food or medicine. So we struggle with one full-time staff person and one part-time.

The most critical way that we keep our expenses down is to improvise solutions with what we have at hand. We’ve built our facility with re-purposed materials that were found or acquired by donation or inexpensively, even though we’ve modeled it from facilities where we’ve worked and trained that cost over a million dollars to build. Not only do we meet the immediate mission of providing care for our region’s injured and orphaned wild animals in this way, but we have the chance to find solutions that can be demonstrated to colleagues and future colleagues all along the coast and everywhere that our workshops and publications reach – which helps ensure that quality care can be given regardless of what financial resources any of our colleagues might have or have not.

An oprhaned Steller’s Jay, helpless, would have nowhere to go without the support of our community who keeps our doors open!

Ensuring that wild animals will be cared for even into the next century, regardless of the conditions that our society or people in general face, is the lasting reason that BAX was founded – and after the direct care that we provide to each individual animal who we admit at HWCC, is our most important task.

In 2009, when BAX was founded, the future that we wished to address seemed yet to come. Now, eight years later, we are wading in those waters while the flood still advances. The first test of our ability to meet this mission now will be our ability to keep HWCC functioning as a fully equipped and staffed wildlife hospital. 2017 has been a difficult year for many non-profit organizations. We’ve had many donors apologize for not sending money due to the vastly increased demands on their resources to help with the global calamities and disastrous turn of the political situation in the USA.

In this, our busiest year, our year of making the most difference for our wild neighbors, donations are at their lowest! 2017 has been a very stressful and frightening year for so many, and we count ourselves among them.

Arguing for the necessity of wildlife rehabilitation has always been a challenge, though our work is deeply appreciated by all who’ve found an injured or orphaned wild animal, or relied on us for helping humanely resolve a conflict with one of their wild neighbors. Wild animals are among the most marginalized. One only needs to consider the regularity of such scenes as a raccoon killed by a vehicle and left to decompose by the side of the road to know this is true.

As stresses to daily civil life mount, it will be our job to keep the innocent wild victims in our community’s thoughts, and supported by our neighbor’s shared resources.

Our world got this way in large measure due to the briefly victorious view that sees the dollars but not the tree, that sees the fertile soil of the river bottom, but not the wild community that requires it to survive. If human beings are to be a part of the real world, the wild world that comes next, then we will have to ensure that love for this wild, real world and all of her inhabitants is nurtured now. We’ll have to ensure that the skills we learned while resources were plentiful are preserved as they become scarce. We’ll have to ensure that those who’s compassion cannot let them turn away from a wild animal who is suffering are supported.

Preserving our love and commitment to Mother Earth is a crucial part of preserving our societies. We cannot do this alone. We need your help. Please help us reach our critical goal of $5000 by the end of this month. We have rent, water, utilities, patient food, medicine, our two staff’s meager salaries, bills that linger from our hectic and expensive busy summer months… without your support, we’ll disappear. Without HWCC the North Coast will have nothing for wild animals in need. Please, donate today.