We Must Mobilize to Avert a Lonely Earth

Recently, thousands of migratory birds suddenly dropped dead across New Mexico. Sparrows, warblers and swallows that normally wheel across New Mexico’s iconic landscapes as they fly south for the winter instead fell lifeless across the land, weakened by extreme conditions. While scientists are still working to conclusively explain this tragedy, their initial findings clearly indicate that we are witnessing a canary in the coal mine moment—as we face down dual climate and nature crises gripping our planet.

As New Mexicans, we watched reports of this wave of bird deaths with alarm. But as a U.S. senator and a scholar of biodiversity, we saw this disaster as just one link in a chain of threats to our planet’s life support system. The World Wildlife Fund recently found that human activities have wiped out two thirds of the monitored populations of vertebrate species worldwide in the past 50 years—the blink of an evolutionary eye. Rachel Carson warned us of a silent spring; today, we face the prospect of a lonely Earth. Ecosystems worldwide are on the verge of collapse, and with them, the resources humanity needs to survive.

We are already experiencing the deep costs of inaction. In recent months, wildfires consumed forests across the American west. Meanwhile, a zoonotic disease, transmitted from animals to humans, has upended life across the globe. Scientists tell us COVID-19 is just the tip of the pandemic iceberg if we continue to destroy habitats and illegally traffic wildlife.

In September, the United Nations released its report on the status of global biodiversity measures. Sadly, the world has so far failed to meet a single conservation goal—of the 20 set 10 years ago—to save the natural world from collapse.

This is a grim reality—but is also a call to action to protect nature and the diversity of life with which we share this Earth. The scientific community has created a road map, an achievable goal to preserve and restore 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030. We believe that the United States should join a broad international coalition to protect nature by 2030—and, in turn, save ourselves.

Here is where we tell you why we are optimistic about the future.

Nature is resilient. If we give the natural world space, resources and protection, nature has demonstrated an amazing ability to repair itself so ecosystems not only survive, but thrive. Native Americans, and Indigenous peoples all over the world, have lived for millennia in a sustainable relationship with nature. Their knowledge and voices can help us reshape our destructive practices and restore our kinship with the natural world.

Countries across the world have already come together to solve shared environmental problems under strong leadership like the Paris Agreement on climate—and we are confident this momentum can continue. The United Nations is now working towards a new agreement under the Convention on Biological Diversity that adopts the 30 by 30 goal and includes strong commitments to conserve land and water to get there. Just this month,

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