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News & Observer: Science and religion find common ground in stewardship

North Carolina Audubon Society and North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light partner for training

Article originally appeared in the Charlotte Observer


Science and religion have found a piece of common ground, thanks to North Carolina’s colorful population of wild birds.

The North Carolina Audubon Society and North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light are joining forces to train “ambassadors” to lead the fight against global warming.

The Charlotte training, which is free and open to the public, will be held Oct. 29 at Myers Park Baptist Church. The workshop is also being offered in Asheville and Raleigh.

According to Audubon spokesperson Mary Alice Holley, Audubon North Carolina is mobilizing people across the state to help protect bird species that “could have nowhere to live within our children’s lifetimes” because of climate change.

The workshop will train Audubon Ambassadors, who will be able to speak knowledgeably on behalf of birds, wildlife and natural ecosystems. They will also become advocates, able to lobby effectively for policies to safeguard habitats and reduce carbon emissions and discover personal ways to be part of the solution, by providing food and shelter for birds at home, planting native plants and reducing their own carbon footprints.

Ambassadors training is in response to a recently issued research paper, The Audubon Birds and Climate Report. Based on three decades of observations from members, including data from the popular Christmas Bird Count, Audubon scientists determined ideal ranges for 588 different North American birds. Then, using internationally recognized climate change scenarios, they mapped how these ranges may change over the next 50 years, if global warming continues.

“Because birds cover the landscape, literally, and their habits and moves are there for us to track every day, we are the keepers of the climate change ledger,” said Robert Doherty of the Audubon North Carolina Board of Directors.

The findings are worrisome: 314 species are in trouble. In North Carolina alone, 170 species are at risk. They include such signature birds as wild turkeys, which could lose half of their summer range and 87 percent of winter range in the state. A beloved North Carolina songbird, the brown-headed nuthatch, stands to lose 100 percent of its summer range, as will the horned grebe and American woodcock.

“Without action against climate change many of our birds could be gone forever,” warns a blog post from Audubon North Carolina’s Kim Brand. Brand is one of the trainers for the Myers Park workshop.

After completing the training, Ambassadors must commit five hours each month to activities to “benefit birds, other wildlife and people.” Participants will be able to access tools and online resources, including scientific findings, networking with fellow Ambassadors, and suggestions for concrete actions.

Audubon’s Charlotte training is being hosted by Interfaith Power and Light, a national program affiliated with the North Carolina Council of Churches. Myers Park Baptist is a member congregation.

Interfaith Power and Light calls on its members, from all religious traditions, to be “faithful stewards of Creation” by responding to global warming with energy conservation, protecting the earth’s ecosystems, and safeguarding “the health of all Creation.”

Brand, a supporter of the faith-science alliance, called for swift action:

“Never before has our birds’ message been so urgent or clear. Birds will only survive with our help, and the more people who get involved, the greater collective impact we can have on climate change. It’s not too late to change the course for birds and ourselves.”

“If we act to make sure that bird populations are healthy, we’ve also ensured that humans have what they need – natural areas, clean air and clean water,” Brand said. “Globally, planet Earth would be no fun at all without healthy bird populations.”

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