At Audubon, we try to focus on solutions rather than problems.
Every so often I receive a letter from a member complaining about the depressing news in our magazine. Some even decline to renew their memberships. (One Alabama reader in particular wrote that all our articles are "so gloomy." We decided to ask our readers in general what they think, and we received numerous responses. While some of you acknowledged that our subjects are at times depressing, you also observed that to conserve nature, we must learn more about the critical, and sometimes unpleasant, issues that Audubon covers. Some of your responses appear below, at the end of my editor's note; feel free to add yours in the Comments section.)More Than Human”). Or they can escape in the elegant prose and beautiful photos in Earth Almanac, which brings the year’s current season to life. On top of that, there are fun activities, like learning how to draw birds (“Sketch Artist”).
Above all, we tend to focus on solutions rather than problems. For example, we could have simply bemoaned the plight of upland sandpipers braving a 4,000-mile journey to a place known as las pampas, a vast prairie in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay that’s fast being converted to industrial agriculture (“Raising the Steaks”). Instead Bruce Barcott’s story focuses on “a grand experiment,” whereby ranchers and conservationists throughout the pampas are creating bird-friendly, grass-fed beef through partnerships that extend as far north as Audubon Chicago Region. These ranchers, or gauchos—legendary for their knife-wielding bravery and their sense of honor—mean business. “Today their cattle control the grasses, doing the job the region’s original herbivores—now long gone—once performed,” Bruce writes. “They know and love their land.”
Likewise we could have despaired about the gauntlet of threats that piping plovers must run on their trips—sometimes upwards of 2,500 miles—to reach their winter habitat in the Bahamas (“The Plover Platoon”). As Don Stap notes, “Today piping plovers are the only shorebird in the United States listed as endangered or threatened in every state they frequent.” For three days a team of scientists, led by Audubon, camped out and trudged through mud to pinpoint the precise winter habitat, for the first time, of much of the plover population. This knowledge will shape critical conservation strategies.
When Ted Williams has gone up to Alaska’s Bristol Bay over the years to fish and hike, he has been utterly awed by how much it is “changeless and timeless, laced by pristine rivers that rush and dawdle through forests never logged and unscarred tundra that alternately blazes with wildflowers and glistens with snow” (“Mining Disaster”). To the horror of virtually everyone, both inside and outside the state, a foreign conglomerate is determined to strip-mine one of America’s wildest and most productive ecosystems. This project is so awful that the motliest of crews, from national jewelry retailers to right-wing lawmakers, has lined up to stop it.
So please stay with us and take the actions recommended in our Speak Up! boxes. On this and many other issues, we need you now more than ever.
Our our articles too gloomy? Here are just a few of the responses we received:
I read in the inbox a protest on the "depressing" articles published in the Audubon magazine. I disagree that your articles are too depressing overall. We need to know about the sad and pathetic things that people are doing to our animals and habitats so we can take action to turn those things around. How will we deal with the “depressing” activities that surround us if we don't know that they are there? We need to know about “the bad” in order to find solutions.
Yes, I want to know about the successes and good things that are happening, plus the interesting and beautiful animals and habitats, but although I may cry over the sadness, I need to know about it so I can take action and donate money to correct what is depressing.