Tag Archives: climate change

Ollie holding a chicken

In Your Words: Ollie P.

As a 15-year-old climate activist, people often ask me at what age I first got involved and started working with Mass Audubon. While I officially became a member when I was 11, I have been involved in this work for my whole life.  

Ollie

For my generation, there was never really a time for us when climate change wasn’t a reality or when we didn’t have something at stake in this fight. Even when I was little, I understood that my very future hangs in the balance. So, I started learning about the science of climate change, the role of youth voices, and the intersectionality of these many issues. And once I understood that joining the fight against the climate crisis doesn’t just mean combating climate change, it also means fighting for social justice, I knew that I had a responsibility to add my voice to this fight.  

But at that time, it felt like no one was giving young people the tools needed to actually do something about everything that we were learning and experiencing. Instead of believing that we were simply too small to make a difference, my peers began leading the way. I was 8 years old when Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and 20 other young leaders sued the U.S. government for not addressing the climate crisis head-on. I was 10 when I first heard Greta Thunberg’s name and saw global climate strikes starting up all over the world. It was the first time I felt like I might have a voice in this.  

Ollie

Mass Audubon’s Youth Climate Leaders program has provided me and my peers with the tools to help lead the next phase of this fight. Our mission is to help other young leaders recognize that we each have a powerful voice that we can use to spark change. This program has really shown me that no one is too small to make an impact. My fellow Statewide Youth Climate Leaders and I put together a guide on how to form and manage a youth-led climate group. Visit massaudubon.org/yclp to download the Youth Climate Leaders Toolkit and learn how you can get involved. 


In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares their story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email [email protected]  to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue! 

Protect Birds by Addressing Climate Change

When Harriet Lawrence Hemenway and Minna B. Hall founded Mass Audubon in 1896, they were committed to ending the cruel practice of killing birds for fashion. Since then, Mass Audubon has continued its dedication to protecting birds through the threats they’ve faced over the decades – and now that means addressing climate change

North, North, and Away 

Both plants and animals live in predictable environments, and one of the most important parts in defining these environments is their temperatures. But climate change is causing temperatures to increase world-wide. As Massachusetts gets warmer, the plants and insects that comprise these environments are shifting northward – and we’re seeing birds follow them away from the Commonwealth. 

Higher temperatures also provide a suitable environment for the spread of invasive pest and plant species – both of which reduce healthy Northern hardwoods forested habitat.  

49% of the Massachusetts’ breeding forest bird species we studied are highly vulnerable. 

Black-throated Blue Warbler © Terri Nickerson

The Commonwealth’s Black-throated Blue Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler are expected to decline as the Northern hardwood trees they call home are overtaken by more heat tolerant species. Ruffed Grouse, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and Wood Thrushes are also expected to be vulnerable to the reduction of Northern hardwoods forested habitats as a result of this shift in dominant tree species. 

Changing Seasons 

Our seasons are changing, impacting bird food sources and nesting behaviors. With milder, shorter winters and earlier springs (among other shifts) – the environmental cues that typically trigger breeding or nesting behavior and the emergence of food are thrown out of whack. 

66% of the Massachusetts breeding, long-distance migrants we studied are highly or likely vulnerable.  

Tree Swallow in nest box.

Migratory species, like Tree Swallows, can only make minor modifications to their migration schedules to coincide with the shifting peak abundance of their food. The dissonance between migration and breeding schedules and shifting seasons can adversely affect breeding birds— especially if available food sources are insufficient to raise their young. 

Rising Sea Levels 

With tides creeping farther up our shores, sea level rise is swallowing important marsh and beach-nesting habitat of coastal bird species. 

56% of the Massachusetts’ breeding, coastal-nesting species we studied are highly vulnerable. 

Piping Plover and chicks © Lia Vito

These, often already threatened, species now contend with the effects of sea level rise. Least Terns, Piping Plovers, and Saltmarsh Sparrows nest in habitats that are slowly being overtaken by this climate impact in addition to the increasing frequency and severity of storms. 

We Can Make a Difference 

Let’s come together to protect birds by working to solve climate change in two ways: by adapting to climate change (withstanding its current impacts) and mitigating climate change (reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and removing them from the atmosphere). Visit massaudubon.org/climate for how you can start doing both.