On Guam there is no birdsong, you cannot imagine the trauma of a silent island
For about as long as I’ve been alive, there have been no sihek on the island of Guam.
The sihek, or the Guam kingfisher, is a beautiful blue-gold songbird that’s been extirpated in the wild since the 1980s. Like most of Guam’s native birds – 10 out of 12 native species – the sihek rapidly declined after the introduction of the invasive brown tree snake brought to the island after the second world war as a stowaway on military ships.
It is hard to articulate the trauma that is the absence of birdsong.
Although more empirical studies linking climate change and invasive species at the landscape level are needed, it is clear that climate change facilitates the spread of invasive species and creates new opportunities for them to become more invasive. Certain extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, which are predicted to intensify in coming years, will only exacerbate the matter.
Guam is incredibly vulnerable. Our coral reefs are under severe stress, as the ocean grows warmer and more acidic. In fact, bleaching caused by rising sea surface temperatures has killed a third of our reefs. Our freshwater supplies are likewise at risk, not only from drought and increased demand but also from saltwater intrusion due to sea level rise – which is happening faster in this part of the world than in others.
The island is on path to becoming even hotter, with the number of hot days (over 32C) expected to increase to 257 days out of the year. Conversely, the number of cool nights (below 23C) is expected to decrease (from an average of 40 a year in 1950) to an average of zero a year.
If climate change is the god of death, it is a merciless one and it is coming for everything, even the cool respite of night.
When I was asked to write a reflection on what I’m most worried about losing in the face of climate change, I hesitated. Sometimes, it’s hard to face the truth.
The truth is we’ve lost so much already. The truth is we’re buckling beneath the pressure of three threats at once: climate change, invasive species and military expansion. The truth is that the three have formed an unholy trinity that now threatens to smash our small but ancient civilization and thereby rob the world of the gift of our difference.
Of course we’re not taking any of this lying down. Like other Indigenous communities around the world, we’re resisting. We’re telling the truth. We’re fighting for a different future.
A future where birds fly free. A future where whale calves have no trouble hearing their moms. A future full of song.
-Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd
Topic: Climate Change (General)
Photo or video credit: Kate Nolan/The Guardian, -Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd
Text Credit: Julian Aguon
Date : 16 July 2023