Editor's Note

Photograph by John Huba

Editor's Note

At Audubon, we try to focus on solutions rather than problems. 

By David Seideman
Published: November-December 2012

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.) 

Editor's Note ND12 inset photo
David Seideman
One of the pleasant aims of a magazine of our kind is to let readers immerse themselves in our striking photography, like the panda and seahorse that fairly jump off the pages of this issue's Photo Gallery ("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. 

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David Seideman

David Seideman is the editor-in-chief of Audubon.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine


Not too much gloom

I am not a birder but am a hardcore environmentalist and enjoy learning about them. In 1978 I was given a gift membership to Audubon and have kept it up even through lean times because of the magazine. To protect birds, you need to protect habitat (which is good for everyone - including humans) and "Audubon" continues to inform me of all the the needs of wildlife as well as what is being done to help protect it. The photography is amazing and I learn so much from the articles.
"Audubon" is my favorite of all the environmental organizations' magazines. I have written periodically and said that if for nothing else, I read it for "Incite." However I do miss the cartoon that used to be on the back page.

Audubon too gloomy?

As a wildlife biologist, I have a decent understanding of what birds and wildlife need. I have spent my life working to ensure that birds have a fighting chance both on my own time and as a career. I have poured a great deal of money into conservation organizations like Audubon, Cornell and ABC. I have also learned a great deal about the Endangered Species Act and how it has succeeded in preventing many animals from becoming extinct like the whooping crane and the condor. As part of my job, I read the federal register every day to see what listings and rules are being proposed by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to start the process of recovery or not (warranted, but precluded). This can be depressing activity as well. It makes me sick that I will likely never see a ivory bill woodpecker. However that's the way life is sometimes - depressing. Audubon has a very important job to do. A little over a hundred years ago, Audubon was leading the way to protecting birds from feather hunters and others who would destroy anything for the right price and they must continue to fight for the birds. I agree with the writer from Oden, Arkansas that the Alabama writer should stick with "Bird and Blooms." Those of us who care must put our money and efforts where our mouths are. Ted Williams is right on the mark. Keep up the great work!! Julie Jeter, San Antonio, Texas.

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