66 Birds/ 3 Degrees Statement
The 66 Birds/3 degrees project is a visual and sound environment of Western Washington birds that are at risk if global warming is not mitigated. It was first conceived by artist Natalie Niblack after seeing the publication Survival By Degrees: 389 Birds Species on the Brink by the National Audubon Society. This study assesses the impact of climate change from 1.5° C (2.7° F) up to 3° C (5.4° F) on North American bird species. Based on this study, Niblack refined a list of Western Washington birds identified as at risk in the study, enlisting the help of Dr. John Bower. The list also includes Western Washington birds identified as endangered or threatened by WDFW and BirdConnect (formerly Seattle Audubon). The result of this collaboration is the 66 Birds/ 3 Degrees Project. The text with each bird in the display reflects the threats identified in the Audubon study and John’s extensive knowledge of Western Washington birds. A diverse set of at risk birds were chosen, with species representing forest, grassland, montane, freshwater, and marine habitats. Well-known and common species were favored over transient or rare birds, though some rare birds are also represented.
Of the eight climate change related threats considered in the study, the most threatening is extreme spring heat, predicted to impact 99% of North American species. Fire weather was the second greatest threat, affecting 70% of species. Species with already vulnerable populations are predicted to be more highly impacted by climate change than species with more robust populations. It is important to note that for pragmatic reasons the study did not include a number of other potential climate change related threats, such as increases in diseases and invasive species, amongst others, meaning that the actual impact of climate related threats on bird populations is probably larger than the study indicates.
66 Birds/3 Degrees is intended as an informed warning of what is at risk, not as a statement of what will be. This project is designed so that the viewer is confronted by the direct gaze of each birds while listening to their songs. Although the exhibit is based on a study about the current and future risks to birds, it is representative of all nature at risk, and the “morning chorus” bird recordings contrast with the silent void of a world without the music of the natural world.
There is so much that we can do to help bird species. By making changes in our lives we can greatly reduce the impact of climate change on birds.
We can donate to the researchers and organizations that help to protect birds, and volunteer for citizen science projects. We can also limit our cats’ access to the outside, put reflectors on our windows to avoid bird-window collisions, and plant native species in our gardens. Ultimately, If we save the birds, we save all of nature, and ourselves.