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Letter from SER Executive Director Bethanie Walder

Volume 31 Issue 2 | June 2017
Climate Change and Restoration


Dear SER Members,

For more than 4 hours, I stood, shivered, and occasionally fought sleep on a Saturday night/Sunday morning in late May, watching the northern lights dance across the sky in northwestern Montana. It was a soul-expanding, awe-inspiring morning; a reminder of the power of nature. For one very brief period – maybe just 10 minutes in the middle of the night – the entire sky lit up with green, red and white shimmering waves. We barely slept, yet felt so incredibly alive the next day.

Just a few days later, President Donald Trump announced that he would be pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement. I kept thinking about the northern lights, and took some small solace from that encounter with a previously unknowable, unexplainable natural phenomenon. Climate change, however, is not unknowable or unexplainable, and right now it’s not natural, either.

In this issue of SERNews, we focus on some of the intersections between climate change and restoration. It’s sad to publish this issue just as the US formally begins the process of backing out of the Paris Agreement. At this unique moment in human history, nearly every nation on earth is committing to take action to mitigate the activities that cause climate change. The US abdication of its responsibility as a nation is embarrassing, inexcusable, and will likely be profoundly damaging economically as well as ecologically. Local response across the US, however, shows that this nation is not blind to science. Many individual communities, businesses, and institutions recognize the moral obligation we hold regardless of what the US federal government chooses to do, and they are pledging to take action to meet the international targets to which the US was previously committed.

So what role will restoration play in those targets? As countries and industries begin scaling up to achieve internationally defined targets, many challenges and opportunities will arise, as outlined in the articles featured in this issue of SERNews. One of the common themes running through most of the articles is the potential for a focus on single ecosystem services in individual projects to subsume biodiversity and ecological approaches to restoration.

I want to extend a very big thank you to Paddy Woodworth for guest-editing this issue. We weren’t always in agreement on which direction individual articles or the newsletter as a whole should go, but the end result is compelling and thought-provoking. We start with Paddy’s article, which raises interesting and important cautions to consider. Those cautions are echoed by Justin Jonson, who puts us inside a practitioner’s mind as he considers the ramifications of moving from small-scale to large-scale projects. David Wilson’s article elevates the significance and importance of peatland protection and restoration in the context of climate change. And we close on a very hopeful note, with Don Falk’s book review of Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken. Drawdown points out that we do have the tools in our hands to maintain a livable planet, we just have to use them! As a reminder, all guest authors’ comments and perspectives are their own, and publication in SERNews does not necessarily reflect SER’s position.

While US federal actions are out of sync with the rest of the world, restoration and other conservation activities offer inspiration and hope for the future. So, too, does watching the northern lights dance across the night sky.

Bethanie Walder


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