During Audubon’s 105-year history, some moments have mattered more than most. In the early 1900s this magazine played a leading role in the crusade against hunters who were wiping out egrets and herons for women’s hats. It sounded the alarm about DDT’s dangers when the American military used the dangerous pesticide to protect troops during World War II. And when titans of the mainstream press, including Time and Reader’s Digest, dismissed Rachel Carson as a crank, Audubon ran excerpts from Silent Spring before it was published.
I believe the BP Gulf oil disaster is another watershed moment. Soon after the oil began spewing, we dispatched two bloggers, photo editor Kim Hubbard and contributor Justin Nobel to the region. In September The Columbia Journalism Review noted that this was the first time in Audubon’s history that “it sent a blogger to cover a breaking news event in real time.” Thanks to National Audubon Society programs, Kim and Justin enjoyed unique access to boats and barrier islands. Their fine work appeared in our September-October issue.
After virtually all of the national media departed, Kim, joined by assistant editor Michele Wilson, returned to the Gulf for this issue, to break a new story (“Volunteer Army”). All told, 34,500 volunteers have registered with Audubon since April, and 2,000 or so are on the ground at work. “Volunteers wake up at any hour of the day to offer time, manpower, cars, anything to aid oil-fouled animals and landscape,” Michele writes. “Across the Gulf Coast, from Fort Worth, Texas, to Jacksonville, Florida, [they] fed and monitored released pelicans and transported non-oiled injured birds to rehab centers.” Hubbard’s vivid portraits convey the volunteers’ unbridled determination once their tears dried and their anger subsided.
The following pages still serve Audubon’s classic fare on subjects as diverse as winter life beneath the snowpack (“Packed to the Hilt”), New Zealand’s amazing birds (“Kiwi Country”), and a unique project to restore fish on the Yellowstone River (“Changing Course”). My thoughts, however, still go back to the Gulf. The scientific verdict won’t be in for quite a while. In the meantime, volunteer Sherri Lo Proto, a first-grade teacher, will keep monitoring birds. “Luckily, some people are still here for the long haul,” she says. “Just because you don’t see something or it’s not headline news doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
Back to Top