Updated: Jun 1
Collectively, all species of animals, plants, fungi, and microorganisms on the planet are known as our biological diversity, or biodiversity for short. This diversity is essential for maintaining the ecological processes that sustain life on Earth. Through their interactions, they provide clean air, purify water, regulate climate, regenerate soils, prevent floods, pollinate plants, and disperse seeds, among many other services. A lack of knowledge and appreciation about how these complex and fragile ecosystem’s function has led our growing human population to enter conflicts with nature, causing its imbalance.
Our excessive use of natural resources, deforestation of land for agricultural use, pollution, and global warming have caused the massive disappearance of species. It is believed that current extinction levels are 100 to 1,000 times higher than other evolutionary periods. In the case of birds, critical declines have been recorded in 49% of the 10,000 known species. In North America alone, populations have declined by 30% since 1970, the equivalent of the loss of nearly three billion birds, as published in the journal Science in 2019.
In the international organization BirdsCaribbean we work for the conservation of the birds of the Caribbean archipelago, the fifth global region with the largest number of endemic species, that is, with distribution limited to these islands. With the mission to protect birds and their habitats, we promote actions for the benefit of all biodiversity. This non-profit organization is a community of over 1,200 members and 60 partner organizations from 31 countries. Together we form a collaborative network that seeks to raise awareness of the region's natural wealth, and to support scientific studies that serve as a basis for the management and protection of bird populations.
To involve as many people as possible in conservation efforts, we prepare educational materials and resources for teachers, tour guides, bird enthusiasts and the new generation of ornithologists. We encourage the training of our members and partners, so that they can perform with better tools at the local level, for example, by providing them with training on bird monitoring, optical equipment, and financial support for their projects.
We also know that by being better informed, civil society would become more aware and committed to our cause. For this reason, we coordinate seminars and activities for the public, such as the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival, which is held annually between April 22 and May 22, with talks and field trips to see the birds. Thousands of people participate in these activities, organized by our partners on the different islands.
Nature is under serious and constant threat, and our only alternative is to act to mitigate and prevent further deterioration that puts humanity at risk. For this reason, we need continued support to provide these important services and expand the scope of our programs. Traditionally, however, an environmental focus has not been among the priorities of most institutions that support the third sector.
The ChangeMaker Foundation, through its Pivot Accelerator, has supported BirdsCaribbean's mission with social entrepreneurship workshops. I encourage other institutions in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean to join in the essential task of protecting the environment through green philanthropy.
The author is President of BirdsCaribbean, an organization she leads from her native Puerto Rico, and was a participant in Cohort 5 of TheChangeMaker Foundation's Pivot Accelerator in 2023. For more information, please visit BirdsCaribbean.org.