Where are all the squirrels? I never thought I would be asking myself this question especially after one got into my apartment years ago. That was one of the most terrifying experiences in my life. Up close, the pesky creatures look like rats with tails yet I had grown accustomed to seeing them scurry about the street away from humans and up trees and electrical posts in the neighborhood. A friend recently brought to my attention that they were disappearing. I thought she was exaggerating at first but then I noticed just like the lightning bugs we were so used to seeing growing up, they were scarce.
I cannot help but wonder if this is a sign that nature is trying to tell us something. More importantly, not seeing a squirrel is like not seeing or hearing a bird. Given that 2020 brought us one of our worst worldwide pandemics since the 1918 Influenza, any abnormality in nature warrants our closer examination. A disappearance of a species is more than just humans building property that encroaches on natural habitats. It could be a dire sign that something is off with our ecosystems that may be irreversible. Biodiversity plays a key part in our world and our activities as humans can have a direct impact on the loss of it. Unfortunately an occurrence that took us all by surprise last year was the sudden decline in Botswana, Africa’s elephant population. According to an article published by VOA News, author Mqondisi Dube wrote that “Experts have not ruled out a waterborne bacteria that was found to have killed more than 330 elephants last year and at first baffled experts.” This raises concerns that the cyanobacteria toxin’s reemergence again was responsible for last year's catastrophe. Scientists feel that the threat and occurrence could be due to droughts in recent years which are thought to have been caused by global warming or climate change. What does this have to do with the disappearance of squirrels that no one is mentioning you ask? Squirrels like elephants and like us are mammals. It is irresponsible to think that what impacts one type of mammal will not eventually impact us as human beings as well.
Given the worldwide impact that the COVID-19 virus has had on health, economic, and sociological issues, it is imperative that we take any signs such as the disappearance of squirrels or any wildlife as a serious threat and sign that our ecosystem is off balance. Not taking this threat seriously is a miscalculation that can haunt us for future generations to come. It can be quite easy to dismiss these abnormalities in nature especially if you reside in a large urban city. The fact is there are signs all around us now and even before the COVID-19 pandemic that have shown us that threat exists no matter where you live in the world. Protection and support of the earth’s ecosystems are a necessary part in sustaining our planet for generations to come.
Educate and Advocate
Our commitment to maintaining a healthy and stable living environment for ourselves and all creations of nature takes education and advocacy. Just as the pesticide Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, commonly referred to as DDT, was used to successfully kill off insects that were damaging our crops, it also proved to be harmful to humans. It took the work of Marine Biologist and Environmentalist, Rachel Carson to shed light in her studies on the harmful impact of DDT on various species. Her book Silent Spring is a must read for all. It serves us all to determine why species are disappearing, migrating and dying as they could have the potential to carry deadly diseases that are harmful to themselves, our environment and all humans. Advocacy and Education can lead to change and as with the end of the use of DDT, healthy populations of species have been known to make a return like the bald eagle did. Whether you care for squirrels or not, we should take this recent sign and all others that nature is trying to tell us as a call to action before irreversible damage is done.