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Statement by Ms. Patricia Zurita on World Migratory Bird Day 2020

Ms. Patricia Zurita
Chief Executive  
BirdLife International 

There is an added poignancy to this year’s celebration of the miracle of migration.
 
Even in good times, we humans can only marvel at the incredible journeys our feathered friends embark upon twice a year - remarkable feats of endurance and determination that we struggle to fully grasp.
 
How can a hummingbird that weighs little more than a penny span the Gulf of Mexico? How can young Arctic terns – barely a couple of months removed from hatching – summon the fortitude required to travel from pole-to-pole?
 
Thanks to our inventions and our ingenuity, we humans are one of the most mobile and well-travelled species on the planet. There are few places on Earth we have yet to set foot. Yet birds have a freedom even we can only imagine.
 
And now, with around half the world under some form of lockdown, such freedom has never seen further away. Many of us have gone months without seeing friends and loved ones, even those that live nearby. And in some parts of the world, no immediate end to the restrictions is in sight.
 
But also, in so many ways, we have never been closer. Adversity has reshaped our priorities, away from commercialism to what really matters. Many of us are taking renewed interest in the needs and dreams of our neighbours. We find ourselves celebrating the underappreciated key workers who quietly hold our society together. And we’re showing kindness and empathy to one another at a time when politics has taught us to divide ourselves into tribes.
 
So is it any surprise that so many new people around the world are now discovering the wonder of birds in their own back garden? Many of us are discovering through this crisis what birds have known all along – that we are all connected, and actions in one country can quickly have a domino effect.
 
Nature is healing, they say, but if nature heals, then so do we.  We are nature, and nature is us. Aside from climate change, air pollution and the many other demonstrable ways in which our abuse of the natural world affects our health, we need to face up to the fact that pressures such as habitat loss and the wildlife trade are directly linked to the outbreak of new diseases – if we don’t respect the connections between our health and the health of the planet, there is a very real risk that our currently crisis could become the ‘new normal’.
 
That’s why BirdLife is rallying the UN to make a healthy natural environment a universal human right. For all our inventions and ingenuity, we need to better appreciate our connection with the natural world we rely on for subsistence and sanity – and if we’re still struggling to understand how our world is connected, the birds will show us how.

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