I get a fair number of press releases. Not as many as some, but a lot. I don’t always read them (sorry!), and I normally wouldn’t have read this one that I got in my email a little while ago. But I did.
It’s titled: “Second Voyage to Move Endangered Millerbirds Departs Honolulu.” Here’s how it starts.
To save one of the United States’ rarest bird species from extinction, a group of biologists set sail today for the remote northwestern Hawaiian island of Nihoa, where they will attempt to catch a group of endangered Millerbirds and move them to Laysan Island some 650 miles away.
It’s the second time they’ve done this. A little further down:
“Everyone is excited and encouraged by the promising results of the first translocation, and looking forward to the second movement of birds,” said George Wallace, [American Bird Conservancy] Vice President for Oceans and Islands. “We have a talented and committed team of professionals on the project, and above all, we have Millerbirds! They have exceeded all our expectations so far by handling captivity well, eating readily, and adapting very rapidly to their new environment on Laysan.”
I find this entire thing enormously humbling — particularly the enthusiasm.
I mean, it’s so easy to be a dick and make jokes about how screwed up the planet is and be snarky and a jerk. It’s not simple, mind you, don’t get me wrong / take my job. But it’s so different, so much harder to sustain a long-term passion for making a positive difference. It’s so much harder to actually effect positive change than it is to rail about how rarely changes are positive. Think about the complexity of doing a study and putting together a plan and getting funding and going out and doing it, doing that thing that needs to be done to preserve even a tiny slice of now for a then that will have so many millions of problems of its own.
But these people did! They did all of that — and it culminates today! Right now, this group is on its way to some random island in the Pacific, looking for some particular species of bird that I’ve never heard of, that they’ll then transport to some other remote island, with the aim of preventing this species from vanishing from the face of the Earth. Sailing the Hawaiian islands is not exactly a hardship post, and, for those on board, this will quickly settle into routine, even frustration. But this moment — pulling away from the dock, even that sucker back in port who has to send out the press release — is so completely saturated with optimism and idealism that I can’t not be impressed and envious and proud.
Smart people doing work with passion. In service of some little birds — they weigh less than an ounce! — that have no idea they even need saving. These are the small steps that make a difference in the world, however humble, however unexciting to the rest of us.
Go get ’em.