What if climate change, land use and invasive species were big enough threats to destroy the greater Yellowstone ecosystem as we know it?
Would we find out in time to do something? Even if we knew the end was coming, would it be possible to muster the political will to change our path? And if the Yellowstone we know, with its extraordinary biological diversity, were gone within our lifetimes, what would that mean for the species at the very top of the food chain? Pine beetles, moving farther northward than we have ever known them to survive, are killing off entire forests. Species diversity is plummeting. Yellowstone survived for eons before it was Yellowstone, before human eyes ever saw it. Perhaps it can’t survive us. And then the question will be, can humans survive without Yellowstone and all that it represents?
Today (October 12) is the first full day of the 10th Biennial Scientific Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Area. I’m taking my 10-year-old son, who has an endless appetite for learning about plants, animals and the natural world we share with them. I want him to learn about the cutting edge of science on climate change impacts on ecosystems. I want him to see how many adults are doing everything they can think of to stop these impacts. And ultimately, I want him to prepare to take his place among the next generation of scientific leaders who will lead us out of this present darkness. There is hope, and it resides in Yellowstone this week.