Wild neighbors

What’s wild around you? Turns out, quite a bit.

A few weeks ago, we asked you about the interactions you’ve been having with wildlife in your communities, and, wow, I’m jealous.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky to live in Rio de Janeiro. I’ve been harassed by sneaky marmosets, shouted at by croaking toucans and surprised by green sea turtles swimming by my feet.

But the sweet, funny and even philosophical tales you have shared with us made me want to visit each of your communities. From industrial towns in the United States, green havens in South Africa or megacities in Europe, your message was clear: To feel the presence of nature, one has to only stop and look.

We learned that one of the world’s most important bird migration routes passes through busy Istanbul, that turkeys roaming the streets of Boston can be a bit mean, and that the O.E.C.D. office in Paris traps the occasional fox. (We also learned that a lot of you are feeding wild animals. We know that comes from the best of intentions, but we thought we should point out: That’s generally not good for you or for the animals. Birds can be an exception. If you’re going to feed birds, here’s how to do it right.)

We love that you’re looking up, down and around for nature, and that many of you are planting native plants to support wild insects and nurturing animals that need help.

Here are excerpts from five stories you’ve sent us, edited for length and clarity. We received more than 500. We read them all, and it was incredibly hard to select just a few for the newsletter. Thanks to everyone who sent in a story!

I had just gotten back from a long bike ride and was shedding my muddy socks in the back garden. He was eating an apple, as one does when they are free and you are a 99-pound Chacma baboon. I caught my breath and froze. He continued to watch me as he delicately picked another apple, polished it, and, to my absolute wonder, twisted and pulled off the stem.

For decades, my small town of Greyton, South Africa, has negotiated the terms and conditions between clothed and naked primates. Many towns in our province have a sad and sordid history of having to eliminate the beasts because they don’t understand boundaries. I recently overheard a resident say at a meeting, “I don’t understand why they can’t just stay in the nature reserve.”

Alas, the baboons were not there to explain themselves. But in Greyton, we are trying to do things differently. We have an organized group of baboon monitors who physically keep track of the whereabouts of the 50 or so that call the surrounding nature reserve and the village home, and gently herd them back into the wild side.

It involves a radical shift in thought: That you are not the only one that likes apples.

— Sunnye Collins, Greyton, South Africa

My all-time favorite interaction was with the family of Cooper’s Hawks that lived in our neighborhood a few years back, with our trees as one of their favorite hangouts.

We had just had our first baby in July 2020. We were sleep deprived and feeling the effects of pandemic loneliness. Turns out, the Cooper’s hawks had had a couple of babies, too, and they were learning to fly. At dawn, with a snoozy baby who had been up what felt like a million times that night, we would sit in our second-story den, which has windows on three sides, and watch them practice swooping from tree branch to tree branch. They were under the watchful eye of their parents. It felt magically parallel to our lives.

— Erica Moran, Minneapolis

I’ve lived in New Delhi for six years and am still delighted by the creatures that live in even the most congested parts of our city.

You can step off a busy road and hear peacocks, and we’ve even seen jackals right off a posh street near the U.S. Embassy. Rhesus monkeys irregularly visit our roof and garden, much to our landlord’s consternation.

Despite getting used to all of this, I love that I can still be surprised. Yesterday, I rounded a corner on an evening run to find a large antelope called a nilgai minutes from my house. Delhi makes headlines for pollution and urban sprawl, but it should also be famous for its urban wildlife.

— Kathryn Hardy, New Delhi

I am a 68-year-old woman living in Baltimore City, retired from my 27-year horticultural services company. I am a public speaker and landscape designer encouraging the reduction and elimination of turf lawns (and lawn chemicals) and planting instead for our disappearing pollinators and birds, with habitat for providing forage for myriad wildlife.

Since turning my yard into habitat, I find hundreds of salamanders, many diverse types of toads, tiny snakes, along with the many birds, squirrels, chipmunks, fox, raccoon, rabbits, herons, hawks, and other creatures that I feel tremendously privileged to host.

I just wish I could convince more people to eliminate the lawns, and the incessant mowing, pollution, and noise associated with it. I have seen nature decimated in my blink-of-an-eye time on earth and I appreciate anyone who cares or who can further pass these concerns along.

— Devra Kitterman, Baltimore

I have a wild fox friend who I like to imagine joins me on my runs (no idea if it’s the same fox each time, but I tell myself it is!). I run on a bike path here in Lincoln and routinely see him running maybe 50 feet ahead of me. Rather than just running away off the trail, he’ll continue to trot forward on the path. He’ll occasionally stop to look back at me, staying the same distance ahead while I huff and puff slowly behind him, finally heading off the trail into the woods when another runner or biker comes by. My ‘conversations’ with this fox have gotten me through many hard runs!

— Leah Campbell, Lincoln, Neb.

Between about March and December, we see black bears on a regular basis, wandering the streets, getting into people’s trash cans and under people’s houses and swimming, and trying to fish in our koi pond. (Editor’s fun fact: Some black bears have brown fur.)

When they’re in our pond, we let them do their thing unless they look like they’re seriously fishing for our koi. At which point, I’ll yell “bad bear!” and, if that doesn’t work, bang a stick on our patio. They don’t like loud noises.

We, the community, love our bears and rarely “call the media” or cops on them. They don’t hurt anyone and they’re fun to have around. Watching bear cubs play in the pond while their mother watches them indulgently has to be one of the best things ever!

— Rena Stone, Monrovia, Calif.

Programming note: Your next Climate Forward newsletter will come out a day earlier than usual, on Monday, March 20. We’ll be telling you all about the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Seaweed’s moment in the sun: It’s being reimagined as cattle feed and as a plastic substitute. But can seaweed thrive in a warming world?

Lobbying for looser rules: Chip makers, the electric vehicle industry and others are putting pressure on the Biden administration to weaken new rules aimed at protecting people from chemicals.

A plan to cut emissions just got complicated: Nitrogen emissions were on the ballot in the Netherlands. Nitrogen won.

A victory for starfish: Sunflower sea stars are set to get protection from the federal government. They help to keep marine ecosystems balanced.

A win for wildlife in Alaska: The Biden administration canceled a Trump-era deal that would have helped clear the way for a road to cut through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

The ‘good neighbor’ rule: The Environmental Protection Agency is requiring factories and power plants to sharply cut smog-causing pollution from smokestacks.

A slaveholder’s name: The National Audubon Society conservation group decided to retain the name of the 19th-century naturalist despite his white supremacist views.

Scientists and musicians are recording the sounds of Antarctica in an effort to document and predict the effects of climate change. Some are hoping the work might help raise awareness, too. One sound artist and researcher called it “a whole other way of communicating knowledge, a different aperture of experience.”

Thanks for being a subscriber. We’ll be back on Monday.

Claire O’Neill, Catrin Einhorn and Douglas Alteen contributed to Climate Forward. Read past editions of the newsletter here.

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