The complexity of loss

A few weeks ago bluejays started building a nest in a tree outside our window and I looked forward to seeing tiny birds take their first flying lessons. But the bluejays have deserted us. Maybe they decided having a nest so near a cat wasn't wise (it's just five or six feet from the balcony perch the cat prefers), but Zoé would run in fear at two jays squawking and flapping their wings in her direction. Surely they knew this.

I took the binoculars out yesterday and looked closely at the nest. No sign of life at all. The piled sticks and leaves hugged the tree's trunk—a habit of jays—and the nest, like a sloppily-made basket, was the perfect size for a large bird and a couple of chicks. The loss made me feel lonely, which is ridiculous since I'd had no chance to make their acquaintance; let alone know their names. But still, it was a loss.

The casual complexity of the nest reminded me of other complexities, the lifecycle of the frogs I hear chirping in the undergrowth, and the fractal geometry contained within the tree leaves that I can almost touch if I lean over the balcony rail. These are hints of the deep complexities that form our world and I am in awe when I spend time looking and listening.

It is these complexities that worry me when I think of climate change. It's impossible for us to know—let alone understand—the interrelationships between ourselves and the millions of species that share our planet. (The Environmental Literacy Council estimates between 5 and 30 million.) It's easy to be distraught over the loss of polar bears, but what about the 300,000 species of beetles? Don't they deserve a little sympathy? 

We all know the doleful litany—denuded forestlands, acidic oceans, loss of cultivable land, poisoned air—all interlocking complexities, all produced by humans. No bee, beetle, bear, or bird created this catastrophe but each is at risk. If we cannot stop the warming we leave these creatures facing mass extinction. And all the vital complexities contained within them, all the still unknown interlocking pieces of our world, pieces that might solve problems we don't even have yet, will die with them.

I don't want to wake up one morning to find no birds in my trees, no bees buzzing around the lavender, no butterflies flitting across the landscape. I hope the jays will come back next spring and try again. I hope there will always be jays and that spring will always come round to warm and delight us with the colors and sounds and complexities of nature. I doubt humans can live without that, and I don't think I want to.