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Asking humanity to consider its impact on nature

Posted: May 16, 2014 2:17 p.m.
Updated: May 19, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Two Kershaw County naturalists, Josh Arrants and Austin Jenkins, will join forces with conservation photographer Clay Bolt, forest wildlife ecologist Drew Lanham and renowned South Carolina naturalist Rudy Mancke for a screening and panel discussion of the film The Lost Bird Project, May 31. Arrants, Bolt, Lanham and Mancke will be part of the panel; Jenkins will serve as moderator.

The event takes place at the IT-oLogy Auditorium, 1301 Gervais St. in Columbia, and will begin with a reception at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 per person and include hors d’ouevres, beer and wine and are available at www.scwf.org.

The Lost Bird Project explores the extinction of the Labrador Duck, Great Auk, Heath Hen, Carolina Parakeet and Passenger Pigeon.

“The whole point of showing the film is that it highlights five extinct species whose extinction occurred in historical times,” Arrants said. “And each species of bird is extinct due to some form of human activity, be it overhunting, habitat change, introduction of predators such as rats and feral cats, or other actions.”

He said that for some species, the numbers were small to begin with

“But the Carolina Parakeet and the Passenger Pigeon were very prevalent in their time,” Arrants said.

He said the goal of the film screening and panel discussion is to help relay the point that extinction is not an abstract idea, but a real and permanent state.

The South Carolina Wildlife Federation (SCWF) is sponsoring the event and describes the film and panel as “explor(ing) the use of art to remember what is lost and inspire conservation of Earth’s beauty,” as the film itself is about sculptor Todd McGrain who, “moved by the stories (of the five extinct bird species), set out to create memorials to the lost birds -- to bring their vanished forms back into the world.”

Arrants said the reception preceding the screening is an opportunity to meet all the panelists and chat with them. The following discussion is a chance for panelists to answer any questions the film may have created for audience members.

“We’ve got quite a constellation of ornithology naturalists,” Arrants said. “I’m still amazed that I get to be a part of this.”

A critical aspect that the film addresses, and that Arrants believes is a crucial and imminent factor in the ongoing endangering and extinction of species, is climate change.

“We are in the midst of climate change,” he said. “It’s putting animals and plants at risk for extinction. It creates perils for our environment. Climate change is the biggest issue that we have to deal with.”

Arrants said birds are very affected by climate change, something he has learned firsthand from working for more than a dozen years with various endangered species.

“I think this film asks the question ‘How do I want to be remembered?’ Do I want to be someone who contributed to an existing problem or someone who tried to change things for the better?” Arrants said.

He said the SCWF is presenting the film and panel as part of its Outdoor Academy series, an effort that tries to bolster environmental education in South Carolina.

Though The Lost Bird Project details a sad story, Arrants hopes it is a lesson humans can use to keep such a loss from happening again.

“As humans, we have to look past our own human arrogance,” he said. “We think that if we’re not personally affected, we’re fine, but that’s something that has to change.”

Arrants also said he knew Jenkins, a close friend of his, would want to participate in the film and panel.

“Austin is all about outreach and education. He wants to get people to understand our effect upon the environment, how great that effect is, be it positive or negative,” Arrants said.

He said his own desire to be a part of the event was personal.

“Though I don’t have children, I feel personally responsible that I owe it to future generations to protect the species of plants and animals we have now. They have just as much right to interact with these species as we do,” Arrants said.

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