But since the 1980s, spring snowmelt in Siberia has been arriving half a day earlier per year on average. Now the mites emerge, reproduce, and die before the young nodules emerge. Many young birds are malnourished and die before they learn to fly. Those arriving in Africa are 20 percent smaller and lighter than those measured there in the early 1980s.
Importantly, their beaks, which they use to find shellfish buried in African coastal mud, are also short—too short to reach the shellfish they need to survive. So the nodules die. Half a million people were counted in a muddy bay in Mauritania 40 years ago. By 2022, 400,000 of them had disappeared. It’s all in the links: 5,000 miles away on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, excess spring winds are killing birds in West Africa.
Again and again, Wells opens windows to this kind of restorative, troubling beauty. In each case, the resulting precision succumbs to the inadvertent strain of global warming. Wells dislikes the term “climate change”; He favors “global queerness,” which he says “reveals the novelty and strangeness of the climate crisis.”
Wells is wary of the anthropological trap. He is not empathetic to the plight of starving chicks or lost dolphins. There is something broader here than the failure of individual life: a world in a frenzy of taking livelihood away from itself. But his control will move itself.
He describes the plight of Puerto Rico’s endangered green parrot, the iguana. Under human hands, its forests have shrunk, and thanks to global warming, hurricanes are wetter and more destructive than ever. In the wild, the iguacas had a rich and rich language, full of warnings and suggestions, by which the herd avoided predators and found food. The human-bred parrots were returned to the wild after conservationists, concerned about the parrot’s future, took some of the eggs and raised the chicks at a rescue center. But they went back as bird Casper Hausers – diminished, obscure and disconnected, without learning the language of the tribe. When wild birds were almost completely killed in a series of cyclones, the language itself died.