This photo of a horned owl was taken on a beach in Malibu during the catastrophic fires currently devouring huge swaths of California. It had likely taken refuge here from the fires, smoke, heat and strong Santa Ana winds that are fueling them.
The fires in California are still raging largely out of control. At least 31 are confirmed dead, towns have be erased, and over two hundred people are still missing. Only a year ago fires churned up vast areas of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. This past summer the Pacific Northwest was ablaze, producing smoke that stretched as far east as Newfoundland and beyond and could be seen from space. But what is so often sidelined or downplayed is the enormous impact disasters like this have on wildlife.
This particular photo has a haunting, even iconic, quality. It is captivating. The owl almost seems to be looking at us inquisitively as if to say “what have you and your kind done to my world?” It is a stark and sobering reminder to us homo sapiens that this planet does not only belong to us, it belongs to a myriad of species, most of whom we shall never see or hear about.
Thanks to human caused climate change, pollution and rampant development, their world is disappearing like ours, but far more rapidly than anyone can imagine. In fact, according to the World Wildlife Fund, wildlife populations have fell an unimaginable 60% globally since 1970. This owl might be the best symbol for the cruelty of this normalized and ignored catastrophe because her eyes reflect the folly of our kind. They seem to show us that despite our enormous hubris, we are all in the same boat, and that boat is on fire and sinking.
Kenn Orphan November 2018
Photo is by Wally Skalij of the Los Angeles Times, via Getty Images.