Scientists warn that Joshua trees could disappear from the national park—and the world—by century’s end due to climate change

As we approach the end of the year, I am reflecting on the nature of resilience and in particular the resilient nature of the Joshua tree. Born of the Pleistocene epoch, this humble desert plant has outlasted mass extinction events that even the fabled woolly mammoth and the saber-toothed tiger could not survive. Knowing that, it is almost inconceivable to grapple with the reality facing the Joshua tree—after some 2.5 million years on Earth, scientists are warning that Joshua trees face extinction by the end of this century.

The average lifespan of a Joshua tree is 150 years, so to put this crisis into perspective, consider this: in the time that it takes for one single Joshua tree to become middle-aged, the entire species could vanish, largely due to climate change.

That is, of course, unless we act.

Right now, we are in a critical window of opportunity where the public—you—can actually make a difference in whether or not Joshua trees survive. This September, we won a groundbreaking legal victory when a federal judge ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the law when it failed to list the Joshua tree under the Endangered Species Act. Now, the agency must reconsider that decision, and it is critical that the Biden administration hears from as many people as possible before the end of the year.

Please take a moment to urge the Biden administration to reverse course and grant the Joshua tree the federal protections it needs to survive.

There are even more ways to help the Joshua tree. If each of you who opens this email shares the call to action with just three of your friends or family members, the ripple effect will be huge.

Finally, if you’re able, you can help fund our work to save the Joshua tree and other endangered species across the country. Every donation goes a long way and we couldn’t do this work without your support.

In closing my meditation on the meaning of resilience, I was struck by the word’s appearance in the Oxford English Dictionary in the 1600s—defined as the “act of rebounding or springing back,” and its Latin root in the verb salire, meaning “to leap.”

Whether we are springing back or leaping forward, we can’t do it alone. True resilience requires collective action and that is what the Joshua tree needs from all of us.

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About the Author

John Horning | Executive Director, WildEarth Guardians

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