An Ending; Many More Beginnings
In the Macaulay Library at America’s Cornell University Lab of Ornithology is a recording of the Hawaiian Kauaʻi ʻOʻo bird.
The audio was captured by wildlife biologist Thane Pratt just a handful of years before the species, Moho braccatus, went extinct.
It is one of the last known recordings of the bird — most likely a male — and today plays out like a plaintive call to a mate that will never come.
The Kauaʻi ʻOʻo is gone; but its song survives.
And it’s that, says science educator Michael Stevens, which is “at the heart of something really big”.
“The word ‘record’ comes from ‘cor’, meaning heart. To record is to ‘re-cor’, to bring something back into your heart,” Stevens explains.
Footprints fade, bones crumble, fossils eventually erode. Nature’s memory is only so immediate. But humans have created ways to preserve and share moments, and ensure they live on much longer than they would otherwise.
“Nature preserves itself as best it can, but natural selection isn’t about preserving the past, it’s about survival,” Stevens says.
“We, however, can tell stories about things, describe them, record them, measure them with more details and voice than any other living or non-living thing.
“Even if a story is just made up, it’s still an attempt to articulate, encapsulate, and preserve something — a thought or idea — that otherwise would be forgotten.
“I don’t know if this ability make humans different from other animals, but it does, in a way, mean that we are our planet’s autobiographers; the part of it that documents, and records, and tells stories about it.
“So let’s tell as many stories as possible.”