I truly believe that the hardest aspect of conservation is not the planet nor the animals, but rather the people that inhabit this planet we call home. It has become quite evident that the earth is currently in its fastest mass extinction event in its long history, with species of animals going extinct at a rate never before seen. For most people, it is just as evident that all this destruction to biodiversity is almost completely human-caused. However, the harm that humans have wreaked on this beautiful planet is not what makes people the most difficult aspect in practicing conservation; it’s getting them to care.
What people can do once they decide to collectively dedicate energy to an issue that bothers them is mind-boggling. While it is still ultimately up to those in power in the government to implement necessary changes, the people still hold the power to make sure issues get brought to the forefront so that eventually, proper legislation might be put in place. Money always gets thrown around at the problems that people can’t help but notice in their day-to-day lives, like the plague of deer in suburban areas, but what about the tiny frog hidden deep in the rainforest whose species is at risk of extinction? How does one go about convincing people to care about the animals deep in the ocean? What could possibly convince someone to care about their carbon emissions when the most obvious evidence of destruction are polar ice caps 2,500 miles away?
It can be so frustrating that we, myself included, feel the need to yell and shout as loud as possible in the hopes that eventually everybody will hop on the save-the-environment train. If my temper tantrum is big enough maybe, just maybe, that guy driving the jacked-up diesel truck will realize the error in his ways and go trade it in for a Prius. Plot twist: kicking and screaming is not a very effective strategy. I thought being stubborn was a defining characteristic of the ever-friendly New Jersey natives I grew up surrounded by, but after spending a few years of college in South Carolina I can attest that stubbornness might be a trait that all Americans share. Everybody walks around under the sense that what they have been taught is good and righteous and correct. It can be very unsettling to be told that you are immoral, ignorant, and insensitive, and it is very normal for a person to violently reject such a notion despite how much truth there may actually be behind it.
For this reason I ask that those of you who have recently or long-ago punched a ticket on the save-the-environment express to try your hardest to refrain from blindly throwing rhetoric in the faces of those who disagree. You might be saying what has to be said but you are also running the risk of furthering their rejection of your beliefs. Rather, try to build their appreciation for the same animals, nature, and planet you wish to save merely by including them in your own conservation activities, allowing them to process and arrive to a conclusion without your telling them what they need to think.
You and your friends are visiting a new city? See if one day can’t be spent at the local zoo or aquarium. Most people can’t walk through an aquarium and not leave with a new found sense of fascination for the wonders of the ocean, a fascination that may lead to them trying to gain more knowledge and could eventually result in them wanting to care about aquatic species. Plus, the worst thing that could happen is that you and your friends just spent some money at a place that can properly use the funds to further necessary research, conduct conservation and outreach programs, and educate the general populace. Maybe someone you know needs help moving between apartments? Don’t take money as reward, instead ask him or her to spend a Saturday with you volunteering to do things like planting sea grass at the beach. There are plenty of organizations out there that are doing the work to save the earth, but what they lack is the man-power. Even if it is just a one-time thing, whomever you volunteer for will appreciate the assistance and whomever you dragged along might start to care a little bit once they witness people making effort to better the world. Honestly, it can be as easy as picking a movie or documentary that shows the need for conservation efforts. Try showing Blackfish to someone who hasn’t seen it before and watch as they come out of the experience madly driven to save the killer whales.
If you are a new passenger on the save-the-environment train, it can be difficult to figure out how to help. If you find you have free time, spend it volunteering for the many different environmental organizations that are out there, a handful that operate throughout New Jersey are listed below this article. If you find you don’t have time, donate money. It may seem like the most removed way of helping the environment but typically conservation organizations are non-profit and underfunded. Give money to local colleges and universities who are conducting research on endangered species. New research will give us the ability to keep species from going extinct and can only help the process of saving the planet. If you don’t have money to give, and are not able to volunteer, work on lowering your own ecological footprint in the meantime. Most importantly, stay politically aware and vote in political representatives who are dedicated to environmental issues. If our nation can unite on the issue of conservation we can certainly save the earth, but try not to be daunted by how much of an uphill climb it looks to be. Start climbing yourself and eventually people will join your journey until we are all together at the top, with a happy, green planet to look down upon.
Organizations in Monmouth County, NJ
- Surfer’s Environmental Alliance
- Clean Ocean Action
- Surfrider Foundation
- Monmouth Conservation Foundation
Organizations in Northern, NJ