Kids and Conservation
There you are, minding your own business, getting your kid ready for bed. Or maybe you're the awesome aunt taking the niece or nephew out to dinner so your brother and his wife/husband can have a date night. Maybe you're the cool older cousin going out for ice cream with your little cousin...
Regardless of the scenario itself, that moment will happen. A young thoughtful voice will state from the tucked in bed, from the car seat behind you or from across the table, "I want to save the cheetahs." (Or rhinos, or tigers, or hippos, or penguins, or... well you get the idea.)
Then that young thoughtful and rather sincere little voice will add, "I really think they should be allowed to live and not go extinct, don't you?"
"Yes, of course I do." And you probably really do because it only seems right.
And with the blunt honesty that only a child can deliver, the thoughtful voice says, "But I'm just a kid. I don't know what to do."
So there you sit. With that "But I am just a kid" statement weighing heavily in your heart. Your mind debating with itself on what you can or should say. You were once just a kid too. You remember that feeling. That one where the problems of the world seemed like big adult things that were too complex and yet you knew that it needed to be fixed. You knew you could help, if only you had an adult to guide you through the complex adult stuff.
I wrote a blog post a while ago for work that was later picked up by Mongabay. (I will put a link to the article at the end of this post.) It was in response to questions I was getting from parents after Nola, the last female Northern White Rhino in the US passed away. At the time of her passing away, only 3 more remained of her kind. Now only 2. The overall theme of the post was talking to kids about extinction, but also how to assist a child that has declared that they need to step up and help save a species, or maybe all of them.
So... What can we do? How do we help support a child's desire to make a difference? Kids have a need to take action and with today's technology you can help a child in many ways. It can be an online fund raiser. A school fund raiser. A neighborhood clean up, or local park/riverfront/beach clean up. Writing letters to government officials seems mundane in today's fast-paced and twitter filled political world. But letters are rare enough now, they are noticed.
It's important for you as the adult to make sure the child understands that they don't need to raise a million dollars to make a difference. However, if you could that would be super helpful too. My point being, start with small goals. Honestly, I have been to many conservation sites in other countries. Every single dollar helps. Fifty dollars can have an impact. But so will ten. Set realistic goals. And if once that fifty dollars is raised, if the little wildlife conservationist wants to do more, then do it again! Maybe with a bigger goal or to fund a different conservation program.
The follow up question I usually get is, "How do I know when we donate money, that the funds are going to the right place?" A very legitimate concern in today's world. Ask around. Ask the people doing the work. A lot of them are on social media and many respond to direct questions. Heck - Ask me even! I don't know all of them, but I do know a lot of them. Charity Navigator is also a good resource to find out more about charities, how trustworthy they are, and how far your donation will go.
What's most important is to support the child's passion to take action. Help them explore the actions they can take. Research with them, brainstorm with them. take action with them. Just loving a species is never enough, and kids know that. Help them make a difference and you will be making a difference too.
Click to read the "Talking to kids about extinction" article from 2016.
Photo Credit: Free image from WIX web gallery.