Saving more than just a Hutton's shearwater

In an old New Zealand Geographic magazine, March-April 2017, is a beautiful article about Hutton's shearwaters.

In it, the author Rebekah White describes how Kaikoura - a little town on New Zealand's South island - has become protective of these wonderful little seabirds. Education programs are weaved into the children's schoolwork: data gathered by the public gets processed by high-school statistics students, a biology class does DNA testing on fledglings etc. The local 'Hutton's champion', a lady called Nicky McArthur, has correctly anticipated that the most effective way to disseminate information within a community is to give it to children as homework - it is working.

The article ends with beautiful two paragraphs (bold lettering added by me):

"But what Harrow and McArthur and the trust recognise is that most people don’t get to take part in the care of anything fragile. The work of saving things goes on around us as invisibly as the dawn flight of the Hutton’s.

Looking out for little birds on the road means that people are looking out in the first place, that they’ve started to notice a world that’s not their own. To recognise a shearwater and pick it up and put it in a box is to exercise a muscle of care for something outside the human realm. Perhaps, after all, it’s worth saving one of a hundred thousand shearwaters, granting it another chance to race down the ranges to the sea, just as the stars are fading out, for breakfast."


Fundamentally, this is the building block of empathy - the difference between someone who learns empathy, and someone who goes through the world without care for others, standing up only for their own, personal needs.

I don't remember which other article it was that I read a couple of weeks ago, but in it the author made a point that to protect something (in this case, they were talking about New Zealand's native forests) people need to experience a sense of ownership and belonging. It is what will drive them to take protective action on behalf of 'inanimate' objects such as trees and rivers and such.

And that begins with taking kids outside.

Invercargill's Queens park at the moment
Cold, foggy mornings of the autumn

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