Lately, I’ve been thinking about my own path in conservation. I consider myself a self-proclaimed Monarch conservationist, actively involved in helping to conserve and restore their habitat and well as sustaining the population for close to twenty years.
But, where did my path as a conservationist start? I’ve actually thought a lot about this. Sure, when I was growing up there was a lot of outdoor playtimes. I was a young child in the sixties and early seventies. Historically, this period was the birth of the environmental movement with the EPA being formed in 1970, and Rachel Carson’s famed book Silent Spring being published eight years earlier. But, I don’t think those events influenced me. I was too young.
Building forts in the fields and woods that surrounded our house, playing in the creek while we looked for crayfish and pollywogs while we avoided the ever-present muskrats that peeked out of their holes on the steep bank of the creek, and catching fireflies in jars were all part of my upbringing. Did those activities influence my love for our earth and later urge me to care for it as an adult conservationist? I definitely think so.
Then, there was a dry period during young adulthood. I chose to go to nursing school and subsequently work in the field of pediatrics. This did not indicate disinterest in the natural world, but rather a desire to finish college and be employed. Years passed.
I truly think that my serious interest in the environment started when I became a Master Gardener. In truth, I went to the classes offered by the University Extension office in 2003-2004 to get me out of the house and learn something new. We had a small yard, perennial beds, and a small home fruit orchard of about 20 trees. My father-in-law was a Master Gardener at the time, and his gardens back in New York State were extensive, despite not being pristine. He was knowledgable and enjoyed answering questions regarding his “crops.” My Dad also had extensive gardens but seemed to enjoy yard care more, taking great pride in his flower beds, and a variety of trees. So, I had great role models.
The Master Gardener class gave me a base of information with which to work and hone according to my own interest areas. I had started to raise Monarchs a few years before (2002), after having an awe-inspiring, transformative experience during the fall migration season when 60-100 monarch butterflies flew en masse in front of my mini-van. I was hooked and soon started on a path of self-development that eventually led to my passion for Monarch Conservation!
Subsequently, I learned, and continue to learn, all I can about this species. It fills me up with curiosity, knowledge, and joy. Over the years, I have also developed concern for our earth home. Humans are greedy and selfish, consuming land and resources that are not ours but belong to other species. We have created habitat loss for monarchs and other living creatures that are part of the web of life. Our web of life.
So, last night when I spoke to a group of adults that belonged to a garden club in a town about 40 minutes away, I was grateful for their interest. We talked about monarchs, pollinators, habitat, and climate change. They were a very curious group of gardeners looking for ways to help monarchs and other butterflies. They knew that knowledge is power. I asked them to share what they learned from our discussion with others. They are gardeners, already interested in the plants and organisms that visit their yards.
We are not born being conservationists. We learn to care for the earth through our experiences, the knowledge we seek and gain, as well as contact with other like-minded people. Gardeners and conservationists are not all that different. So, when we seek to spread the word of conservation – gardening groups, events, and conferences might be a great place to start. You never know what interest in one species or one plant can lead to.
I am living proof!
Just some food for thought.
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