October 22 was Youth Climate Action Day, a day to celebrate all of the incredible ways young people are involved in environmental activism, as well as a day to remind us of what we can all be doing to better serve the environment. As we look ahead to how to create a healthier future for our people and our planet, it’s important to listen to and elevate young voices.
At the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, one big cause for celebration on Youth Climate Action Day is the youth volunteers or ZooTeens. The ZooTeens are a huge support to the Zoo team, with 250 teens participating this past summer of 2022 – many of whom have stayed on to do year-round volunteering. A few of the awesome projects they take part in include:
- Buzz Troop – The plants and pollinators ZooTeen team take photos of sighted pollinators throughout the Zoo and upload them to iNaturalist as part of a citizen science project. Photos below from ZooTeens: Lily M. and [name], respectively.
- Educational programs – Through programs such as Zoo Camps and Zoo Troop, ZooTeens help lead fun educational activities to teach younger children about the wonders of nature and wildlife.
- Monarch Festival – This is a fantastic annual event where ZooTeen volunteers engage zoo visitors with the story of Monarch Migration and inform about local conservation efforts such as the Plant for Pollinators
These are just a few examples of how the ZooTeens support climate protection initiatives. In addition to this, they also have their Community Conservation Leaders who will soon be spearheading new community conservation projects for the whole team to get involved in.
Read on to hear from some of the awesome ZooTeens about their connections to nature and why it is important to them to take part in climate action.
One time I felt really connected to nature was when I was in Wyoming with my mother. We were walking this trail in Grand Teton National Park, and it was shrouded in these gorgeous birch trees that were turning orange. There was this tiny bubbling stream then all the sudden it opened up into this giant lake, and the Tetons were right there, and it was like being in the presence of some sort of giant, it was alive, and breathing, and gorgeous. I just couldn’t believe that I was so small and everything else was so big.
The closest I felt to nature was this June when I was backpacking for the week in the Appalachians. There was a night where we had almost nothing. There were no bodies of water nearby. We were at the very end of our food supply as we were going to arrive at a checkpoint the next morning. It was what is called a dry night. We had just completed a section called Carlton’s pass and were at the summit of a mountain. Laying there alone in my tent I could hear every noise for miles. My party had all gone asleep and as I was laying there, I heard the entire forest alive. The air moving through the trees. Owls hunting in the night. A bear a few miles away searching for food. This was the most isolated from society I have ever been and the closest I was to the natural world.
The world is a wonderful place teeming with diverse lifeforms. A lot of human activity unfortunately harms the delicate balance in the world around us. This means it’s our responsibility to protect and preserve the wildlife that surrounds us from further harm.
The Earth is a beautiful place and I put so much passion into conservation efforts because I want as many people as possible to be able to see the beauty that I see. I think that the beauty of nature is how fragile parts of it can be. With all of the destruction that goes on in the world of industrialization, I feel that we have a responsibility to make sure those parts are not only protected but allowed to flourish. With these efforts I hope that one day when these habits solidify, everyone from all walks of life will have the opportunity to fully appreciate this beauty and that nature itself will be given the capabilities to thrive that it should have.
Sustainability and conservation are a concern of every person in the world, whether they realize it or not. By actively supporting these efforts, I know I am helping more than just myself and the people and nature around me. Moreover, I feel emotionally connected to nature, since it is keeping me alive, so the idea of it being harmed or overused is painful. Even more important than supporting conservation is supporting coexistence with nature. We can hardly stop population growth, but by making sure that human growth leaves room for nature, we can ensure the stability of both things in the future. Perhaps I value coexistence because I always found beauty in nature and man-made things existing and trying to thrive in the same niche. Science says that this cannot be done, but I am hopeful that with some assistance, it can.
Inspired by the wisdom of the ZooTeen Team? Find out more about how to volunteer here. Or, if you’re looking for some actions to get you started, try these:
- Prevent Plastic Pollution! Use reusable grocery and produce bags, water bottles, use bar soap, avoid straws and chewing gum.
- Turn out the lights! Not only does this help conserve energy, it also helps prevent light pollution which can have a huge impact on local wildlife.
- Shop Sustainably! buy locally grown or sustainably sourced foods and avoid “fast fashion.”
- Share it out! Already incorporating some impactful actions into your daily routine? Share with your friends, family, and community to inspire them to do the same!