It’s strange living in the world as a conservation biologist, an environmentalist, if you will. You are constantly thinking about people’s choices as well as your own. You think, do these people really care? But as I travel from concourse B to concourse C in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (yes, the tunnel with the cool light displays as featured in the P. Diddy video), I see the good, beautiful, and happy nature of humanity. For the past 12 years I’ve been rushing through that tunnel but this year my heavy non-roll able (I know, mistake!) was too cumbersome for me to walk. So, I hauled it up onto the railing of the moving walk way and rode it, very slowly. While there was plenty of that usual airport Chicago-style rushing, what I didn’t expect to see was a couple, well past middle age, playing a “I’m gonna get there first game”. The woman walked fast next to the moving platform while the man dodged people with kids and big bags (like me) to try and beat her to the end. The best was that the woman (who was winning) kept looking back and laughing at her partner, while he had a serious determined look on his face that only faded to a hearty smile as his wife cheered in victory. As I was ascending the escalator, I noticed a young girl wearing house slippers with big bows and while I have thought to do the same many time, with the take-off-your-shoes security rules, I haven’t had the guts. Here was this girl walking through O’Hare is funky slip off slippers. She noticed me looking at her feat and we shared an understood lingering smile. Finally, as I exited my what must have been 6th moving platform near my gate, a young businessman rushed out in front of me, clearly in a hurry. I, recently full of two Stella Atois, didn’t notice him and we proceeded to play the in-each-other’s-way dance game for what seemed like 2 minutes. Instead of getting frustrated with me and rushing off, as many do in the airport, he laughed and thanked me for the dance before he was on his way.
What does this have to do with biodiversity, you ask? Well, a lot. As conservation scientists, we need to appeal (just realized the duel meaning of that word in this instance) to everyone. EVERYONE. A lot of us walk around thinking we have a severe up-hill battle- which is true. But what we don’t often realize is that people are awesome. People are great and caring and funny and sweet and loving and empathetic. That is what we need to appeal to and I think the sooner we realize this, the better we can focus on effective conservation strategies.
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