Without a doubt, time spent outdoors as a child shaped my life and brought me to where I am today – working to protect the wildlife and wild spaces that inspired my dreams of exploration and adventure for as long as I can remember. With the passing of time, however, I quickly realized that these sacred places in which I had started to define my life were changing. I can vividly recall a point in my life in which I could no longer continue to ignore the growing environmental threats that were largely right under my nose, and I found myself wondering how these issues had suddenly become so real without my noticing.
Recently, the World Wildlife Fund released their 2016 Living Planet Report, in which data suggests that fully two thirds of the wildlife on our planet could disappear within the next 50 years. For the sake of clarity, the report is talking about the size of wildlife populations, not the actual number of species facing extinction, which, in itself, is an equally alarming discussion. In light of WWF’s report, the Huffington Post raised an interesting point that somewhere down the line, people will (potentially) reach a threshold for concern about the environment and act accordingly. While I tend toward an optimistic school of thought, to assume that people will arbitrarily begin to care about the decline of wildlife populations seems a bit optimistic, even for me. So I began thinking: Where does that threshold of concern lie within us? What are we willing to do once that threshold has been reached? Is there still time to act?
Consequently, for so many of our students at GoBeyond, that threshold of concern has been breached for quite some time. The proof lies in the fact that our “Preserving Paradise” Journey to the British Virgin Islands and our “Protecting Darwin’s Discoveries” Journey to Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands both continue to be two of our most popular programs. During these journeys, we focus on both environmental conservation and wildlife stewardship by removing invasive Indo-Pacific Lionfish, restoring damaged mangrove habitats, participating in reforestation efforts with the Ecuadorian Forest Service, and PIT tagging sea turtles in conjunction with the Conservation and Fisheries Department of the British Virgin Islands. We take an active role in protecting these ecosystems and their inhabitants through projects designed around the needs of our partner organizations – projects that are designed to improve not only the environment, but also the lives of those who rely on it.
But is this effort too late to be of any significance? While the rate at which our planet is bleeding-off species is alarming, I stand firm that we are not too late to act on these potential environmental losses we, as members of the global community, are facing. In fact, we find ourselves at a critical turning point in our history in which we can work together to affect positive, lasting change with regard to our environment. Every small effort we put forth to preserve these ecological treasures for the next generation has an accumulative effect, and truly the smallest acts summate the largest changes.
We all have decisions to make, and when you are asked what you did to make a difference in the lives of those around you, or what you did in the betterment of the fragile, incredible planet on which we live, how will you respond? What will you say to the grandchild who probes why you stood idly by while endangered species slipped through our fingers and into the books of history? The time to invest in the future of our planet is now – for as the old adage goes, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
About The Author
Shaun’s passions for adventure and exploration were sparked at a young age through frequent camping trips in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and surfing trips in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Through a variety of jobs in education, marine science, and adventure guiding over the past six years, Shaun has sought to broaden not only his own horizons, but also the horizons of his students through immersive and experiential education. Currently, Shaun aims to inspire environmental awareness, conservation, and stewardship in the marine ecosystem by combining his interests in photography, journalism and media. Follow his journey on Instagram (@ScSwartz), or through his website www.shaunswartz.com
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