No matter what you believe in—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Republicanism, Scientology, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster—I’m willing to bet that you are probably in favor of animals. You may not support environmental policy. You may have stock in big oil companies. You may even think climate change is a figment of the public imagination. But when you see a puppy’s little face, a kitten’s curled up tail, a pony trotting along with a toddler on its back, you probably feel something good. There are few issues in our lives that are truly bipartisan. We seem to be able to create conflict out of even the most benign problems and yet, most of us can agree that animal cruelty is wrong. Most of us can get behind treating creatures when they’re sick or injured. I think animals really do have the power to bring people together.
When I was about nine years old, I decided to save the whales. I wrote up a petition and collected over 500 signatures from my neighbors (this was before the Internet, when 500 signatures meant a solid two weeks of canvassing). I sent my petition to my senator and got a hand-written response and an invitation to the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute to learn more about conservation. It was thrilling to feel like I’d done something to help the animals I loved the most, and to be recognized for my passion and desire to help. I’ve mentioned this project here before because it was the first time I ever stood up for something I believed in. It was the moment in my life when I realized that activism is possible for anyone, even for nine-year-old girls, and that every one of us needs to stand up for animals because they can’t stand up for themselves.
Ecological concern is almost a prerequisite for existing in the world in 2012. Everywhere we look we see environmental disasters—irresponsible manufacturing, drilling, fracking, and dumping—that are imperiling our precious and delicate world every single day. It feels like an insurmountable obstacle when all of the things we use every day—the cars we all drive, the energy that fuels our homes, airplane fuel, the products we buy—all contribute to our landfills, to polluting our oceans, and to damaging the delicate balance of our climate. I was talking to my younger sister about this the other day and she said, “what can one person really do?” It was such a sad statement coming from an idealistic, smart, and savvy young woman. One person can do a tremendous amount of good: in small ways and in large ones. But we’re not a nation of individuals. We are a team. What we really need is to unify our people towards a common goal—saving the planet and her people.
Of all the many suffering people in the world, there are none more helpless than the children. Children often suffer the brunt of hardship. They can’t protect themselves. They can’t strike out on their own. They are dependent on the care of their parents and guardians—people who love them and look out for them—but these guardians are in peril too. So many people are dying preventable deaths around the world—in wars, from drought or famine, and from disease. They are dying young, when they still have young families to support. They are leaving homeless, helpless kids to fend for themselves in an impossibly difficult world. Some of these kids will die. Some of them will join gangs of other homeless, parentless children. Some will suffer abuse and torment at the hands of adults. And some, the lucky few, will find their way to a well-run orphanage with the best interests of the children at heart.