There is a close relationship between environmental conservation work and helping people. In many cases, like that of the Galapagos Islands, the restoration of habitats and rebuilding of populations leads to an increase in ecotourism that benefits a local region economically. In other cases, conservation directly impacts a community’s ability to find food, to farm, and to enjoy their own backyards. Conservation also has a watershed effect… literally. As habitats are cleaned up, the entire ecosystem improves, and that includes fresh water sources. Polluted bodies of fresh water harm humans just as much as they harm animals. If a community is located on the seashore, deep sea conservation efforts often have an immediate effect on the shallow fishery. More healthy fish means more food for humans, and it means a healthier economy to boot. The food chain is a complex system. When it is disrupted at any point, that disruption has a domino effect down the chain in both directions. Conservation projects teach us that humans are part of that chain. We suffer when it is disrupted too.
Empathy is one of the most important qualities a person can have. Without empathy, we are each an island. It is difficult to feel a deep connection with someone else when you can’t imagine yourself in her place. We may understand our connection intellectually, but true empathy means feeling a desperate humanness, a sympathy that compels us to act. I think experiencing different lifestyles at a young age teaches empathy early. When a child sees another child, she feels a kinship. I think this natural affinity dissipates as we age, unless we are taught that it’s right to feel, to care, and to have the desire to help.