Wildlife volunteering is incredibly popular and for good reason. Animals are helpless. They can’t argue for their habitats or negotiate to change energy policy. They can’t advocate for their children. Often wildlife volunteers are interested in more than simply saving a single creature. They want to see habitats protected on a global scale. They care about the health and welfare of our planet and want animals to survive for future generations. I happen to be an avid wildlife volunteer. I believe that animals and the environment deserve more attention. Without the food and shelter nature provides, millions of people would find themselves homeless and starving. The problem is multifaceted and complex but however you look at it, our world’s creatures are in peril and they need our help.
My husband and I fell in love in a Washington forest. We’re both avid hikers and we met beneath the trees, I was searching for mushrooms in the leaf litter, he was peering up into the treetops, and we collided, our tin cooking pots clanking in the silent forest. We’ve been hiking together ever since, in the redwood forests of California, the evergreen forests of Maine, and the lush maple and oak forests of our native New York. But Washington will always have our hearts. This is why the volunteer opportunities with the Washington Trails Association jumped out at me. They offer volunteers the opportunity to spend their days on the trails, clearing brush, repairing tread, improving drainage, and even logging out fallen trees with a crosscut saw. To a forest lover like me, this sounds like an ideal opportunity for relaxation, meditation, exercise, adventure, and fun.
This week I interviewed Kimberly Haley-Coleman, Executive Director of Globe Aware. Globe Aware is a non-profit volunteer/voluntour organization dedicated to promoting cultural awareness and sustainability. I’ve written about Globe Aware’s focus on volunteer support, feedback, and building a volunteer community, something I think other volunteer organizations should emulate. As an aside, I would like to commend Globe Aware for their stance against orphanage tourism, a big business that often results in the exploitation of the children it’s meant to support (more on this below).
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may know that I love it when the name of an organization embodies its mission. First, it just makes sense. I know exactly what to expect. Second, it’s a smart marketing move. A brand is only as good as its name. Earthwatch is a perfect example of good naming in action. It is an international non-profit organization dedicated to environmental research. With scientists, citizen activists, volunteers, students, and educators, Earthwatch works to improve scientific understanding: to monitor populations, protect threatened species and fragile habitats, and research the impacts of climate change. They use their knowledge to inspire change by working with local communities to support human populations while they protect wildlife and endangered ecosystems.
In the future, I think we’re going to see a world full of sustainable farms. Our current techniques are unsustainable. We deplete the soil with single-crop harvests. Year after year we grow corn on the same land and each year that land loses more of its vitality and biodiversity. As the microorganisms die, flooded by artificial fertilizers and pesticides, the land becomes increasingly barren. Eventually, that land becomes infertile and we move on, abandoning one wasted farm after another until we have nothing left. Barren soil is prone to erosion from wind and rain. As the last of the life-giving dirt is lost to runoff, the farm becomes a desert. This is how we will lose our green spaces, our food, and our future, unless we start farming responsibly. The Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute is doing just that.