This afternoon at the dentist I had a “teachable moment”/sobering reminder of the steps that still need to be taken here, at home, to educate people about conservation and the environment in general.
My dentist causally asked me what I study, and I told him, “sea turtle biology and conservation.” He, obviously an educated person, asked me why I studied the conservation of sea turtles, in particular. He assumed that because they lived in the ocean, “where there is so much space” that they wouldn’t have any problem surviving. He was genuinely surprised to learn that they were endangered and asked, “do they have a large predator or something?” My answer, of course, was simple, “yes, humans.” I went on to briefly elaborate about how sea turtles, which breather air, like dolphins (a new fact for him as well, for both animals) can get caught and/or tangled in fishing gear and drown; they also eat a lot of plastic. I quickly gave them an anecdote of the plastic I had pulled out of over 80% of my turtles’ stomachs (publication and blog forthcoming), bottle caps, plastic bags etc. At this point he and the hygienist were genuinely interested and asked a few follow up questions:
Them: “They can’t pass the plastic? What happens?”
Me: “It can stop up their digestive tract, so they can’t eat enough actual food or absorb nutrients.”
Them: “They get caught in fishing gear? Like a person in the back of a boat that pulls the line up right away?”
Me: “No, like a big fishing boat, where they use large nets or long hooks that stay underwater for long periods of time. They can get tangled or caught and can’t breathe”
Them: “So, what do you do then, to help them?”
Me: “Well I, and many others, are working to figure out a way to balance the human use/need and the habitat use of the turtles”
Little did they know that another thing I do to help is share the problem with people, just like them. It may not have made a huge difference, my 5 minute talk with them today, but they learned something new today and awareness is the first step.
A mentor once told me,
“Even if you just reach one person, you can make a difference”
They will share their new knowledge with others and maybe reach one person too and hopefully the chain will continue.
While I am happy to have had this “teachable moment”, I wish I could have shared more with them, would have thought to recommend a book or resource, to tell them that they, even being here in Bryan/College Station are connected to the ocean and that their actions make a difference.
What do you say when you find yourself in a moment like this? Do you have go-to book recommendations if people are interested? Cool websites, blogs, movies? Pleas share them and I’ll compile them for us all to use/share when we can!