Ernie Allison loves nature. More specifically, he loves birds and wants to teach others how to appreciate them, too. To help further this mission, he writes birdfeeders.com, provider of hummingbird feeders.
As children, one of the rules of every classroom and situation was respect. We were told to respect our teachers, our parents, our peers, and ourselves. We were told to leave things as good as or better than we found them in order to respect our environment.
One thing that may not have been emphasized as much is to respect animals as well. We might have gotten a general “wildlife” feel from that environment rule, but no specific “respect all living creatures” tenant.
One of the reasons that children are recommended to have pets is to improve their relationship with people. When you have a pet, you must care for it and interpret its needs. The same goes for people around us. We need to care for those in our lives, and to do that we must interpret their needs.
There are other juxtapositions in the relations of people and animals. In literature and film, animals are often introduced in order to bring more humanity to a situation. In many an action film, people are slaughtered mercilessly, but the scene where the dog dies is deliberately a tear jerker. In order to make a character more sympathetic, they will likely have an animal accompany them. For some reason, animals bring out our humanity.
Because of this, it is important to intentionally make respecting wildlife a deliberate part of our lives, and to teach our children to do the same. Here are some ways to do so.
Get Out There
You can’t very well learn to respect animals if you’re never exposed to them, can you? And the family beagle is one thing, but there is something special about meeting animals on their own turf, where they were intended to be.
Of course, there are a lot of precautions to be taken in the wild for both you and the animals. If you’re out hiking, beware of bears, dear, and other wild creatures. Even animals that are not predators can hurt you out of panic if caught off guard. And just like when you’re at the zoo, don’t feed the animals. Not only do you not want to cause animals to be dependent on humans, or not be wary of them (causing them to be easier targets for hunters), but the food you would give them probably isn’t healthy for a human constitution, let alone an animal body not used to it.
There are a lot of ways to safely enjoy wildlife. Hiking and camping are the most popular and obvious choices. There are a lot of different types of camping: trailers, tents, yurts, and just sleeping under the stars. You can choose the amount of the modern day that you take with you. If you’re up to it, try to experience nature as purely and unaffected by human technology as possible.
As I write this, it is snowing outside and I realize that now may not be the time to be promoting the outdoors. Most of us want to be snuggling up inside as much as possible. But if you bundle up properly, nature has a lot to offer in the winter. Though a lot of the animals are holed up as well, some of them are still quite alert, on the lookout for much needed food. It can be very magical to watch small animals lope through the snow. Winter hikes, snow shoeing, and cross country skiing can all be great winter nature activities, provided of course that you take the proper safety precautions.
Sometimes we don’t have the time to get away from our homes to experience nature. Luckily, bringing nature to us can benefit the earth as much as it benefits us. By planting native plants and providing other natural food sources, we can attract native species to our landscape and encourage the local ecosystem to flourish.
Research what plants are native to your area and what animals are attracted to them. Birds, squirrels, and many types of insects are the most likely creatures you’ll see in your yard, but depending on your surroundings, you may see deer, rabbits, and other wildlife as well. You’ll also want to consider what to do if you don’t want these critters nibbling on your garden. Pesticides are never a good answer, but certain garden setups can discourage unwanted trespassers. There are a lot of articles with advice on feeding birds and other animals.
Attracting animals to your yard, especially birds, can have a lot of benefits to you. Your yard gets some natural biodiversity, and you get the opportunity to see and photograph nature’s creatures up close and personal. Just seeing squirrels playing in the yard or birds at the feeder can bring a smile to an otherwise dreary day.
Minimizing Your Impact
A big part of respect is consideration. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our busy lives that we forget we aren't the only beings on this earth. We go through our consumerism-driven lives without thinking of the effect it has on the world around us. Simply stopping to pick up litter or taking the time to compost instead of filling the landfills can do great wonders to minimize our negative impact on the planet. By taking the time to consider other people, animals, and just the earth in general, you can show the most respect of all.