#925 Wildlife as teachers

Sloth at Wildlife Associates

This sloth is one of many animal teachers at Wildlife Associates; photo from their Facebook page

Bears, crocodiles, mountain goats and owls are among the teachers at Wildlife Associates in Half Moon Bay, California. Steve Karlin founded the sanctuary in 1980, with the vision of helping humans “to better perceive their relationship with the living world.”

The environmental educator started taking reptiles to school assemblies. The demand for his interactive, whole-brain teaching grew. Karlin added more animals to his sanctuary and more professionals (wildlife specialists, naturalists and environmental educators) to his staff. After 20 years of operating on a piece of land donated by a ranch in Pacifica, they moved to Half Moon Bay.

Animal sanctuaries around the globe do extraordinary work, ensuring the safety and well being of animals who have been injured or mistreated or in some way run afoul of human insensitivity to their needs. What moves me about Wildlife Associates is Karlin’s spiritual connection with the animals. His deep love and respect, his willingness to let wildlife take the lead in forging connections with him move him to the forefront in educating us two-leggeds about the natural world we are so bent on destroying.

When he was awarded the Frost & Sullivan Institute’s 2013 Visionary Innovation Award, he told the audience:

The root cause of environmental degradation is directly linked to people’s perceptions about living things, our interdependence on natural systems and the vital importance of biodiversity. What matters more than becoming aware through information, is the act of becoming aware through forming relationships with living things. In the process of forming these relationships, we begin to see nature as more than just a backdrop to the human drama. nature becomes alive, new perceptions about life unfold, and a new world awaits.

It makes so much sense to think about environmental protection in terms of our relationships with living things. If we love and connect with the animals and plants around us, surely we will learn to treat our surroundings with more profound respect. Perhaps we will even come to recognize the small place we occupy, both geographically and historically, on this beautiful planet and give more thought to our place within the web of life.

Years ago, a ram saved my life so the story of Steve Karlin’s connection with Susie Bear and of the bear’s soul meeting with a third-grade child reached deep into my spirit. If you have time to read only one thing today, make it Anne Veh’s interview, in which Karlin tells the story. It gives me hope.

You can follow Wildlife Associates on Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks to DailyGood for posting the interview with Karlin.

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