em·pa·thy (ˈempəTHē) / noun – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. “In empathy we feel what we believe are the emotions of another, which makes it both affective and cognitive by most psychologists. In this sense, arousal and empathy promote prosocial behavior as we accommodate each other to feel similar emotions. For social beings, negotiating interpersonal decisions is as important to survival as being able navigate the physical landscape. Emotions motivate individual behavior that aids in solving communal challenges as well as guide group decisions about social exchange.” “Empathy promotes pro social relationships, helps mediate aggression, and allows us to relate to others, all of which make empathy an important emotion among children.”Source: Wikipedia This week there has been a lot of talk on social media about the 2 young girls in Florida who tried not once but twice to burn a turtle alive and when unsuccessful stomped it to death. They posted the video to facebook and may now face multiple charges (Warning: Graphic Video). There are stories of abuses to dogs, cats, horses, snakes and so many other living creaters I could not event attempt to list them all Sadly, this is not the first case of cruelty to be brought to our attention. Laws to protect animals go back to 1868 in the USA and 1641 in Europe. ” British philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) argued, in Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693), that animals did have feelings, and that unnecessary cruelty toward them was morally wrong, but that the right not to be harmed adhered either to the animal’s owner, or to the human being who was being damaged by being cruel. Discussing the importance of preventing children from tormenting animals, he wrote: “For the custom of tormenting and killing of beasts will, by degrees, harden their minds even towards men.” Source: Wikipedia
In our modern world of technology we are separated further from nature than at any time in the history of the human race. Few young person’s can relate the hamburger or chicken fingers on their plate came from a living being. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a vegetarian – not even close. I am an avid outdoors woman. I hunt and fish, not for trophies or for “fun” but to fill my freezer with quality, organic meat. The first grocery store (as we know it ) did not open until 1916, less than 100 years ago. But I stray from our subject… Back in time when many children were raised in a more agricultural surrounding they learned firsthand an at an early age the circle of life from the animals in their care. They understood that on the farm the animals were tended to first. They experienced the harsh realities of life and death and even the subject we all want to avoid, they learned about sex/mating/breeding – however you want to word it. In our current world fewer and fewer children experience any of these natural process. Environmental Sciences in some classrooms is not even a “credit course” any longer. The connections between humans and nature seem to be taught to our children less and less. I wonder what it will be like 2 generation into the future? If we do not take the time now to connect our children, the children of this generation to the natural world, who else will? If they have no connect to the streams and wildflower and wildlife, will they vote to protect these places as we have done, or will our world piece by piece become a barren, desolate landscape?
We must nurture this connection between nature and our children. I am not saying all children should be taught to hunt and fish. But they should all understand the basic principles of land and wildlife management. How nature works, the only way they can learn this is first hand, through personal experience. You do not have to travel halfway across the country to accomplish this – you just have to start at your local park or zoo. Who has not felt a twinge of guilt looking at a magnificent creature at a zoo. Talk about this with your children. Why is the animal here? Is it facing extinction? Is it part of a breeding program? Give them the opportunities to make life long connections. I remember when my daughter was young I took her to the Jacksonville Zoo, of all the animals there, she made a connection with an ostrich. We talked for weeks after that trip about that bird. She got books from the school library on them and that sparked her interest in other animals. It only takes a spark… Connecting to other living creatures will lead to connections to their natural habitats. A person that can experience empathy feels a great loss when a supermarket chain comes in and builds a new store, paving over tunneling Gopher Tortoise (because it is cheaper to pay the fine than to have them relocated) or when they read a story about yet another dolphin or sea turtle that dies from ingesting plastic or is entangled in fishing line or fishnets.
Connecting to the creature and their habitat leads to the desire, the NEED, to make sure that these places are monitored and protected. The empathy we experience carries through to action, to conservation. It is the works we do that in the end connect us in even a stronger way to all that surrounds us. Through volunteering, experiencing and learning more about all that surrounds us and taking proper care to manage the wildlife, in these ever decreasing natural spaces, we can ensure that our children get to experience a piece of what we grew up loving. We can raise more caring children. No one enjoys being around the self-centered, uncaring individual who has no regard for others around them, let us not raise our children to be that person. Let us raise our children to “Tread Lightly and Leave No Trace“. Be part of the “10 million Kids Outdoors” or “Take Me Fishing” movement. Get your girlfriends together for a BOW workshop. Aid returning soldiers on a outdoors adventure with Freedom Hunters, Hunters Helping Soldiers or Wounded Warriors Projects (nothing heals the soul like time spent in nature). Get connected, set down the cell phones, tablets and gaming devices. Get connected to the natural circle of life. Help your children understand that the games they are playing are not what real life is. Take them to a farm, a park, Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon – anywhere – just get them outside. Walk, run, PLAY with them, ask questions, be silent, and listen to them.
The first connection needs to be made with you. You must feel empathy on even a most basic level to teach it. It is up to us to make sure we will leave the world a better place for our grand-children and the generations to follow. Unsure how to get started experiencing the outdoors in a safe and enjoyable manor, give us a call! At Not a Clue Adventures we are there for you. We provide guided outdoor adventures, gear and activities that will get you and your family connected to the outdoors. We cater to all skill levels. From a single family to social gatherings, let us help you learn more about the wonderful outdoor resources we have here in Central Florida!