Growing up I spent a lot of time in nature and visiting nature. The effects it had on my personal belief systems have proved everlasting. I was fortunate enough to have parents and guidance that had experience in nature and fostered my curiosity. For some children they are not as lucky; children living in urban areas with little or no access to outdoor education and experiences can benefit greatly from zoos and aquariums. By fostering the initial spark of interest in nature and animals that we see so often in youth, zoos and aquariums offer a platform to breed cultures of care and conservation.
Connectedness is something all humans seek for when trying to form a bond with something. Can I relate to this? Or does this benefit me? Although it may sound extremely selfish, this is how humans base their decision making. Thinking back to the start of human nature, being anything but selfish could put one in great danger or even waiting to find out the better option of two solutions to a problem could put a person too far behind to ever recover. Thinking in present times one’s decision making could have altered a bit, but the basis of most people’s thinking will always revert back to these core principles of self-interest.
The environment as we know it today is made up from a number of contributors, including our land- and sea-faring counterparts. If we fail to conserve and protect their environments, even the ones that are untouched by us, it could cause irreversible damage to our planet and life as we know it today. This plays directly into our self-interest—in order to preserve ourselves we must preserve the planet as a whole. To take it a step further, not only do humans have a hard time finding interest in an issue they feel has no benefit to themselves, but even more so humans have a difficult time being persuaded to change an issue that they cannot see or experience firsthand.
Zoos and aquariums have the ability to bring that bit of nature right into our cities to be experienced for the first time by children or experienced over and over again by nature lovers. By adding our otherwise mostly invisible co-inhabitants to our neighborhoods in an educational and informative package like zoos and aquariums, it brings to life the issue of conservation to hundreds of thousands of curious visitors. Promoting lifelong awareness can be greatly impacted just by cultivating interest in visiting zoos and aquariums.
Research shows that after being presented with photos or videos depicting beautiful scenery, people are likely to donate to environmental causes. It is imperative that we continue to encourage reoccurring visits to our zoos and aquariums in order to bridge the divide between people and concern for the environment we live in. Without the help of these institutions bringing the ones we need to help the most to the foreground, the gap between our capacities for concern and doing what it will take to begin conservation for them will continue to widen.