Nature, wildlife, animals, and environmental awareness were a natural part of my life for as long as I can remember.
I was growing up reading Gerald Durrell’s books; with my family going every weekend on long hikes in the surrounding woods and mountains; and taking home every kinds of stray, wounded or abandoned animals from fallen, injured nestlings to baby bunnies thrown out after Easter (I have to admit though that our parents weren’t always completely enthusiastic about this habit…).
Through this connection with nature and animals, being aware of the impacts our everyday life and human activity in general has on our environment became also a part of our consciousness: my sister and I learned at a very young age about issues like the diminishing rainforests and the increasing pollution of our oceans, and about how to do our best to lessen or avoid the harm we cause to our planet.
And I remember that even as a kid I was constantly stunned – and enraged – by how little the vast majority of our peers, their parents and our teachers knew and cared about these things. I remember a particular conversation I had as a teenager trying to explain the importance of preserving the Amazon forest to my friends and I remember how they dismissed my reasoning labeled as naive, unimportant and exaggerated.
More than 20 years later, as humankind almost succeeded to literally smother a whole planet into its waste, with desperate warnings about global warming and plastic pollution screamed at us from the media, and internet petitions circling on Facebook, one would think this behavior has generally changed.
Well, it hasn’t. Although there has been some advancement regarding environmental awareness and there are more and more people who do everything and beyond to save and protect what is still left of the planet, most people I know aren’t even willing to collect their waste selectively.
I don’t get this attitude, I never will. I could go on for pages about the reasons, but it doesn’t lead anywhere. I don’t know if being appreciative of the beauty and diversity of our planet and its wildlife or feeling responsible for the harm we cause to other living beings can be taught – I can’t imagine my sister or I could have turned out any other way, and I know a lot of people who didn’t have the kind of family background we had growing up and still think the same way as we do.
My niece is about 10 years old; she loves animals and nature, knows a lot about wildlife conservation and environmental issues and does what she can on her level. But most of her friends and classmates (and their parents and teachers…) have basically no idea or just don’t think these things are important – same story again. And I see that most of the kids would be inherently interested and would care but with the practically non-existent school education about these subjects and without proper behavior patterns from the parents it’s a lost case.
It has been my conviction for a long time that making environmental consciousness a fundamental part of education at school in every country would be crucial – but I‘m not in a position to achieve this. So – as I’m working partly in graphic design – I created my poster series about endangered and extinct animals. My main intention was to try to give a useful tool to help dedicated parents, teachers or communities who’d like to do something to get the kids’ attention and get them involved – and maybe, hopefully, their parents too (yes, I’m still naive…).
The poster series features 12 endangered and 12 already extinct animals. It’s not a random collection: I selected the species very thoughtfully to give the opportunity to cover as many aspects of environmental issues and wildlife conservation as possible. With the help of the posters the kids can learn about these animals and on their example it’s easy to talk about a wide range of topics: about the impacts of pollution and global warming; about how human activity like agriculture, deforestation, building dams and roads etc. changes the habitat of animals; about how overfishing and industrial fishing like netting kills marine wildlife; about poaching and holding wild animals captive for the sake of human entertainment or hobbies; about the vulnerability of islands to invasive species; about the utmost importance of clear waters; and about general things like how an ecosystem works, how can the tiniest element of a system be as significant as the biggest, and why it is so important to maintain the balance.
And, of course, about the possibilities of wildlife conservation and preserving or restoring the health of our environment: everyday acts like conscious buying choices, reducing plastic waste, recycling and sparing resources, using renewable energy; scientific methods from inventing non-polluting or biodegradable materials to resurrecting already extinct or critically endangered species by captive breeding programs and cloning.
The posters portray a wide range and diversity of species: mammals, birds, fishes, insects; amazing, cute, weird or cool animals; well known, emblematic and relatively unknown species; endemic and global species; species of islands and continents, oceans, seas and rivers, forests and grasslands, mountains and lowlands; recently and hundreds of years ago extinct animals from all around the planet.
The abbreviation and year under the name refers to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List category of the species: EX – extinct, CR – critically endangered, EN – endangered.
Whether I believe my idea could work, and 12 images could really make any difference?
I don’t know – it’s just a tool, and without dedicated people who put their time, efforts and knowledge in using these posters they are just decoration. But even then, if a kid spends every day in a classroom with these posters on the wall it’s more likely s/he will pay attention and start to ask questions…I think at this point the only chance we have is to make sure that future generations are brought up with an attitude that makes sure they are precisely and painfully aware of the consequences of their everyday acts, that the human race is part of the intricate ecosystem of the Earth, and that each and every individual is personally responsible for the future our planet has – or doesn’t have.
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