If you’re new here (and most of you probably are because holy carp where did you all come from?!), you may not know that I’m not just some reclusive weirdo who’s disturbingly fixated on bugs and posts about them nonstop on the internets. I’m also a reclusive weirdo who crawls out of their hole on a regular basis to do nature-centered community outreach and citizen science projects in person where I talk to real people in the hopes that I can get them to look at the world just a little bit closer.
I can go on and on and on about this (and I can get REAL long winded let me tell ya whut). But there was one moment at one of my recent outreach events that summed it all up, and I managed to capture it.
The event was a Travis Audubon Sanctuary open house (they do Family Nature Days in the spring and fall at their Blair Woods Sanctuary, and they’re a TON of fun, check them out if you’re in Austin!). We had a great turnout, and we were packing up and getting ready to leave, while a few families stuck around to talk to volunteers and enjoy the sanctuary. Me getting ready to leave means releasing whatever bugs I caught there to show off. In this case, it was this Question Mark butterfly:
Believe it or not, not all butterflies will run away screaming when they see a human. This butterfly was especially docile, so when she wouldn’t fly away, I just had her step onto my finger so I could put away the enclosure and finish packing up. One of the kids who was still there saw the butterfly on my finger and asked if he could hold her. The kid was pretty young, but the crowds were gone, things were quiet, and I said, hey, why not. I think the parents were about to explain why my answer would be no. Instead, I asked him to hold out his finger.
The butterfly climbed right onto his finger, and he was so amazed that it really seemed like his brain had to totally reboot. Even though I told him that she was a very tame butterfly and he could still walk around, he stayed totally frozen and stared unblinkingly at this butterfly for minutes. This was a kid who had been excitedly running around and asking tons of questions and generally being a typical young human until this butterfly willingly walked onto his finger. In this moment, his entire worldview shifted.
I’ll never really know what kind of an impact I have on people through my outreach work (which includes this blog!), but I LOVE that I get to tell kids YES! when they are so used to hearing NO. I love when their parents get excited and pull out their phones to show me pictures and ask me “what was this thing?!” and I have no idea so we both geek out about how strange nature can be. I love when I go grocery shopping with caterpillars or chrysalids (can’t leave them in the car, they’ll cook!), and total strangers get super interested and ask about what I have and we end up talking about caterpillar poop and they DON’T end up thinking I’m super weird?
When I give my entomology lesson/talk, which I present to general audiences who are already interested in nature and conservation, but not necessarily about bugs, I include this slide:
Our planet is in a crisis. Species are going extinct. Ecosystems are disappearing. People like me, who are passionate about nature, need the average, exhausted, everyday person to care. And the way you get people to care: make them curious. Make them want to learn more. Say yes to kids. Be kind when correcting misconceptions. Show people something completely bizarre that happens in their yard every day.
When I show this slide, and point out that my flannel moth post has that many responses (it’s higher now, thanks y’all!) on a website predominantly used by teens and young adults, my audiences are astonished (many of them are older and retired, and think young people are stereotypically apathetic internet addicts). I tell them that “normal” people do care about nature and the environment, we just need to make it accessible.
Anyway this still ended up being longer than I wanted (but dammit I care about this!), but in summary I’m a real human™ who is exactly like you would probably imagine by going through this blog, except slightly shorter and a lot more sleep deprived.
Butterfly photos from May 26 (I SAID I WAS BEHIND jeez) / posted August 3, 2018