For the last 35 years, I have lived the life of a college professor and high school teacher in the beautiful city of Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico located some 250 miles due south of Tucson, Arizona along the eastern shore of the Sea of Cortez. One of my greatest pleasures and privileges is being an environmental educator working with students who are in their last year of high school as they get ready for new life adventures as university students in Mexico or in the USA.
One of my projects is to oversee the “Green Team” where my students teach primary grade students about the flow of energy in Nature. The Green Team emphasizes that everything in our world is connected and interdependent. Through the group of 3rd grade to 8th grade students, my high school students are building their own legacy as effective stewards of Nature. The Green Team “classroom” for these young students is a beautiful beach and estuary that is part of the shoreline that defines the Sea of Cortez. The beach and the estuary is a legally protected bird sanctuary that is governed by conservation regulations that are administered both by the Mexican state of Sonora and the Republic of Mexico.
This idyllic location is very close to the village of San Carlos — a location that attracts both Mexican and American/Canadian (Anglo) tourists. There are two large condominium projects just outside of the boundary for the protected area. Dogs and other human pets are prohibited inside the protected area. There are four large signs in Spanish and English that prohibit dogs. Dogs are considered an ecological threat because the large group of visiting migrating birds view dogs as predators. Feeding and breeding cycles of these birds are disturbed by dogs. Some dogs also chew the legs of these birds. Also, there is a growing number of sea turtles who now lay their eggs in the protected area. Dogs (and humans) invade these nests.
During the times that our Green Team “school” on the beach is operating, my students are trained to approach people who illegally walk their dogs on the beach and respectfully offer some environmental education about why a dog is an ecological threat. Over 80% of the time, my students succeed in convincing the dog walker to leave the restricted area with their animal. But, the other 20% of the dog walkers start arguing because they believe that are “entitled” to be on this beach with their dog despite the signs that are posted. The usual response by the dog walker is that they have been visiting San Carlos for 15 years, live in the condominiums, and are not going to change (in other words, they are “entitled” ). Some of these condominium dwellers have organized themselves to circumvent the rules that govern the protection of the beach and the estuary. (another act of “entitlement”).
Recently, one condominium dweller approached my group of students. I will call her “Jane Doe”. Jane declared her “respect” for my students then went on to explain why dog walkers are necessary to keep the beach clean. Her logic escapes me because a dog does not clean the beach. Instead, it threatens the wildlife of the area. At this point in their conversation with Jane, my students disbanded to successfully engage and turn back four other groups of dog walkers. Jane Doe then reconnected with my group of students to declare that, once they leave the beach, she and others will be illegally walking their dogs again in the restricted area.
Acts of Human “Entitlement” Damage The Environment And Disrespect Society
Sadly, Jane Doe and some other visitors to San Carlos commit both ecological sins and cultural sins. They show disrespect to their host country by violating the laws of their host country, disrespect to their host community, disrespect to my students, and disrespect to a group of knowledgeable scientists who have created guiding regulations in order to preserve an important ecosystem. There is no respect. There is only the ecological damage caused by acts of “entitlement” by some very arrogant adult humans.
Entitlement is defined as the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.The “entitled” groups of the world come in packages of all sizes, From the Jane Does on the beach at San Carlos to global corporations. These groups see themselves as deserving of privileges and special treatment that results in damage to the environment in which all life, both plants and animals, depend upon to exist.
The true story of Jane Doe illustrates an important point. The “entitled” groups of our world, both human adults and human organizations, have created a worldwide epidemic of entitlement that has resulted in the youth of this world inheriting a damaged environment on our Earth that has put BOTH humanity and all of Nature at risk. The most common example is climate change where the “entitled” are large corporations and climate deniers who believe that climate change consciousness is destructive to their economic well-being. The entitled groups hold a destructive state of mind that:
- Publicly projects an erroneous attitude of entitlement,
- Robs from future generations
- Has no consciousness for Nature and Her creatures.
- Fails to recognize that Nature is our home and the home of all living things.
- Has no sense that we humans must work to preserve our home.
Acts of Human “Entitlement” Endanger The Future Of Our Young People
Sadly, these “entitled” people and organizations possess an environmentally destructive worldview. This means that the future of our youth is in doubt. It is our youth who must take some form of action to stop the potential environmental destruction. In the case of Jane Doe and her actions for example, the youth of San Carlos can solicit the local government agency and volunteer to help with the problem. In addition, since the citizens of Guaymas are very proud of their estuary, the students could solicit public support by writing an article for the local newspaper.
Fortunately, the youth of the world are beginning to rise up as they make moves to protect their future and the future of those who they love. The most famous example is the work of Greta Thunberg . I salute you Greta !!! Time Magazine has made a very wise choice for their “Person Of The Year” You are an inspration to all young people and hopefully to those adults who need to eliminate their sense of entitlement. In addition to Greta, the Internet is ripe with many examples of the youth of the world protesting the destructive behavior of the more senior members of the world who feel “entitled” to do whatever suits them.
For Your Further Consideration
This essay, and other essays in this web site, present ideas to environmental educators and all stewards of Nature about ecoliteracy and legacy. The emphasis is on two key ideas:
- Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms energy. The key to an active ecoliteracy that results in a healthy environment for all life on earth is the building of a systems view of life into the minds and hearts of humanity, This worldview includes the fact that all of Nature is interconnected and interdependent.
- Environmental education is not simply offering facts. Environmental education must be hands-on and place-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become a consciousness in the minds and hearts of our youth. Environmental education must include the the passing of this consciousness to future generation.
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My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.