“What are some reasons an animal might migrate?” I asked a class of third graders at the beginning of a recent whale talk for Little Gray’s Great Migration.
Several hands shot up. I called on a girl who was practically jumping out of her seat. “Because humans are destroying their habitat so they have to leave,” said the girl, her eyes wide.
“Yeah, there’s too much pollution!” chimed in the boy next to her.
I’ve had many experiences like this: I’ll ask kids a question and the first responses I get are about habitat destruction and pollution.
It’s fantastic that kids today are so aware of the state of our environment; their deep worries and passion for the planet give me a lot of hope. But of course it’s also incredibly sad that learning about nature and wildlife as a kid these days means you have to talk about a lot of dark stuff.
That’s why I always share with kids some ways they can directly help make things better for gray whales and the ocean they live in every day.
Here are my top three:
- Saving energy and resources. This includes turning the lights off when you’re not in the room, recycling, and walking or riding your bike more often to get places. All these actions help fight climate change – the biggest threat to gray whales. As ocean waters get warmer from climate change, they sustain less amphipods, which is the main food source of gray whales.
- Picking up litter on the sidewalk and beach. This keeps trash out of the ocean so marine animals don’t accidentally eat it and get sick, or get hurt from trash tangled around their bodies. Don’t miss International Coastal Cleanup Day in September, too.
- Being sure your family buys and eats only seafood that is certified as sustainable. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide helps you choose seafood that's fished or farmed in ways that protect sea life and habitats.
Here are some of my favorites (many are national nonprofit organizations; a few are California-specific):