It was a sight to see this Endangered Species Day (May 20, 2016), as a crowd of San Diego city students gathered in Benbough Amphitheater at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to announce that the #StartWith1Thing Pledge Campaign has gathered thousands of San Diego student pledges in just a few short weeks. The mass of excited youngsters, led by San Diego Zoo Global Ambassador Rick Schwartz and his animal companions, shook the amphitheater with a mighty roar—echoing the lion roar heard by Dr. Harry Wegeforth that led him to start the Zoo back in 1916, and used today as the Zoo’s mantra in its fight to end extinction.
A special moment came when Max Guinn, the 15-year-old founder of the Kids Eco Club in San Diego, was awarded the Centennial Young Conservationist Scholarship Award by San Diego Zoo Global. The award comes with a plaque, a year membership to the Zoo and a $5,000 scholarship. Max, an avid conservationist, has worked since the age of 10 to equip youth leaders to lead a revolution to sustain the planet and its biodiversity. Besides the Kids Eco Club—which engages over 100,000 students annually through field trips, labs and exposure to top scientists—Max also co-founded Flashlight Foods, a kid-operated company that gives back to the planet. He blogs for the Huffington Post’s Science, Tech and Green sections; has met with United Nations leaders regarding sustainable development; and was a panelist in the 2015 Global Compassion Summit, alongside the 14th Dalai Lama. Max says his generation may be the last with any real hope of protecting the planet.
“I am grateful to be in such good company, as San Diego Zoo Global is a world leader in conservation science; and I support their efforts to engage my generation in the fight to end extinction,” said Max Guinn. “I love the ‘#StartWith1Thing’ campaign, because it’s not only the bold, large-scale actions that make a difference: It’s also the everyday small things, if done by enough of us that will sustain the planet. We need both.”
The #StartWith1Thing campaign began last year as part of a global social effort by Discovery Communications, seeking to unite the world by pledging simple lifestyle changes that can add up to big benefits for endangered species and the environment. Max was inspired and had the brilliant idea to bring this initiative to his peers in San Diego. Now, in collaboration with Discovery Education, Kids Eco Clubs, San Diego Unified School District, Birch Aquarium and San Diego Zoo Global, Max is helping to recruit students to fight the planet’s mass extinction crisis in a unique way. As part of the drive, each student pledges to revolutionize the way they treat the planet by changing at least one regular everyday habit that could help save different species. Habits such as using reusable bags, turning off the water while brushing your teeth, or using refillable water bottles can help save the lives of animals such as sea turtles and mountain yellow-legged frogs.
In addition to the pledge drive, a partnership between Discovery Education and educators allows San Diego students’ access to “Racing Extinction,” an award-winning documentary that is helping to inspire a global movement by exposing the harsh truths of extinction. “Racing Extinction” reveals how international wildlife trade creates markets at the expense of endangered animals, as well as other threats that drive extinction. Science-based lesson plans will inspire students to help tackle some of the world’s most time-sensitive conservation challenges.
“Discovery Education is proud to have partnered with the San Diego Unified School District, Kids Eco Club, San Diego Zoo Global and the entire community of San Diego on the ‘Racing Extinction’ project,” said Andrew Bradigan, regional vice president at Discovery Education. “Through this initiative, students not only learned more about the world around them, but were also challenged to examine the issues raised by this film, and find ways they can protect the environment and build a more sustainable future.”
To find out more about the Kids Eco Club and how to get involved with #StartWith1Thing, visit kidsecoclub.org/take-action. And to learn more about Discovery Channel’s “Racing Extinction,” go to racingextinction.com.