One of my classmates asked me this when my class was participating in a laboratory exercise at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I was perusing the many bird specimens and having the time of my life. Thanks to my grandfather, I have always been a lifelong birder that appreciated the beauty of birds and nature. Spending time at the Cornell Lab’s headquarters is like entering a historical wonderland of bird natural history.
As I was (figuratively) drooling over the specimens and telling one of my classmates about the history of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), one of my other classmates was clearly surprised to hear me discussing natural history and ecological facts. These are two areas of study that are seriously lacking in veterinary school, and we hardly ever talk about them. Conservation and ecology (much to my dismay) seem to take the backseat to many other aspects of a veterinary medical education. This makes sense, as we have plenty of traditional medicine that is extremely important and that we must know. My surprised classmates asked me, “Are you a wildlife person?” This hit a very obvious idea that had been brewing in my head for a while. I thought that perhaps this is the source of our world’s ecological crisis.
Shouldn’t we all be wildlife people? Where has this disconnect arisen from?
The polarization of interests and professional commitments in life makes me cringe. I wholeheartedly understand and encourage people to develop their own interests, but having one interest does not discredit important knowledge in another field. Just because I enjoy livestock medicine does not mean that feline vaccines are not important to understand. Just because I enjoy clinical practice and client communication does not mean that I can discredit the importance of laboratory research. And similarly, just because some of us may not work directly with wildlife does not give us a pass to assume we are disconnected from wildlife and our environment.
We are all connected to wildlife, 24/7, during every moment of our lives. Whether or not we acknowledge this is up to us.
The steps to do so can be simple. Look up where your coffee comes from and what coffee cultivation practices the company uses. Check where you get your meat and vegetables from and see what farming practices those companies use. Do they use a lot of pesticides? Do they practice sustainable agriculture? All of these actions are within our grasp. It is simply a matter of if we choose to address them or not.