It has been an amazing couple of days with the sea turtles at TREE Foundation. I have had the immense honor of watching three sets of hatchlings head out to sea. The Olive Ridley sea turtle babies, small enough to catch under a coffee mug and practically weightless, use their innate senses to follow the light of the moon (or in this case flashlights) and the tilt of the earth as it meets the sea, to catch a wave. This wave that will push them out to sea, testing their brand new flippers, exposing them to a multitude of dangers. It is estimated that just one out of 100 hatchlings survives to adulthood. To get there, they must avoid being snatched up by the many predators of the sea and air, find good food sources, and steer clear of the nets and hooks of fisherman. Just one little turtle facing the whole ocean.
I won’t anthropomorphize about how brave they are, although it’s tempting. The thought of what they face would surely make any human stay buried beneath the sand. It is, however, a reminder of how much is lost when we look at other lives as less meaningful as our own, no big deal, just a turtle, dog, elephant, chicken. Despite the odds, despite all we have done to make the earth a more dangerous place for all other species, they continue to battle fiercely for their lives and for their families. Many species have lost this fight already, but others can be saved. The suffering of species that we use to satisfy our own desires can be relieved. But we must start seeing them as we see ourselves: as persons with the fighting desire to live, to love, to have peace and security.
When I look at the turtles currently in the care of TREE Foundation, I see persons who have overcome all the odds they faced as hatchlings and continue to overcome odds after losing limbs to propellers, swallowing our garbage, and getting tangled in old fishing nets. I see a history, some of which go back years before mine, others that might last years beyond mine. I see a life with meaning and purpose, a life that makes the earth a better place for other living beings, a life that is just as deserving as my own.
To borrow the title of TREE Foundation’s documentary: “Every turtle matters.” I expand this to “Everyone matters.” We all depend on one another. Be kind, be careful, live life in a way that is least damaging to other lives. Do you part, care for those around you, and empower others to follow your example. Together, we can make the world new again.