One wild time

One wild time

Q&A with do-gooder-er Peter Kendall.

Earth Rangers calls itself the Kids’ Conservation Organization—and with nearly 120,000 members in the 8 to 12-year-old range (a number that’s growing by two to three hundred a day) they’re definitely living up to their name.

Through Earth Rangers, kids have helped breed Oregon spotted frogs, restored American badger habitat, protected pollinators and become outdoor explorers and shoreline savers. “Kids join Earth Rangers to help protect animals,” says executive director Peter Kendall. “They can pick a specific project and we report back to them on what’s been achieved with their help.”

We caught up with Peter to find out what keeps the kids—and him—motivated to bring back the wild.


XOCIAL:
Why Kids?
PETER:
We need a public that’s more engaged and the best place to start is with kids,
especially with the changing demographics in Canada. Families are coming from countries that may not have a strong focus on conservation and, let’s face it, they may have a lot more pressing concerns when they arrive here. Projects have to be done with mom or dad or a caregiver, so the adults get exposed, too.
XOCIAL:
Is there a moment when you knew it was all worth it?
PETER:
We started operations in 2004 and it took us a few years to figure out our direction. In 2008 we did a large study with kids to see what would motivate them to be involved with environmental issues and number one was having a direct impact on animals. Turning off the lights is good but it’s not enough. In 2010 we launched Bring Back the Wild and membership went through the roof. It was a big moment. Then this year we did an Ipsos Reid survey of kids who were our members and those who weren’t. We found out our kids feel significantly more confident and optimistic about their ability to make a difference. And it doesn’t stop at animals—it extends to all environmental and social issues.
XOCIAL:
What can we, as adults, do to help?
PETER:
Part of the message we’re sending to kids is you don’t have to rely on adults—you can make a difference yourself. I guess if we had a message for adults, it would be to role model. Because we can’t just leave it up to the kids.
XOCIAL:
Is there a memorable Earth Rangers story for you?
PETER:
One girl completed some missions, fundraised for us—including for beluga whales—and then went to Ottawa to tell parliament about belugas. To me, that’s a pretty amazing story. She educated her friends and classmates and then took the message to the politicians and met the prime minister. Another girl was only four when she started a community cleanup that ended up being picked up across Canada. There are so many of these stories—you can read them on the Super Rangers page of earthrangers.com
XOCIAL:
Is there a person or experience that had a big influence on you?
PETER:
There was a stat in Paul Hawken’s book the Ecology of Commerce, something like if every household in the U.S. changed one light bulb to compact fluorescent, the U.S. could almost overnight become energy self-sufficient. I just thought, geez, here are these huge issues but a lot of the solutions may be very simple and doable. The book inspired my wife and me to build our first house—it was before green building became a big thing and it cost us about a dollar a day to operate. And speaking of green building, the Earth Rangers 66,000 square foot facility in Woodbridge is the highest rated LEED platinum building in Canada. I did eventually get the chance to meet Paul Hawken—it was fun to meet one of my heroes.
XOCIAL:
What’s something you’re thankful for?
PETER:
The obvious one of course is being thankful to all the kids who are members of Earth Rangers—and not only because of the difference they’re making in the world but because of the joy it brings me every day. It makes my career so fulfilling.
XOCIAL:
What’s a book you’re reading right now?
PETER:
I just finished Unbroken
XOCIAL:
If you could have lunch with anyone—alive or dead, real or fictitious—who would that be?
PETER:
It’s not related in any way to what I do but I find Churchill a fascinating guy. My grandfather worked for Churchill during the war. I didn’t really get a chance to know my grandfather because his Parkinson’s was so advanced, but at age 25 he was in charge of air reconnaissance. Actually, I’m going to change my answer and say I’d like to have lunch with my grandfather!

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