Conservationist and television host Jeff Corwin spoke to a packed audience at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Wednesday night.
Best known for his crazy and daring antics in the wild, Jeff Corwin gave his audience at MCLA an inside look at what inspired him to work with animals and the environment. Corwin recalled the day he became a naturalist. He was a kid rolling over a log when he found a snake that bit him on the arm. Ben Lamb is a 2007 MCLA graduate who majored in biology and environmental studies.
“Being able to hear someone speak so candidly about all the stuff that’s going on in the world and being able to think through that,” Lamb said. “It really kind of sparked more in thinking of how I can be more involved locally.”
Corwin pinpointed the day he became a conservationist. It was the day he saw his neighbor kill a snake, and realized good people make bad decisions. Corwin shared tales from his time working on the Jeff Corwin Experience and Ocean Mysteries which airs on ABC Saturday mornings.
Beyond wowing and entertaining the crowd, Corwin was frank regarding the state of the natural environment today. He says his life completely changed when he became a father, transitioning to a conservationist for his daughters and future generations. He says the world today is experiencing a new kind of species extinction resulting from habitat loss, climate change, pollution, species exploitation and an unsustainable growth of a human population set to reach 9.5 billion within 20 years. Corwin says the world loses a species every 20 minutes. He highlighted the extinction of types of frogs which we draw important medicines from to treat cancer, Parkinson’s disease and other sicknesses. These realizations were a shock to people like Lamb.
“It’s kind of terrifying to say the least to think that this all going on and whether we can change it or not and redirect our course so we can make it positive,” he said. “Who knows? But I guess we have to try.”
Corwin says a large part of the problem lies with a new generation growing up without a connection to nature. Jacob Keplinger is the band director at Hoosic Valley High School and was in the audience.
“I was one of those kids that had to come inside when they rang the bell,” Keplinger said. “We were outside all day, every day, all summer and it was hard to get me inside even when it was raining. My kids don’t do that.”
Crysta Cheverie is a sophomore majoring in biology at MCLA. She says she grew up watching Corwin and credits him for her interest in becoming an exotic animal veterinarian.
“I definitely see it within my own generation to an extent,” Cheverie said. “I see a lot of people who are plugged in and tuned out.”
Lamb says technology can be a double-edged sword.
“I think people are growing up attached to technology a little bit more now, well a lot of bit more now,” Lamb said. “Even cell phone usage and I’m notorious for it too. You’re taking Instagram photos while you’re watching Jeff Corwin talk about the environment and being outside more. I think that’s a challenge where technology is a great thing for us, but it’s also a great way for us to not interact with our world.”
Yet Corwin says there are success stories that can be seen in the resurgence of wolves, elk and buffalo in places like Yellowstone National Park. He says people can make a difference by watching what types of products they buy and getting involved in local organizations. Lamb says he was inspired by the experience.
“We are in the Berkshires,” he said. “It’s one of the most beautiful places in the country. People come here to go to resorts and vacation and yet we get to live here. I don’t know that we necessarily appreciate that as much as we could all the time.”