While growing up, it was always difficult for me to watch or hear about people killing snakes simply out of fear. I remember my neighbor’s father killing a snake with a shovel right in front of me and my friends, and it broke my heart. My mother was always scared of snakes, too. I knew they were significant environmental contributors, but I always found it difficult to reason with people. As I grew older, I would make arguments with people about snakes not being harmful, their role in pest control, the legality of killing snakes (in some states it is illegal to kill snakes needlessly), and other arguments. When I went to college, I got a pet rat snake. I absolutely adore him, and I use him to teach others about snakes. When I brought him home, my mother even accepted him because she recognized my passion for these beautiful creatures. I have had opportunities for others to learn about snakes simply because they appreciated and accepted my love for my own personal snake. I realized that arguing with people does not change their mind. The only way to convince people that animals like snakes are important is to demonstrate passion in conversation and in action. People did not watch Steve Irwin because they all wanted to be conservationists – people watched Steve Irwin because they admired his passion. By drawing them in with his personability, he was able to teach them about apex predators that were otherwise feared. Because I experienced the difference in reception between impersonable preaching and personable teaching, I am able to make a larger impact. By learning to share passion instead of just knowledge, I have developed into a better animal ally and a personable teacher.
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