Over the course of the past year, the southern resident orca pods that frequent Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands have added to their number. Nine baby orcas have joined the group, a ten-percent gain for a population that is always just a few bad news cycles away from collapse. Of course, the same problems and environmental pressures that were in place before this mini-boom are still there and just because there’s been an increase in births doesn’t mean that everything is looking dandy.
But to miss the hope that news like this carries with it is also a mistake. We get used to predictions of catastrophe and as environmental educators, we tend to dwell on the negative sometimes because, well, there is so much of it. It is worth the time, however, to contemplate the optimism that comes with any new birth and to share the positive developments we see with our students. These baby orca belong to the future as much as to the present and to point out to students that their futures are intertwined with these new arrivals is an essential element in building their relationships with nature. Helping the next generation find their hope is part of why this job is so important.