Educating Others

I have recently been exposed to a lot of ignorance of, and apathy towards wild places and wild lives; and now I find myself asking the question of how I can educate or inspire others to heighten their awareness of the natural phenomena around them and to cultivate a deeper appreciation for their wild neighbors. I’m sure that this is a question that many users of iNaturalist are grappling with, so I wanted to post this here so that we can share ideas about educating and inspiring others.

I have a neighbor who has a massive lawn, yet she berated me for harvesting common milkweed as food, because I was “taking from the monarch butterflies”, and yet she has not a single milkweed plant for every place on her property where they could grow is mowed half an inch high! She later decided to put in a fence around her lawn, and I warned her that there were catbird nests in the shrubs that were to be cleared, she said that she “would never get in the way of any bird”, and yet the nests were destroyed when the shrubs were cleared and the fence was put in anyway. This is an example of someone who I try to educate, yet she doesn’t seem to take much away from these discussions despite claiming to be very concerned with the environment. I think it is some combination not knowing and not wanting to know that drives people to do really bad things while thinking that they are doing good. How do you work with people like this?


I try to just encourage the positive (e.g. caring about Monarchs) and build on it. Maybe give her a butterfly field guide along with a native plant book and see if her interests expand naturally.


In my opinion, it is almost impossible to educate someone who is not ready to be educated.


Yes, quite true, unfortunately. Welcome to the forum!

I’ve often found that a direct, hands-on approach is the most effective. It’s not enough to simply tell people about something, you also have to show them, and sometimes the best way to do that is to be forward and make the experience tangible.

I remember one time I was out fishing and a group of kids about 14-16 had snagged a nonvenomous plain-bellied water snake on their lure, and they proceeded to stamp it to death out of fears it could be venomous. I chastised them for it and unhooked the dead snake myself, then made a point of showing them the diagnostic features of the species, and how to differentiate them from others. It was then I made the point to not kill snakes and highlight how important they are to the environment.

Instead of a sermon, I gave them a learning experience, and I at least hope they got something out of that.


There are a few books that I have listened to that have aided me in engaging others; How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is the first and the second is Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss.

Subtly showing people the ways their own opinions contradict each other can lead them to deciding to change on their own.

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Very few people want to be ‘‘educated.’’ You’ll just get a ‘who do you think you are’ response. When I try to get people interested in stream conservation I don’t educate them, I just invite them to come along for a bug collection or survey. If you want her to plant some milkweed, try offering her some milkweed to plant.


You could gift her a milkweed plant. :wink:

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I garden for biodiversity. We inherited an (exotic) carob tree, which is about 20 years old. One of the very few places for birds to roost overnight in our neighbourhood. We also put out seed each morning. Not an evangeliser, I do what I do, because I must.

Husband was chatting to our neighbour who has a little girl just turned two. That little girl comes out every morning to see our birds her mama says. That gives me hope!


That is so sweet!!! You are making a great difference. :-)


There are 2 separate issues, you cannot use one too justify the other.

  1. Is it better for the environment to eat milkweed or to leave it to the butterflies?
  2. the neighbor mows too short.


  • I would leave plenty of milkweeds for the butterflies, and show appreciation for her concern for butterflies…
  • I would explain that mowing high saves water, saves money, saves time unless there is a a specific and local reason not to do it. I would explain that edging only occasionally gives habitat and food to butterflies and reduces the workload.

I found out that bringing up savings and workload concerns works well with people who don’;t understand environmental issues,

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