Put Your Brilliant Ideas to Good Use . . .for the Animals

By Paula Fitzsimmons

If you’re a member of the animal or eco protection movement, you already know about the mountains of problems we face. There are no shortage of them, either – the sixth great extinction, deforestation, climate change, industrial exploitation, companion animal overpopulation, loss of coral reefs, to name a few. It’s disconcerting. . . downright overwhelming when you take time to really think about it.

Which is why news about people working towards solutions gives me a sense of hope. Take the recent Outside magazine article about marine biologist Sylvia Earle, for instance. Dr. Earle and her colleagues have been warning us for decades about the tolls pollution, overfishing, mining, and climate change have taken on marine environments.

So that she repeated as much in the article, I wasn’t surprised. What really caught my eye was mention of Hope Spots, Dr.Earle’s initiative to put a halt to trash dumping, drilling, and other exploitative activities, in designated marine areas. I love it!

Forest leaf

Problem-solvers in action

Dr. Earle is not the only individual or organization involved in notable problem-solving work, either. Consider some of these people and their projects . . .

• Crafters including Katie Deline-Ray, knits & crochets cozy nests for injured wildlife. (The wildlife center in my area recruits volunteers to make these. Maybe yours does, too?)

• Scientists at The University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology are using elephant DNA analyses to determine locations of poaching hot spots in Africa.

• Rainforest Connection is a nonprofit that uses recycled cell phones to monitor illegal logging activity of rainforests.

Wild African Elephant
• The Beagle Freedom Project (a nonprofit that has championed rights for laboratory beagles) also created Cruelty-Cutter, an app that lets consumers use a smartphone to scan an item’s barcode and quickly determine if it’s cruelty-free.

• The Elephant Action League created WildLeaks, a whistleblower website allowing people to anonymously report wildlife crimes.

• Wildlife biologist Rich Mason created FrogLog, a gadget that helps frogs and other animals escape unharmed, from chemical-laden swimming pools.

These inventions and ideas differ from each other in that they require different sets of skills, whether creative, scientific, or technical.

But there is also a unifying theme: Someone identified a problem, and found a creative way to solve it.

Forest leaf

Which specific problems can you solve?

In order to develop a solution, you first need to understand the problem. So let me ask you this: What issues are you passionate about? Are there any stories that you find yourself gravitating towards, or that tug at your emotions the most?

Once you’ve identified the problem you want to tackle, think of ways you can improve the situation.

If you need a jumpstart, the following exercise may help. For each problem below, ask yourself: What can I create that would improve upon the situation?

Your answers don’t have to be perfect.

Problem #1: The great apes – chimps, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans – face extinction within decades.

Your solution: ______________________________________________________

Problem #2: There is a growing number of feral cats living in your community.

Your solution: ______________________________________________________

Problem #3: There is an increase in the number of plastic shopping bags making their way into your local waterways, which are having an impact on marine life.

Your solution: ______________________________________________________

Forest leaf

When you get stuck

If you’re stuck for ideas (and we all get stuck), you can try a technique such as mind mapping. There are software programs available, which I have not yet tried . . .paper and pencil work just fine for me.

You may also want to grab a few supporters to help you brainstorm ideas – author Barbara Sher refers to these sessions as Idea Parties.

Valerie Young’s Changing Course website also has lots of useful information (both free and paid) on thinking creatively to find satisfying work. Her article about brainstorming for the perfect business idea is one good place to start. (Please know that I’ve been following Valerie Young’s work for years. Still, Changing Course is an affiliate partner, which means when you purchase something from her website as a result of clicking on this link, I will earn a commission.)


Your solution or invention may take any of the following forms . . .or maybe you can think of another brilliant idea:

• a craft item

• gadget or other invention

• phone app or software

• website

• scientific application

• a small (even one-person) nonprofit

Your creation doesn’t have to be super complex, either. Sometimes simplicity works best.

Forest leaf

Turning your ideas into paid work

Once you’ve decided on the issue you’d like to work on and have a sense of the solution you’d like to create, where do you go from there?

• You can find a position with a company or organization that’s already working on innovations, and become part of that team. Not everyone has the temperament for inventing or creating, and that’s ok.

For instance, if you’d like to work to create more wildlife corridors, you can try to find a job with an organization such as The Nature Conservancy.


• You can work independently on your own project. Where you go for further guidance will depend on what you’d like to create.  For instance, if you plan to invent a product that needs a patent, tread carefully – this article from Crain’s explains how to avoid getting taken. The New York Times also has a helpful article on becoming an inventor.

Will you be one of those who develop something magnificent to reduce animal suffering and make the planet a better place?


Image credits (minus type and additional design): Penguin 34719536 and Elephant 7800783 from Clipart.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest