Children love starfish the way adults love glasses of wine or beer while watching sunsets --- they just feel good in your hands and they inspire wonder as you absorb their qualities!
I write about starfish because our family has experienced so much joy and learned so much from our colourful Pacific Ocean friends, and now we are concerned for their future. We used to see hundreds at a time along the foreshore of our property and throughout the local region, though today we only see a few here and there. We watched as they suffered from a near complete die off over the past few years --- due to what is now referred to as "starfish wasting disease" and which is now known to be caused by a virus that is aided by warmer ocean water.
Our kids love these creatures, who inspire awe. Their bright colours, their 5 (or sometimes more) arms, their thousands of tiny suction-cup tubular legs that stick to rocks (and almost as well to hands and fingers), their rough stony or leathery skin, their ability to regenerate lost limbs, and their mouths that are also their bums. And the kids respect and know to be gentle with them, taking them from rocks to observe them in their hands and softly returning them to their rocky perches. So watching them waste away has been a difficult sight to absorb, as they disintegrated into a goo and eventually left only a shadow of themselves on the rocks where they had been living. Thankfully they have not disappeared from our region completely and it seems to us that they may even be making a slow resurgence these days --- fingers crossed. We have tried to explain to our kids what has been going on with their purple and orange friends and that we still have hope that they will return. It is easy to see the deep concern our kids have for their ocean buddies, and we hope this experience is one of their early lessons about climate change that will influence their behaviour as they grow up.
My friends, we are only scratching the surface of understanding the impact of climate change. It is our suggestion that we all try to be more cautious with our fragile planet wherever we can --- just in case climate change is man-made and we can't find ways to reverse it once all the leaders of the world finally get on the same page.
Kids love starfish! Hopefully generations of kids to come can too!
To learn more about the plight of starfish and the effect their decline is already having on ocean ecosystems, here are a couple articles to read...