SAVING SEA TURTLES~SAVING THE EARTH #StickYourNeckOut #GiraffeHeroes Christian Miller became a dedicated environmentalist when he was all of seven years old. That’s when he began the beach patrols that have saved thousands of the endangered sea turtles that hatch on the Florida barrier island where Christian lives. Newly transplanted from a Maryland farm with lots of animals, seven-year-old Christian walked the shore outside his home looking for animals to play with. All he found were the bodies of baby turtles that had not survived the treacherous trek from the nest to the water. Christian decided then and there that he would help save sea turtles, and went through a year’s training to be permitted to work with the endangered loggerhead and leatherback species. Christian patrols a three-mile stretch of beach twice a day from the first of April to the end of October. Early in the season he watches for the tracks the big mother turtles make when they come ashore to lay their eggs. When he locates a nest, he marks it with an “M” for Miller and a number he assigns to the nest. He protects each nest from dogs, raccoons and from human predators, who sell the eggs and the turtles’ shells. At the peak of the hatching season, in high summer, Christian is out in the heat of the beach for hours to check on the turtles. He scans the sand, looking for the tracks made by the babies as they head for the surf. He checks each newly hatched nest, tallying the hatched and unhatched eggs, the dead turtles and the live ones struggling to dig their way out of the sand. He extricates the trapped turtles and releases the healthy ones to the sea; the others he nurses along until they too are strong enough to hit the surf. He records all the data in a notebook, and enters it into his computer at home for his end-of-season report to the Florida Department of Natural Resources. In the years that Christian has been the turtle guardian on his stretch of shore, he’s guarded hundreds of thousands of eggs. The immediate payback for his stewardship is the thrill he gets from rescuing any trapped babies. He’s patient about the long-term results--sea turtles take 15 years to reach maturity. The first turtles Christian rescued won’t make it back to the beach to nest until he’s a grown man. “But every day,” he says, “when I look at the ocean, I know there are over 12,000 sea turtles out there that would have died if I hadn’t helped them.” Christian addressed young environmental activists from 76 countries at the UN Environmental Programme’s Global Youth Forum. He told more than 2,000 youth delegates, “We must be ever so careful about how we deal with nature and her living things if we want this earth to continued to function. Like the human body, if you take away enough of its parts, it can die.” The part of nature that Christian Miller takes care of is alive and well. When he started his patrols, there were 175 nests on his beach; seven years into Christian’s care, there were 700. Watching it all, his father said, “It’s almost as if the giant turtles know he’s there to protect their babies, because every year more and more sea turtles come to Christian’s beach.” Update: Christian Miller is now an associate professor of philosophy at Wake Forest University and Director of the University's "Character Project." Why are we not surprised?