I often get asked what drew me to birding. Other outdoor pursuits like hunting or fishing or snowmobiling don't seem to require an explanation for participation, but people are perplexed by birding. You just go and look at them? Have you always wanted to fly? Are you some sort of scientist?
No, I'm not a scientist. The reasons why I love birding are many, but the "goal" of it - as I explain it to those inquiring minds - is "to see all the different kinds of birds there are."
"You mean like Pokemon?" One of my delightfully-nerdish friends responded. "You've 'Gotta Catch 'em All?'"
Now, I don't know anything about Pokemon and didn't know what the hell she was talking about. But you know what? Birding is a LOT like a real life version of Pokemon - a worldwide entertainment sensation that is played by, like, a billion kids. Making that connection explicit to the kids of today - and to the young adults who've outgrown Pokemon's demographic - may be the ticket to get a lot more people participating in and caring about birding.
Pokemon started in 1996 as a video game for Nintendo's Game Boy (n00b alert - I'll be cribbing from Wikipedia for this paragraph). The game's creator, Satoshi Tajiri-Oniwa, was inspired by his childhood passion of collecting insects. The thrust of the game is that characters named Trainers walk around in a landscape hoping to encounter - and then capture - wild creatures called Pokemon. Other stuff happens (apparently) once you have these guys captured, but seeking out all the different iterations of Pokemon is the focus.
Seems like an opportunity to me. The "nature and environment" aspect of birding is essential, but I am still most attracted to the adventure of it. I think kids might be too, and if we can draw the comparisons. There are lots of organizations out there who are encouraging young people to start birding, maybe connecting birding to this Pokemon phenomenon is a good idea. Who knows, but at the very least, if a kid asks you why you like birding so much, just say Birding - Gotta Catch 'Em All!