Who’s Your Hero?

I’m not the first person to notice the recent surge in popularity of superheroes.  Not the “more powerful than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet” type – our collective interest seems to be focused on the guys who don’t have superpowers, but still want to change the world for the better.  Batman and Ironman come to mind.  Both are fabulously wealthy, and have a basement full of technology that help them fight the bad guys. 

Batman – determined to make the world a better place.


No superpowers here – but lots of expensive technology.






Captain America (the name says it all) started out so frail that the military didn’t want him.  But, with a little bit of help from experimental medicine, he became a super soldier and defender of the free world. 

A patriot, hero, and defender of good.

Of course, these fictional characters have been around for decades, but they’re currently enjoying more attention than ever.  Why so popular now?  I think it might be a sign of the times.  There’s more than enough bad news to go around.  We want something positive, something uplifting, something that reminds us of the bright side of humanity – we also want something real. 

Over the course of last week, I had the privilege to spend time with several real heroes, people who are doing remarkable things to conserve species and save the natural world.  All of them were finalists for the Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation. 

Each of these 6 scientists are remarkable, enjoyable, and humble people.  None more so that Dr. Steven Amstrup, the 2012 recipient of the award.  Dr. Amstrup, of Polar Bears International, continues to be a strong and clear voice advocating for the conservation of polar bears and their habitat.

Dr. Steven Amstrup
Dr. Steven Amstrup, winner of the 2012 Indianapolis Prize

All of the events surrounding the Prize were terrific, but for me, the spirit of the award is exemplified by the “Meet a Hero” event held on a Saturday morning at the Indianapolis Zoo.  All of the Prize finalists are in attendance, as well as the winner, and their job is to talk with kids – and they do it with gusto.  Hundreds of kids gather to meet the heroes individually, get an autograph, take a photo, and be inspired. 

All of the heroes share their stories, encourage an interest in nature and science, and make sure that the kids (and adults) know that species are worth saving, and that everyone can do something to make a positive difference.  Conservation is a noble cause, and there are heroes fighting the odds every day – the Indianapolis Prize gives them a chance to take the spotlight.

Dr. Amstrup, encouraging and inspiring the next generation of conservationists


Halloween is right around the corner.  Forget about the Ironman or Batman costumes. 

Grab a parka from the closet and dress your kid up like Steve Amstrup – there’s a real superhero for you.


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