SAN MARCOS — The typical 9-year-old kid is looking forward to playing video games, watching cartoons or playing outside with friends.
Connor Berryhill is not your typical 9-year-old. He’s out to save the world, one environmental pursuit at a time.
Dubbed the “Micro Activist” by his parents, Connor has, for the past two years, taken on various projects such as beach and lagoon cleanups. His mother, Lynel, maintains a website that chronicles his environmental exploits.
His latest: the cleanup of Jack’s Pond, a popular San Marcos water body that has all but dried up in the wake of the drought, leaving behind a handful of struggling frogs — and a lot of trash.
“It used to be really full of water, and not it’s like, running dry,” Connor explained with the exuberance that only a 9-year-old can express. “What inspired me about it was going to save the animals, when I was five, I would see a duck down at the pond, and it got hurt and I think it was because of fishing line.”
As the waters have receded, Connor’s fears were realized, as he saw the bottom of the pond was filled with debris, everything from old toys — some possibly left by he and his 2-year-old sister, Mazi (she destroys everything, per Connor), to rowboats.
Yes, rowboats, Lynel Berryhill confirms.
“It was amazing to see all of the things that were down at the bottom of the pond, and Connor said he wanted the pond to be clean so that when it did have water again, the animals could swim in a nice, clean body of water,” Lynel said. “He’s really made this his mission.”
Connor said that he’s brought some of his friends to assist him with the cleanup. “We got our feet stuck in the mud,” he said, laughing hysterically.
Over the years, Connor has gained quite the reputation for his environmental activism. He’s engaged in cleanups at Joshua Tree, cleaned beaches in California and Hawaii and given presentations about animals that are threatened by beach debris, and generally has an eye out for trash almost everywhere he goes, Lynel said.
“It is incredible actually to see him have a passion for something we take for granted, such as picking up trash after ourselves,” Lynel said. “We were at an amusement park and he sees the trash and he picks it up and all of it. Of course, all of the adults are worried about him touching stuff that he doesn’t know where it’s been, but he admonishes us, ‘An animal could get caught in this.’”
“It is neat to see that type of innocence, for him to speak up and ask why would you let people throw things on the ground and not say something,” Lynel said.
Lynel said that Connor, who is drawn to the ocean (“He’s a fish,” she says) and has a passion for scuba diving, draws his inspiration from an unlikely source for a 9-year-old — famed French explorer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau.
“He was this explorer who cleaned up the ocean, but he died,” Connor said.
Lynel says that Connor would ask for she and her husband, Shawn, to read Cousteau’s books every night. “That put me to sleep, I tell you,” she said.
Naturally, of course, Connor wants to follow in his muse’s footsteps.
“I want to be an explorer and an animal rescuer and a scuba diver,” Connor exclaimed. “And I want to rescue animals not just in the water.”