Tag Archives: environmental issues

How YOU can help change the world

As you may know, from following the posts on my blog, I’ve been completely ensconced in a crowd funding campaign for the past 5 weeks. I’m raising funds to help defer the cost of an arctic expedition this July. Vacation? Nope.  Education.

As a biologist, the environment is really important to me. I don’t have kids and so I could say, “who cares, I don’t have kids, I don’t have to worry about what the next generation will have to deal with”, but that’s just not me. I don’t roll that way. I think everyone has a certain responsibility to the next generation, and the generation after that, and… Let’s face it, it’s my generation, my parents generation, my grandparents generation and to an extent, my great-grandparents generation that has screwed up the environment so badly. Don’t you think we owe it to the next generation to mop up some of the mess we created?

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The past 5 weeks has been revealing for me. I knew it would be a hard, hard slog raising the funds. My campaign is in the education section of the Indiegogo crowd funding website. Strike number one. I know this sounds pathetic, but the vast majority of people who would even consider donating to a crowd funding project don’t give a rats furry bottom about projects in the education or environment section. I’m not trying to be rude. That’s just the way it is. If you have a cool electronic gizmo to develop and sell, you’re golden. Tons of donations come in if you have a half decent campaign. But education and environment have typically been poorly supported. But why? I’m an optimist and a realist, but my experience with crowd funding has allowed a shade of pessimism to creep in. The sad truth is that not many people truly care about the environment or about education. They say they do, but when it comes right down to it, most people would much sooner have a way-cool, cutting age piece of electronics in their pocket, rather than build a school in Africa or support something that helps the environment. And to me, that is really sad.

Yes, there are people out there who think education and the environment are important – thank goodness. And I am SO grateful for those people, regardless of whether they supported my funding campaign with a donation or someone else’s funding campaign. The fact that people care, matters to me a lot. But I still can’t get that bad taste out of my mouth about the lack of support or caring from the general public, about the environment or education. That just has to change if we’re to have future generations that don’t live in a cesspool.

Species like polar bears will go extinct unless we reverse global climate change to a large extent.

Species like polar bears will go extinct unless we reverse global climate change to a large extent.

As a scientists, I do believe that the earth has not yet reached her tipping point. I do believe that we can reverse a lot of the nasty things that we have done to the environment. And I do believe that it is possible for humans to live sustainably. But that means change. And let’s face it, most people hate change! I personally, thrive on it, but I know I’m a rarity. Most people despise change. They like things just the way they are. And so asking people to give something up, to change some aspect of their lifestyle to better the planet, is frankly, asking too much, it seems. At least for my generation. Frankly, I put my money on the next generation. They are the ones with their whole lives ahead. They are the ones that may have to live in the cesspool we leave for them. So they have to care. If they don’t, their lives will be a whole lot less pleasant than mine, or my parent’s, or my grandparent’s for that matter. And I hate that thought. It’s just downright wrong! But how do we get people to care?

I think I have a solution, well, actually, a small step toward a solution. And that’s why I’m fundraising. And it’s why I’m putting $8,000 of my own money (I hear retirement’s way over-rated anyway….) into paying my own way on an arctic expedition. Why? Some people think I’m nuts doing this. After all, I’m not getting paid to run my Youth Environmental Ambassadors Program on an arctic expedition. It’s purely volunteer. And I have to use my precious 2 weeks of annual vacation leave from work for it. But I choose to. Why? Because I care. Because I think each and every one of us, in some way or another, has to do something to reverse the damage our lifestyles have done to the planet.

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I’m a biologist, I’m passionate about nature, the environment. And photography. And so I created the Youth Environmental Ambassadors Program.  This is the program I’ll launch on the arctic expedition. It’s unique. I’ll be teaching 90 high school kids how to take photos and videos of the environment. The goal is for them to document the things they are seeing, the human impacts on it, and then share their thoughts, their concerns, and their hopes for the future, through their own images and videos. The goal is, at the end of the expedition, to have a video containing the student’s images and video and environmental messages. I’m also hoping to organize an exhibition of the student’s images. And I hope to publish some articles about the program and the students as well as an e-book. I want this program and experience to connect students with nature, to combat the ‘nature deficit disorder’ that Louv so adeptly describes. To encourage students to care about their planet and to inspire them to do something about it. That’s my hope. Whether it works or not remains to be seen. But I’m sure going to try.

Help to inspire kids to be the Generation of Positive Change - only they are the ones who can clean up the environmental mess we and the previous generations have created.

Help to inspire kids to be the Generation of Positive Change – only they are the ones who can clean up the environmental mess we and the previous generations have created.

Will I change the entire world with my program? Nope. But change happens one student at a time. Real change happens slowly. And my goal is simply to open up some eyes and some minds, make the students think, and then hand the reins over to them to let them decide what they will and won’t do to make the planet a better place. After all, if I’m lucky, I’ve got 30 or so good years of life left. But the next generation will have to live with the mess a whole lot longer. I wish they didn’t have a mess to clean up. But I’m happy to do my part to try to help and to make amends for my impacts on the environment. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not up on a soapbox. I drive a car. I burn wood in my fireplace. I use Propane to heat my house. My life does have an impact on the environment. I do what I can to lessen it. But society as a whole, has to change. And if I can convince part of society to think about changing the way they live and help them to convince others to do the same, then that will be worth everything that I’m putting into this program.

If you believe that we can and should make the world a better place and you have a few bucks to spare, I would love it if you could make a donation to our Youth Environmental Ambassadors Program. There are only 3 days left in our funding campaign. I’ve revised our goal, from $25,000 (for both me and my co-teacher to go on the expedition) to just me going and me contributing $8,000 of my own retirement money. If you can help get us to our revised goal of $4,500 (we’re less than $1,000 away from it), I would be immensely grateful to you. Donate by clicking on the link below.

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Midway – a documentary everyone should see

All of us have impacts on the earth’s environment. Simply by living our everyday lives, we leave our footprint on the earth. Some footprints are bigger than others. And even if you want your footprint to be small and take actions to reduce it, it’s still there. But  smaller is better and that’s the key.

Salvin's Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Salvin’s Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Each one of us should strive to reduce our environmental footprint. In our household, we do things to try to reduce it.  I’m not happy with the footprint of my commute to work 3 days a week. But it’s better than 5 days a week. And I drive the most economical car I can afford. It’s one step away from a go-cart and with my commute, I can’t really go any smaller. I wish I could afford a hybrid. One day. But I hope I help to make up for my commute, at least in part, by the other things I do to try to lessen my impact on our environment. I’m not criticizing anyone for their environmental footprint. We all have one. I just hope we can all do things to reduce ours individually because if each of us does, collectively, it had a big effect, in a good way.

I think many people, perhaps all of us, to some greater or lesser degree, don’t realize the impacts we have on our planet because we don’t see them in our daily lives. I think this is why changing our behaviour and habits to reduce our impacts on the environment is often difficult. As humans, we are visual creatures and we need to see what our impacts are, in order to believe they exist.

This is why documentaries that actually show us the impacts of the way we live and the daily choices we make, on the earth’s environment is so fundamentally important. I recently wrote about Jim Balog’s documentary, Chasing Ice, that shows how the world’s glaciers are crumbling at alarming rates due to global climate change. Balog’s extreme dedication to the project was because he wanted to show the world that climate change is real.

There’s another documentary coming out this year that shows us the consequences of our actions (and inactions) –  the consequences of our modern lifestyles in developed nations. I’ve seen the trailer for this one and I think it’s a great example of showing us environmental impacts that we didn’t even think we had. You know, the out of sight, out of mind thing we humans are so good at.  Chris Jordan’s film, Midway, brings an important issue into focus.

His documentary is about Midway Island in the Pacific. Yes, the Midway Island, where a famous WW II battle took place. But Jordan’s film has little to do with Midway’s historical significance. Instead, here’s what his film is about:

“The Journey

Midway Atoll, one of the most remote islands on earth, is a kaleidoscope of geography, culture, human history, and natural wonder. It also serves as a lens into one of the most profound and symbolic environmental tragedies of our time: the deaths by starvation of thousands of albatrosses who mistake floating plastic trash for food.

The images are iconic. The horror, absolute. Our goal, however, is to look beyond the grief and the tragedy. It is here, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, that we have the opportunity to see our world in context. On Midway, we can not deny the impact we have on the planet. Yet at the same time, we are struck by beauty of the land and the soundscape of wildlife around us, and it is here that we can see the miracle that is life on this earth. So it is with the knowledge of our impact here that we must find a way forward.” (taken from Chris Jordan’s Midway website).

Midway

There’s a trailer for the film on Chris Jordan’s website. I strongly encourage you to watch it. Warning – it’ll probably leave a lump in your throat. But that’s a good thing. A lump in your throat can provide the motivation to change your behaviour, for all of us to change our behaviour, so that this awful situation is remedied.

SLB-0010_Salvin's Mollymawk

Salvin’s Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Photo taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

You don’t have to be an environmentalist, biologist, or nature-lover to understand the significance of this issue. It should affect us all, deeply enough that we change the situation. I’m not sure what the answer is. But I want to find out. I had read about the impacts of plastic and other materials on marine life. But seeing the Midway trailer really floored me. Actually, the word disgusting was what really came to mind.

Buller's Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Buller’s Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Click on the thumbnail below to view the trailer on the Midway website.

Midway trailer

I don’t know when the film is scheduled for release. Sometime in 2013. When I find out, I’ll post it here as well as any links to where it will be showing. I want to see it. I hope you want to see it too.

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Filed under Birds, conservation, Conservation & Environment, Digital Photography, Nature, nature photography, Opinion, Philosophy, photography, wildlife