Why should people focus their energy on environmentalism? Are there more meaningful causes like addressing humanist concerns such the more than one-billion world citizens living in slums, women’s rights, and aid to the needy? I will argue that environmentalism is the most fundamental humanist concern. There are two intellectual stances on environmental preservation and sustainability. The first position argues that, “It’s not ‘saving the environment’, it should read ‘saving our environment’- as in the environment we need to survive as a species. The second position argues that the environment is worth saving for intrinsic reasons and calling it ‘our environment’ is arrogant. I argue that both are valid. In defense of the first position: Talk of ‘saving the environment’ is, in a way, a misstatement, because the environment is going to survive. We are the ones who may not survive, or we may survive in a world we don’t particularly want to live in. We must be aware of the long-term implications of climate change, deforestation, and unsustainable behaviors. We like to pretend that our actions do not have an effect on people or the world. But they do, even if the consequences aren’t felt for generations.
In a culture defined by our distractions (iPhones, reality television, peak work productivity, divisive politics, and other superficial things), it’s hard to connect with something that isn’t tangible and immediately accessible. My generation’s attention span has been reduced to 140-character tweets on social networks that are dominated by a new breed of attention seekers. If only Andy Warhol could see what fifteen minutes of fame has been mutated into: the ability to broadcast to an expansive audience with a simple click. What’s transferred in the endless sea of memes and overnight sensations is a sense of community from the real world to inclusive and addicting online communities. The division between time spent on non-technological interactions and the online interface is trending towards the latter. Before I continue on, I’d like to point out that I am no Luddite or technophobe. On the contrary, these resources are critical for activists in the 21st century and will become the primary avenue for outreach and awareness. The key for successful rejuvenation of the environmental movement is reaching out to this technologically aware generation—reconciling the detachment. Building the groundwork for environmental causes in the context of the new Internet activist paradigm is a matter of winning minds of the future. Although young people are notoriously idealistic, they are often the least reliable demographic in elections and translating their energy into fruitful activities. We are increasingly despaired by the marginality of our voting influence. Under this pressure, we have been forced to find alternative ways to express our discontent with anything and everything. Beware of the viral YouTube video or meme for they spread like wildfire and oftentimes end up in the arguably less reliable mainstream media. We can expose and disseminate a controversy at the speed of electricity and illuminate the Samaritan deeds of individuals and charities. The real question is how can we connect to this hyper-aware generation?
One of the most amazing things I experienced during my trip to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest in late June 2012 was Internet accessibility. I was skyping and taking pictures from the middle of the rainforest. The majority of hotels also had Wi-Fi. Some people might baulk at the idea because it becomes even harder to detach yourself from technology and become fully immersed in the natural experience. This is a legitimate position, which if you have the resolve to set down your phone then by all means go explore. But individuals who want to experience nature and share with their friends on Facebook now have this option.
In defense of the second position: In late June 2012, I traveled to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. Before I stepped into the rainforest, I had a majestic abstract imagination of what the rainforest was. Vines you can swing from (Tarzan throwback), unbearable amount of insects (depends on the altitude, I encountered very few), and all of the other cultural and textbooks influences you might be exposed to. But nothing, and I mean with absolute certainty, is comparable to the freshness of the air and the beauty that encompasses you. The deeper you get into it and the more you begin to learn about the dense biodiversity, the stronger your love for it grows. I don’t know what it was, but I felt safe and clean there. When I was at San Gerardo field station, in the mornings I would overlook the landscape and distant Arenal Volcano. What a supreme loss, I thought, if this were to go away, and the beauty to which I now bear witness were to never return.
I’m glad I got to share this with you and I’m looking forward to writing about some memorable people and experiences I had on that trip in the future.