Thoughts on ecological activism

Before I return to my normal posts on Linguistics and Speech research, I have one more thought on my post-ICPhS trip to Cairns. After the dive, I went to the edge of the rain-forest on a half-day 4×4 tour. It was more sitting and less walking than I would normally go for, but the views were pleasant.

The trip showed us the amazing strangler fig, which is essentially an immortal tree that has serious ill-intent with the trees it grows next to. If you are dumb enough to grow near one of these monsters, within 100 years you are dead, dead, dead!

And the waterfall we went to at the end of the trip was stunning.

But there was one long part where the guide had us standing still for 30 minutes listening to a discussion of local wildlife mixed with the usual guilt-trip about ecological destruction. In one sense, that is fair enough. Humans have an enormous impact on this planet, and plenty of it is negative. But in another sense, I just wanted to crawl out of my skin. Not because I felt guilty for what I’ve done, but because I have absolutely no idea how this approach can help make the world a better place.

I can appreciate that the Australian government is not letting Cairns reuse brown-space for a new boat launch but instead is forcing them to tear down a valuable mangrove. But I can’t do anything about it. I am not Australian, I don’t vote in Australia, and I can’t force the Australian government to save the mangroves. Even though I would LOVE to because I want the Great Barrier Reef to keep growing spectacular fish! There was also a lot about how tourists should support family businesses over large-scale tourism businesses.

But it went to long. We had old people on this trip, and one of them had lost circulation in her legs listening to the over-long presentation. She fell trying to walk back to the vehicle after the talk. She wasn’t badly hurt, but that is the kind of thing that can break a hip, greatly shortening the life of the elderly person in question!

The guide also complained about the large influx of population into Cairns, who then demand a quieter place that involved cutting trees bats live in, and otherwise reducing the wonders of nature in the area to make the place more like the big cities they came from. Fair enough, but I heard no solutions. And I thought “stronger insulation and noise-control laws, or education about good construction standards, would end that nonsense.” I though “there are really effective solutions that we can implement ourselves, so tell everyone about them!” And as a result, I was frustrated because of the missed opportunity.

I compare this approach to that of Reef Encounters. They brought us to a beautiful place full of natural wonders. When we complimented them on their good job, they made it clear it was *nature* that did the good job, and we all benefit from what nature does. When we went diving, the guides always picked up any trash they saw on the ocean floor, and taught us to do the same. When the great food was served and the good times were had, they thanked us for supporting a local family business instead of one of the large-scale tourism businesses.

And there it is. They let nature speak for itself. They embodied solutions. They did a great job and thanked us for supporting local businesses *after* they did that great job. People who experience such things will appreciate nature, know how and engage in good ecological behaviour, and continue to make better choices for local communities.

So here is to all those who embody good ecological behaviour, cleaning up after themselves and others. Here’s to the people who build improved technologies that waste less and are more efficient. Here’s to those who keep track of nature – and trade – exposing it to the light where it can be made as good as possible, a little better every day. And yes, here’s to those who vote to preserve mangroves and re-use brown space for boat-docks.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on ecological activism

  1. Peiman Pishyar-Dehkori

    Very beautiful place to visit. Especially the Great Barrier Reef as it has been my dream to see this place in person after I watched the BBC documentary about it.
    Great comments about ecological activism. There has always been a struggle to make natural wonders tourist-friendly and at the same time keep these places clean and unspoiled. And it is not just visitor related activities which might bring destructions to the nature, but the activities of the greedy human being from all around the world can also affect the nature in remote areas, such as this recent news that tiny pieces of plastic has been observed in the snow falling down in north pole.
    I hope there will be people in charge in governments who will think about these issues and try to hire experts to find the best solutions for them.

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      I definitely hope so as well, but I also desperately hope people realize they themselves can do good directly through astonishing personal effort. My friend Tom De Rybel worked for years on medium voltage sensors. He did not succeed. However, while it might not have worked out for him, there will be others who succeed, and soon. These systems will make the “smart grid” work better, which will allow large-scale battery storage to work, which will itself diminish the need for gas-turbine generators, which greatly reduces carbon dioxide production, which reduces global warming. That effort, and the effort of *millions* like him, are what will truly save us from environmental destruction.

    2. Jacqueline Nokes

      Thought provoking commentary – very good.
      Belabouring the problem without suggesting solutions or facilitating positive behavioural change is just complaining, not activism.
      So much information or “news” is gratuitous (ie just entertainment, rather than something requiring a response) that it becomes meaningless.
      I don’t want to hear people tell me what everyone else is doing wrong.
      I want to see and hear what someone is doing to make things better.
      Delighted to discover your blog.


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