Thoughts on the ocean, the environment, the universe and everything from nearly a mile high.

Panorama of The Grand Tetons From the top of Table Mountain, Wyoming © Alan Holyoak, 2011

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Are you an environmental activist?

In some circles "environmental activist" are fighting words.  Don't ask me why...they just are.

I am a normal guy...relatively speaking.  I have never participated in an environmental protest or rally, taken direct action against any individual or company because I felt that they are acting environmentally irresponsible, or done anything like that.  Yet, I am an environmental activist.  I admit it, happily!

Are you one too?

Before you reach for your gun, consider this.

I am a marine biologist by training and a college professor by occupation.  Over my 20+ years teaching at the college/university level I have spent my time teaching courses that focus on the diversity and ecology of life on earth, as well as courses that either focus on or include attention to environmental topics and issues.

Because of that background, I am sometimes asked to talk to public school groups, campus student groups, and even Church groups or Boy Scouts about the environment and environmental issues.  In many cases these groups are not likely to consider themselves to be environmentalists or even environmentally friendly.  When that happens, what do you do?  I'll tell you what I do...I make a statement and then I ask a few questions.

First of all, I tell the group that I'm highly confident that almost everyone in the room, if not everyone in the room, is an "environmental activist."  It's fun to see the reactions to that.  Some people become immediately offended and want to argue right off.  But, rather than do that, I just ask the group to consider a few questions, and I ask them to raise their hand if they have ever done any of these things:

  1. Have you ever recycled anything?
  2. Have you ever picked up trash that was not yours or that was not on your property and thrown it away?
  3. Have you ever made a conscious decision to walk or ride a bike rather than drive your vehicle to get someplace?
  4. Have you ever taken a short shower or turned the water off while shaving or brushing your teeth in order to conserve water?
  5. Have you ever made a decision as a consumer to buy a particular product because it is more environmentally friendly than the alternative? (Think dolphin-safe tuna, or products made from recycled materials, etc.)
  6. Have you ever made a decision as a consumer to not patronize a particular company or store because you do not consider them to be environmentally responsible?
By the time I've asked the first 2-3 questions just about everyone in the room has raised their hand at least once.  After I've asked the questions I stop, shrug my shoulders and tell them, "I'm sorry, but if you raised your hand least once, you ARE an environmental activist."

It then gets REALLY interesting.  I explain that all it takes for someone to be an environmental activist, in my opinion, is for them to make any active decision that is environmentally friendly.  I'm not saying that people are environmental extremists or eco-terrorists, just that they may be more of an environmental activist than they previously thought they were.  It's fun!

In my opinion, everyone should be an "environmental activist", at least as I define it.  If we can do something that benefits the environment, we should do it.  When large numbers of people do the small things we can all do, it adds up.

So, ARE you an environmental activist?  I'll bet you are!

Here's to environmental activists everywhere!  Including you!

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