The IUCN World Parks Congress has integrated many different forms of social media into the congress this year. There is a Facebook site, a twitter full of tweets, down to a flicker account (that has nothing to do with the birds). In partnership with these many social outlets, one of the WPC’s goals is to inspire youth.
Incorporating social media is one way to get youth more aware, but what can we do to get them INVOLVED! It’s one thing for youth to be more aware of the issues surrounding conservation and the environment but what can they do? The WPC is focusing on how youth can become more involved in their home countries, but what about here in the U.S. It seems more than ever that there is a disconnect between the youth here and the environment.
My question would be do these social media outlets encourage actual connections with the environment, or do they actually encourage a greater disconnect. Will youth think it’s enough to just be aware of what’s going on. What will inspire them to put down their phones, tablets, computers etc and actually go out and get involved. This might be different for communities that are less dependent on these types of technology such as communities in developing countries, but what about the countries where the youth are so deeply rooted in social media and technology. Why go out to the forests when you can see a documentary of the forests from your couch?
What will inspire our youth in the future?
I have been following a lot of events of the World Parks Congress via their Facebook page. One story that really choked me up and made me feel empowered, is the story of the Pacific Islanders sailing or taking their traditional canoes across the high seas. They braved the dangerous waters for 2 months. If that doesn’t mean much to you, that’s 60 days without a computer, a car, or a cozy bed to sleep in.
Why in the world would anyone want to do this, you may be wondering in wide eyed bewilderment? Because they have a story to share at this congress. They have a story of survival and they are determined to make their voices heard. The way that the world is heading at this point, could mean the demise of their islands, the places they call home. The point that makes climate change and the degradation of the world a heart wrenching topic for me is that these people from small islands probably don’t have much to do with the actions behind the degradation of this world, but unfortunately they are already feeling the consequences of other people’s actions.
Now I definitely see the irony of those words as I sit here on my iPad with the lights on and a small space heater running in the corner. This brings me to the larger idea of The World Parks Congress. It’s a Congress not only on protected areas, but also a chance for collaboration and the sharing of stories from all around the world. It creates this community of people from all around the world that will go home to their respective countries with other people’s stories to tell. It creates even more reasons to try and change legislature, to protect the environment around the world, and a better understanding of who is affected by our actions.
This world is more than just you and me. And my actions might not just affect me. This Congress is creating awareness of the importance of protecting our natural areas. These Pacific Islanders canoed and sailed for 2 months to share their story. I encourage you to share a story of a time spent in nature and why it was important to you. The imagine if you never had that opportunity. What will you do to make sure your voice is heard? What will you do for the environment today?