06 April 2009

A Sustainable Future: Youth and the Environment

Here on Blogspot, most of the posts that I have written thus far have been related to particular alternative energy sources or the ways in which this field is moving forward. This week, however, I decided to examine the environmental/alternative energy movement itself by commenting on two blog posts at sustainablog.org and TreeHugger (which I mentioned in my first post) that explain the role of youth and how to raise the next generation to be environmentally-friendly, respectively. Rachel Barge’s post copied at sustainablog.org, entitled “Media Savvy Youth are Blogging Coal to Death” explains how independent bloggers popularize anti-coal campaigns through organizations like Technorati and digg, thus creating an extremely negative image that stands in opposition to “clean coal,” something I have mentioned in previous posts. The TreeHugger entry, however, is written by Earthwatch Institute’s Alan Fortescue, who describes the connection between time spent outside as a child and an involvement with and love for nature. Although these posts are not directly related, I believe they highlight some important aspects of the campaign for cleaner power. The entry at sustainablog reveals how important the young age bracket is in pushing for governmental action and how it is often instrumental in debunking propaganda issued by economically entrenched fossil fuel conglomerates. The first post’s relation to the second at TreeHugger was an interesting one for me: since the benefits (or consequences) of today’s programs will not be experienced for many years, and since fossil fuels will eventually run out, teaching the next generation about preservation and responsible consumption is of paramount importance. Accordingly, Fortescue places a due responsibility on parents to raise their children in a manner that will open their minds to these of issues and give them a stake in maintaining a healthy Earth. My comments, posted below and linked to their original locations, display my agreement with these writers and my feelings that this is a fight that will be largely affected (and perhaps won) by the young and future generations.

"Media Savvy Youth are Blogging Coal to Death"

As a 21-year-old blogger that promotes alternative energy, this post truly hits home. First, let me express my happiness with how effective the work you cite has been: I have often heard of the power of the 18-25 age bracket at election time, and the last presidential election was the first time I was able to be a part of it. Indeed, this group of voters was extremely active even in the primaries, and the fact that they sometimes favored Obama to McCain two-to-one (see below) shows how influential they can be. Second, although your article speaks mostly only about the demise of coal at the hands of young bloggers, I believe that the internet “movement” is one that will be instrumental in fulfilling Obama’s promises for a greener future. The transition to renewable energy sources will be a hard-fought battle for as long as fossil fuels last, and in a government where lobbyists seem to have a great deal of sway over Congress, interest groups and large businesses continue to prosper. Thus, it is important that campaigns like the ones you mention are debunked, lest the public be fooled into supporting such farce (if I may speak so freely). Luckily, though, and as you write, as American use of the internet increases and as more anti-coal groups appear higher on Google search results, less people will buy into the commercials they see on television. This means that fewer people will tolerate the times when their legislators bow to heavy polluting conglomerates by giving them tax credits. Unfortunately, this process reveals what I believe is a larger quality of the American public today in regards to alternative energy: one of the biggest reasons renewable technologies have not taken off is that many people do not understand how they work. They see sources like coal as cheap, while solar and wind are thought to be unreliable. It therefore gives me great pleasure to read your article, and I will leave you with a question: do you believe that blogging can actually fast-track alternative energy? Or will it simply be one of the elements that encourage its unimpressively gradual introduction?

"Raising Environmentally-Conscious Kids"

As an individual who ran around barefoot outside for a great deal of my childhood, and as a blogger that supports environmental issues, I do believe that there is a connection between time spent outside as a child and how a person feels about nature. Indeed, I believe that this connection is rather basic in its qualities: it is hard to understand something—let alone care about it or defend it—without experiencing it. This is true for most things, and I think it is especially so for the environment. True, pictures of nature can be quite beautiful, especially when done by photographers like Ansel Adams, but I can personally attest (I am both a photographer and a lover of nature) to the fact that it is not the same as actually feeling the grass or sand between your toes.

I am also glad to see that someone is assigning the responsibility to raise environmentally-conscious children to parents. The environmental movement itself is one that must be carried on in the long-term, for drastic overnight changes are—so far—physically impossible. This means that the current reproducing generation must teach their kids about the environment and ensure that they have an interest in its preservation lest global warming have its way with the earth. Luckily, and as referenced by other sources, the generation that will soon be having children is having a large positive effect on this battle, and their advocacy is pushing forward important causes like alternative energy.

However, an unfortunate fact that you mention is that video games, which decrease creativity and discourage activeness and playing outside, are increasing in popularity. It is for this reason that public service announcement campaigns like VERB are important, as they promote going outdoors and games like tag as substitutes for Xbox or the Wii. Another problem that you mentioned, however, comes from germophobic parents—something that little can be done about. What, if any, are your suggestions for fighting this trend? For all I can think, the only course of action is to support clean parks and recreation areas in legislation and hope that Huggies continues to make commercials showing that getting a little dirty is okay.

All in all, I very much enjoyed your post and will be sure to send my kids outside when I am a father.

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