The guiding principle for the eco and sustainability movement is the future: that we treat the earth in a way that generations unborn can also have an earth to live in, an environment to enjoy and resources to extract. That the earth isn’t just a platform for human existence, but also a living being. That its health is our health.
We met the world with the forests and oceans, beautiful lakes and rolling hills. These features are the sources of most of the raw materials we need to survive; from oxygen to oil and various gases in between. They are also very beautiful sights; so that we should not destroy them but help save them for the beautiful ones not yet born.
But what happens if the coming generations do not care for the environment? What if they do not care to hike through forests or go for walks up the hills, and choose instead comfort in the predictability of their internet devices? This may sound like a farfetched thought, but it is it really?
I spent my early childhood in a small village in south-eastern Nigeria where my father was the District Magistrate. The village was quiet with its natural landscape; dusty red roads, birds in trees and the silence typical to such places. Even though I didn’t need to, I would follow the villagers into the forests to fetch firewood. In the evenings, we would walk over three kilometers to a natural spring to fetch water. I still believe this is where my love for nature started.
In the last few months, I have become once more, quite the outdoorsman. I had always appreciated nature and now I have more opportunity to enjoy it, savour it. I have watched the sun set lazily over the hills, almost as though she isn’t sure it was worth all the effort. I have hiked up mountains and made trails of my own in forests. Standing on a hill recently, watching the popular Zuma Rock, I felt more strongly the need to conserve and preserve the earth. This deep seated desire is born from the fact that I have experienced nature and I have felt her wonders. So, when I read an article about deforestation, it means more than just some article about the environment. It strikes a chord; because I know just what we are depriving the ones coming after us.
Will this be the case with the next generation?
According to the United Nations, by the year 2050, 68% of the world’s populations will be living in cities. Now, anyone who lives in a city will agree with me that the city is not the best place to admire nature. It is a place of concrete trails and forests of towering bricks and glass. It is often wrought with the stench of everyday life, the hustle and bustle of human survival. What then are the chances that the coming generation would learn to appreciate the environment?
An insight to this future might be gleaned from Hollywood. From Blade Runner to Maze Runner, from Mad Max to Terminator, the screens are full of movies depicting a bland future devoid of the beauties of nature. The common themes are post-apocalyptic worlds ruled by robots, where the air is poisonous, plants do not grow and water has finally run dry.
Another factor would be the times in which they would be born into. The biggest challenge facing the environment is the throwaway and convenience culture of today’s world. Most people will remember, or at the very least, will have heard of, a world of milk bottles and milk men, a world before fast food and fast fashion. The next generation will be born into it so they will probably know nothing else. Fast fashion would be the norm, plastic the king and the throwaway culture would boom.
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Then of course is the influence of mobile phones and other digital media. According to the Telegraph the average young person spends up to seven hours on his or her mobile phone per day. If you’ve hung out with kids or adolescents lately, you will agree with me that it is becoming more and more difficult to convince them to lift their faces from their mobile phones, to drop their video game pads, step outside and play in the sun. Now I don’t know about you, but this bothers me greatly. You see, it is difficult to believe in something you have not experienced and it seems that young people do not want to know what is beyond their noses or their phones.
In my opinion, the way out lies with the same media.
Recently I watched the animated “Emoji Movie”. As the name indicates, it is a movie about mobile phone emojis (if you can believe it). Funny as it may seem, it explores the concept of emojis and mobile phone technology and terminology in a manner that even a toddler can understand. This is the way to go for environmental education for the next generation.
I believe that love for the environment, sustainability concepts and practices can be introduced to the next generation through movies and other media directed at that specific demographic. Fun and relatable video resources, movies and games about the earth, environment and sustainability should be as easily accessible as materials on technology and sex. It is important that a young person does not have to step out of his or her way to go seeking for these, these science projects should be brought into the classrooms. An idea that comes to mind is the use of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to bring close to home, the reality (pun intended) and the beauty of the world out here.
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This particular “media offensive” would have to be carried out by the sustainability establishment as it may not be deemed very profitable by mainstream media companies.
Offline, parents, teachers, eco-warriors and anyone interested in the future of the environment have serious roles to play. While we create campaigns and projects, write articles and white papers that hold companies and governments accountable, it is just as important that we create programs designed to bring the next generation into the fold. Let us not lose sight of the fact that the struggle for a more sustainable planet is not an end in itself; it is not merely for the sake of our oceans or the lakes. Rather, it is to preserve these resources for the people who are yet to live in it. This consideration should be a critical part of the design for a sustainable future.
It is important that while we fight for the future of the earth, we also fight for the people who are to inherit it. The eco-friendly movement would be anything but sustainable if in the long run, the people who are to enjoy the earth do not care about her or could not be bothered to see her beauty.