In the hot, desert climate of Dubai on the Arabian Peninsula, 20 penguins are living in comfort, say the managers of Ski Dubai, the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East. The birds reside in a climate-controlled environment, receive the best veterinary care, and never have to worry about lurking predators.
When you visit Ski Dubai, you can pay to have a “penguin encounter,” where you’ll be able to play with and touch the penguins. Representatives of the resort say that these animals are “ambassadors,” teaching patrons about their wild counterparts and the need to conserve their threatened natural habitat, Antarctica.
But can animals that have been born and raised in captivity and habituated to humans in unnatural ways ever be true ambassadors for the natural world? Can they teach us anything about the wild or move us to care for the environments from which they are so distantly removed?
Big wads of plastic in the ocean that stretch for miles and disintegrating polar ice caps are the kind of news stories that tend to make us feel hopeless regarding conservation efforts. Why bother to change our light bulbs to compact fluorescents if our planet’s imminent demise is a speeding train that can’t be stopped?
The reason we have these feelings is probably the work of environmentalists themselves. They’re sending the wrong messages, if you ascribe to the new field of neuro-conservation.
Instead of focusing the spotlight on results of scientific studies that prove our planet is rapidly warming, or on statistics about alarming species extinction rates, they should be talking about how an ocean view will make us feel happy or standing among trees will arouse our feelings of peacefulness.
After all, selling us emotions is what marketing professionals have been doing for decades. They know that we don’t just buy a car; we buy how that car makes us feel — wealthier, greener or more in control. Using the tenets of neuro-conservation may just be the boost that environmentalists need to gain support for their causes in a world that’s overrun with more scientific data than we know what to do with — or pay attention to.
Happy birthday, Earth Day!
Today, people all over the planet will be out celebrating our great, green planet! Earth Day, a day that is usually void of the doom and gloom that can sometimes bog down even the most optimistic greenie, will see folks from all corners of the world and all walks of life convening to honor the planet that provides us with water, air, food … with life! Today, communities will burst forth with music, art, films, local and organic food, environmental education and friendships and partnerships will grow.
With only a couple days to go until Earth Day, prepare to get inundated with a billion things we can do — should do — to save our planet. Although there will likely be plenty of events to attend and planet-themed parties to enjoy, one of the best places you can celebrate Earth Day is in your own home!
If our homes are a reflection and expression of our lifestyles and values, then it makes sense that we start making conscious (i.e. green) choices at home. The issues affecting the Earth — from the oil crisis to water shortages to disappearing species — are complex, and can seem distant and insurmountable, but it is essential to understand the correlation between our everyday environments and our larger ecosystem. Everything and everyone is interconnected, and even the simplest act, such as turning the water off when we brush our teeth, creates positive change.
Sure, you’ve thought about adding solar panels to your roof as a way of reducing your home’s carbon footprint. Maybe you’ve even given wind power a gander. But what about ground source heat pumps?
Did you know that the average American is responsible for the use of 751,777 gallons of water a year? (That’s enough water to fill more than 15 thousand bathtubs!) Or that depleting the water in rivers and streams can actually lead to flooding?
Sure, we could tell you all the facts about water use, but we’d rather show you, courtesy of this infographic from The Nature Conservancy and The Water Footprint Network.
Your city or town probably either has a large, brand-new hydropower dam or you know of an old one, located on the outskirts; a crumbling relic from an earlier period in your state’s history. I know this because according to the national nonprofit conservation organization American Rivers, on average our country has constructed one dam every day since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers counts approximately 75,000 dams that are greater than six feet along the waterways of the United States. In addition, there are at least tens of thousands of smaller dams spanning our rivers and streams.
Whichever version of the structure is in your area, it seems that dams divide us. While some regard them as a clean energy source, others view them as a danger to river otters and fish populations.
So, are our dams good for the environment, or a threat to wildlife?
To support what’s being billed as the “largest environmental event in history,” all you have to do is turn off your lights for one hour on Saturday, March 31, at 8:30 p.m., your local time. That’s it. It’s probably the easiest thing you’ve ever been asked to do for the planet and the natural world.
The request is a simple one because the World Wildlife Fund, the organizer of Earth Hour, is counting on millions of other people to do the same thing in a cascade around the globe, from New Zealand to Hawaii. And by using the power of our digital interconnectedness throughout the world, it’s hoped we’ll make a bigger statement — via social media — to those in positions of power about our concern regarding the Earth’s changing climate and the effect it’s having, especially on wildlife such as polar bears, tigers and sea turtles.
But in the end, will Earth Hour — and the 60 minutes you spend in the dark — really make a difference?
A friend recently reported to me that she was taken to task by a green-leaning colleague for selecting a juice box to drink at a networking function. Juice boxes, the eco-narc proclaimed, were NOT recyclable in their municipality. My friend sheepishly sucked on her tiny plastic straw, convinced that all her attempts to live green — riding her bicycle to work, growing her own organic produce — were wiped out by this one transgression.
We’re almost midway through the first month of the new year, and if you’re like the majority of resolution makers, you’re likely already starting to falter. According to a recent New York Times article, “By the end of January, a third will have broken their resolutions, and by July more than half will have lapsed.”
That’s why now is a great time to recommit to those oh-so-noble goals. Two ways to do that? Checking in with your resolutions often and rewarding yourself for your progress. Sure, losing weight, saving money and getting more sleep are their own rewards, but a little extra motivation never hurt, right?