Readers respond: can you be an environmentalist and still have kids?


The days of chaining ourselves to lớn trees may be far from over, but for younger generations, it's a start on the road to lớn becoming a steward of our stellar planet.

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By: Jacalyn Beales + Save khổng lồ a danh sách

Celebrate the National Parks by Preserving the National Parks | Photo: Jakub Konieczynski

Several studies - lượt thích this one, và this guy, too - have found that our concern for & connection to lớn nature revolves around our own ideas of how we fit into it. Lớn expand onthat further, such studies suggest that our attitudes towards the environment & the conservation of it are based upon the value we assign khổng lồ nature and, in some cases, the species inhabiting it. In his article,Empathizing With Nature: The Effects of PerspectiveTaking on Concern for Environmental Issues, Schultzargues that our environmental concern is tied to lớn the interconnectedness we feelbetween ourselves và nature.Schultz performed a two-prongedstudy wherein he had subjects take onthe perspective of an endangeredanimal khổng lồ prove his hypothesis thatpeople would likelyfeel a greaterinclusivity with nature and, thus, greater levels of environmental concern if they were able khổng lồ consider environmental destruction from an animal"sperspective- unsurprisingly for some of us, I"m sure, Schultz was right.Based on his findings, it stands lớn reason that the closer we feel to nature, the greater our concern for it becomes.

What these types of studies seek toprove is not that pretending to be a hunted animalor a wild species affected by deforestation will lead to lớn a greater understanding of nature but, rather, will help us to comprehend what value we place on it and our level of concern for it. We cannot assume that taking the perspective of a wolf or moose will allow us to lớn understand nature, but lượt thích many others, Schultz has simply tried to lớn prove that we bởi vì place value on the environment relative to where we see ourselves fitting into it. Perhaps that"s why people so oftenprotest importantenvironmental injustices - they see their place in nature as being closely related lớn it and, as Schultz suggests, attribute significant value khổng lồ it. Getting arrested, chaining ourselves lớn trees và donning masks khổng lồ protest such injusticesis common theme in the world of environmental altruism today, but far be it from a cry for media attention, the value people place on nature is increasing the more we begin khổng lồ recognize, và realize, our connectedness lớn it.

Though some politicians và major corporations may disagree, lending our voices to the fight for environmental rights & welfare is a start on younger generations" journeys khổng lồ becoming stewards of our environment.

Leave No Trace Over Likes | Photo: Emily Noyd

But environmental issues are not purely the sum of their parts; in fact, for the most part, we don"t actually know how lớn help nature or prevent environmental destruction, especially when we are unaware of the issues at hand and exist in a bystander-society wherebyit is incredibly simple to lớn avoid taking responsibility for our environmental actions & behaviour. In psychology, they have a common term for this behaviour: the Bystander Effect. As you"ve probably guess, the Bystander Effect stipulates that, when in the presence of a large group of "others" (be it people or otherwise), individuals feel less responsibility to lớn step forward and help in a negativesituation. That"s because the more people or, in the case of the environment, organizations there are to lớn help, the less duty or responsibility we feel to lớn step in & help also. We take this attitude towards environmental governance & conservation because, as individuals who just want khổng lồ be outdoors & enjoy the experience, we take solace in the notion that a bigger organization than ourselves is helping khổng lồ curb the impacts of a dying Earth. In other words, our anxieties about the environment và helping khổng lồ protect itare lessened when we know others are working khổng lồ save it.

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To reverse this, we have lớn look at nature as more than just our playground. NationalParks, for instance, vày not simply exist for tourists or hikers. Protected areas are not given such statuspurely lớn keep explorers out, or to lớn avoid an onslaught of tourists. They have been designated as habitats and environments whose ongoing survival rests upon people - likeenvironmentalists - who see the necessity of helping them to lớn continue lớn flourish. If we canoe on a lake filled with fish oneyear, but return the next khổng lồ find it barren ofmarine life, we become saddened by the missed opportunity lớn once again enjoy canoeing on it - but what we should really be doing is looking at the barrenbody of water as an environmental concern,with solutions as lớn how khổng lồ fix the issue. To lớn become environmentalists, we must first look tonature with a can-fix approach, an attitude geared more towards protecting it than simply having fun in it for a few days before packing up and leaving it.

An interesting study by Stephen Kaplan in theJournal of Environmental Psychology discusses the restorative benefits which spending time in nature holdfor people, specifically the reduction of stress and sensory overload.In what he calls the "Attention RestorationTheory," Kaplan argues that being immersed in natural environments is particularly beneficial for restorative experiences, which could explain why people often feel an inclination to lớn protect or preserve nature or a specific habitat when they are immersed in it andbecome furtheraware of the issues impacting its survival. What it boils down to lớn is whether we place any value on nature and if that value increases the more closely we feel tied lớn it.

Celebrate the National Parks by Preserving the National Parks | Photo: Sonja Saxe

Luckily for us, humans seem intrinsically drawn khổng lồ nature, specifically the discovery of something new or unknown. When we spend more time in nature, our ability lớn identify with it inevitably grows, which often leads lớn our desire to protect it, especially those areas where we"ve had positive, often life-changing or memory-shaping moments. We begin to lớn place an inherent and sometimes unconscious value on these habitats và environments, which though slightly egotistical in nature, can actually lead us khổng lồ caring more about their survival, in turn motivating us to protect them. So the first step in becoming an environmentalist is not necessarily to go get yourself a fancy biology or environmental studies degree but, rather, khổng lồ considerhow you see yourself fitting into nature, then recognizing what value you place on it.

Once you"ve established both, it becomes easier to formulate solutions as to lớn how you can help protect the environment. You don"t have lớn go join aGreenpeace ship, but consider how you could help protect a specific area, a NationalPark, or a hiking area. You may achieve this by getting involved in a conservation group, a local hiking chapter, a club for outdoor conservation biologists, etc. Others may find joining activism & advocacy groups is preferable, whereby they lobby for the rights and protection of certain areas or habitats. Some may join protest groups, individuals might find themselves involved in charity work, or many of you may even put our experience, knowledge và educational background to lớn use by doing fieldwork or working inNationalPark associations. But you can also be an environmentalist without a job title to match. Photographers, for example, are often known tousetheir skills và talents khổng lồ capture influential images of the planet và the issues impacting it. Wildlife advocates often dedicate their own time to working with or creating initiatives which save endangered species & raise awareness about wildlife conservation.

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If being an environmentalist means khổng lồ be an individual concerned with the environment và the advocacy for its protection, then it"s easy khổng lồ take up the staff và help protect nature without needing to lớn be the next Hemingway of conservation. Simply by advocating for the environment, you are working towards a healthier planet. You can be awriter reporting on the issues, a blogger educating readers on environmental concerns, or a hiker who leads a weekly hikinggroup and encourages people to get their families outdoors more. Just by being an outdoors enthusiast with a concern for the environment, và a desire to protect it, you are an environmentalist. The key, however, is lớn not be a slacktivist - meaning, to not advocate for something you yourself are not willing lớn stand up forand work khổng lồ change. Love the outdoors & respect nature, but also consider helping the countless others who, just lượt thích you, hope for a healthier environment và a better tomorrow.