Using social media presence for good

To work in conservation you must develop skills in the arts – the art of patience, the art of tolerance, and the art of optimism.  These have not always come naturally to me, but I‘ve learnt a lot over the years, and I’ve come a long way.  Today, however, I am going to express a fairly strong opinion on behalf of the environment and non-human animals.  

I would first like to award full credit to those who have capitalised on the power of social media to make a living (even excelled); many empower young ladies to love their bodies, many advise fitness enthusiasts, and many provide healthy recipes, pro beauty tips, or outfit ideas etc.  And by doing so they live a flexible life, doing what they love.  It’s great 🙂

BUT

These people who have, possibly quite unintentionally, built a large following and a positive reputation online have such a big influence on…the whole world really. Their reach is global.  Unfortunately, every single day I see streams of images on social media of take-away coffee cups, smoothies with plastic straws, plastic shopping bags, and people standing next to wild, endangered (drugged) animals.  These images glamourise such activities; activities that are unethical and unsustainable.

We really need to start appreciating just how powerful social media is.   All of us scroll through Instagram, instantly wishing for a coffee when we see a perfectly edited photo of a manicured hand holding a take-away mocha, or wanting to jump on a plane to Africa when we witness cute cuddles between human and lion cub.  But neither of these practices is at all acceptable anymore.  And the simple matter is, there are no real issues with blogging about coffee, life-on-the-go, or wildlife encounters, but a little research and a little consideration for sustainable practices is all that is required.  

Particularly, when you consider that the up and coming generations are now creating social media accounts from a very young age.

A Starbucks plastic takeaway cup and straw.
One of the biggest offenders – Starbucks.

What bothers me more is the fact that it’s acceptable to flaunt unethical practices and unsustainable livelihoods (sometimes unknowingly, which I appreciate), but it’s seen as negative to write a simple and polite message (I realise some people are not polite) advising the blogger about the ethical implications and requesting that they research more sustainable practices.

This request is not for the benefit of the author or for the benefit of the blogger.  It is for the benefit of the planet.  I ask that you refrain from bitterness and resentment towards the commenters, take a step back, and realise that they’re simply advocating for a healthier planet.  

Education is key in conservation and environmentalism and that is all we (I speak for myself, anyway) are trying to do.

If you become a public figure and have an influence on the wider community, I personally see it as responsible to demonstrate ethical and sustainable lives or think twice about ‘glamourising’ actions and practices that are harmful; as subtle as that might be (even if that just means avoiding plastic water bottles).

Leonardo DiCaprio has used his position and influence to promote amazing causes, and artists and actors incorporate messages about equality, peace, and acceptance into their Emmy, Grammy, or Oscar speeches.  Whilst a large following on Instagram may not quite compare with winning an Oscar, I am simply trying to show you that public figures are starting to realise the power they have, the power that so many of us working in the field don’t have, and they understand that this can be used to spread awareness.  

Leonardo DiCaprio giving a speech on Before The Flood
If you haven’t watched Before The Flood, I recommend you do 🙂 – Credit: National Geographic

Environmentalism may not be everybody’s cup of tea so bloggers shouldn’t be expected to fill a weekly segment with the latest climate news.  Yet, considering the global issues we face, it would be great to see more eco-friendly posts amongst the Instagram blogging community.

Thank you 😊

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