Friday, November 14, 2014

Making People Care

I suppose this can be considered a follow-up to my session of shameless gushing previous post about Medieval scholarship and "naturalism." The ultimate point of that post, somewhat delayed and understated, was that no one will care about a natural crisis when we represent it through decontextualized graphics about some far-off place. We need to ground our environmental concerns in the values of our present society.

So I'm going to toss around a few possible ways to do that...

  • Education. I've said it elsewhere on this blog: Education has the power to carry a person's mind to some other place, and teach it to do useful things there.

    During my time as a "naturalist" in this class, I haven't broken my usual routine very much. I haven't visited any forests, or sampled the life forms of any lakes. But even though I was never physically present in those places, my concerns for the natural world have become more urgent, more candid, and better grounded in fact — all because I took this course! Even if our society is entrenched in its own creations, we can use schools to visit the natural world in our minds. If this is done well before the student reaches college, we will have taught him/her this sense of connectedness to the environment as a facet of citizenship.
  • Transparency in the Food Industry. This one is a tall order, and we're unlikely to see the current food oligarchy take any steps to see it through. In lieu of a letter to Tyson or Kellogg, I'll advocate the "Buy Local" movement as a means to this end. Anyway...
    Our society is quick to criticize food or brands that are "synthetic" or "chemically altered," but only as they affect the health of the consumer. If the health of the consumer can be tied to the health of food sources — which it is — people will pursue that problem with the same energy and fervor. And the only way to connect these two issues is by releasing more information about food.
  • Better Graphics. In all seriousness, we need to represent natural crises in a more interesting and meaningful way. Any good public speaker will tell you that maps, charts, and statistics are meant to supplement a presentation. The rest is the speaker. We need local testimonials, local pictures and video, etc.

    Polar bears are nice, and I would be distraught if they went extinct, but the "polar-bear-standing-on-an-absurdly-small-piece-of-ice" image has become a thing unto itself, devoid of any context or relevance.
I have a few more in mind — but to be honest, they're all dependent on so many interrelated factors, to the point of being useless by themselves. 

How can we pursue environmentally-friendly legislation when Monsanto has a "revolving door" installed in Congress? How can we lessen the power of Monsanto-tier companies without some economic sorcery? Should we transition to pure socialism? It's a slippery slope, with dozens of branching paths...

What does my readership (my class) think? Any ... semi-concrete proposals?

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