EC Volunteer Service Work

Pretty much everywhere I have lived I’ve given some of my time to help my community. I don’t remember where I learned this from, maybe it was a Boy Scout merit badge? I can credit my dad, (Scoutmaster) and my late husband (Academic) for support in the endeavor. It always felt like the right thing to do—wether at a nature center, on the town conservation commission, or an academic organization board. I like the fact that not all of our time has to be taken up by economic activity, and that you meet different people outside of your normal circle.

My current work on the board of directors for the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA) combines my needs for service work as an academic and my passion in life—the environment. It doesn’t take a lot of my time and it is usually pretty satisfying. I am not always on top of my work, but I am not always on top of my work in my job either. You do learn to work together with people to make something important happen. That is if other people also volunteer their time.

There is a model for these kinds of organizations, one that many modern food coops have adopted where the new member pays a fee to be part of the group and then….well… it depends. Some people volunteer their time. The rest of the members reap the benefits. In the past, food coops used to require that all members work each month. Some still do this but the majority of them that I’ve seen around New England don’t.

I wonder how requiring people to take part if they want to be a member in other organizations would work? I’d guess that you’d have an active association and get lots done, but it would probably be smaller.

In any case, if you are part of an organization and you’ve paid your membership dues but haven’t stepped up to actually contribute, maybe it is time.


Climate of misrepresentation

Feeling the pull of climate change? I’ve been happy because we’ve had such a mild Autumn here in New England this year and because we are building a passive solar sunspace on the from of our cabin. Construction projects are so much more enjoyable and possible when you are not dealing with cold, snow and ice.

Yet the local NPR station ran a story about how there is a downside to all this mild fall weather…the ski areas have not been able to open “on time.” They mentioned that this was the warmest year on record, but did they mention climate change? No. And it is funny because this is the kind of thing that would get people upset and motivated.

This may be an interesting study, to look at when the media talk about the effects of climate change but don’t refer to it as such.

Beginning to practice

2 months in Munich Germany. Each morning I look at the BBC news on the iPad and go into a rant about how the journalists talk about nature and the environment. Husband in effort to help (and possibly not have to listen to the rant) says “Why not start a blog and write this stuff down?” So here it is…a space for me to hone my writing skill and keep track of the ideas and examples of an important  aspect of communication about the environment.

Two stories stood out today for me. First was “Sharks take the fun out of Western Australia’s beach culture.” The article talks about the response of authorities after an attack, where they close beaches and issue a kill order for the shark. They also say that 2 recent incidents “follow a spate of deadly shark attacks in recent years in Western Australia” and how the government decided to cull sharks.

So kids and adults are now afraid to go in the water, despite the fact that 10 times as many people drown and 200 times as many people die in car accidents. A tourism minister suggests maybe people should visit wineries and sight see instead, and admits that he wouldn’t go swimming or surfing. Still people go to the beach (as it is a huge part of the culture there) but they take more care of when and where they swim. The public is against the killing of sharks and have protested the culling plan.

The article finishes with quotes from a retires cultural studies professor who basically fans the flames saying how people are constantly under threat of nature because it hasn’t been completely tamed. He talks of two different “myths” one of the treat of nature and the other of the easy-going beach lifestyle.

After a bit of poking around in other stories and article on the issue, it seems that the problem is not the sharks but the humans. Increasing population, tourism, and people engaging in beach and ocean related activities, leads to more people in the water. The other issue is that overfishing has reduced the amount of food for large predators like sharks, and as opportunist, the go where the food is—Australia’s West coast!

I see the privilege that humans expect as part of this, but also how it connects with economic growth, in that those in power don’t want to see tourist number fall (or even stay level). Yet it is interesting that the one’s getting eaten are also the one’s say don’t kill the predators. It’s a contradiction and that is what modern life is full of.