See It, Save It: Birthright Earth
There’s no doubt that Green is trending right now, on twitter, on facebook, on google real-time search; its been bagged and tagged as cool, which on a certain level is fantastic. Such momentum doesn’t come along very often. Banksy pieces scream environmental concern, car engines run on energy efficiency, and the current Green movement has ignited its own pop culture firebrand, as evidenced by newly prominent Green and environmental sections in major publications around the world.
The problem remains because cool doesn’t solve it. Often the buck stops at a relatively superficial level: you might go to a cool green event or buy a sustainable pair of skinny jeans, but that won’t get you to go out and start planting trees or recycling all of your trash. Studies and exposés can often have a similarly stunted impact. We rely on the awareness that news media and institutions bring to the issues. They give us the facts, without them there’s nowhere for change to begin. Yet, a jarring study about Amazon deforestation or a piece on the immense loss in The Great Barrier Reef may make our jaw drop, but it won’t set that collective jaw on a hard mission to change such destruction.
In 2008, Eli Bronner and I launched Birthright Earth as a vehicle to take the green buzz and the young people buzzing about it a few actionable steps further. By sending 18-26 year olds on 10-day trips to the Amazon rain forest for free, the organization seeks to create future generations of hands-on advocates. See It to Save It is the slogan and Direct Exposure is the founding principle. Participants find themselves in the wild South American rain forest, staying in eco-lodges, going on trips to areas of deforestation, taking part in reforestation projects, and simply experiencing the Amazon up close, animals included. They’re shown the good, the bad, the awe-inspiring, and the harrowing, all of which add up to daily reality for the world’s rain forests. Upon their return, BE participants will have unique access to internships and career opportunities, via BE and other affiliate organizations.
The fact is that layered thick on top of the physical environments we rely on to breathe are narcissistic and extremely ADD cultural lenses. One can’t maintain another’s attention for more than a few seconds until there’s a brighter sign in the way. Wheel spinning conferences, summits, and more studies end up achieving very little though claiming otherwise. Our world’s energetic young people need to roll up their sleeves and dig in. They need to see our delicate and elemental eco-systems firsthand to gain the motivation for pursuing eco-involvement in any way they see fit. There’s a need for environmental lawyers, engineers, and bankers as well as sustainable chefs, carpenters, and designers.
To achieve any kind of lasting change requires a shake up of the status quo. Less talk and more DO. When was the last time an environmental summit actually changed something? At Birthright Earth, the mission is to make eco-issues palpable - in some ways scary - driving home the utter need for everyone’s involvement to fix them. Educational and overtly stimulating, the Birthright Earth trips instill a need for action, by engaging intellect as well as emotions, basic human instinct, and all five senses. In a culture that’s teeming with Green sentiment, our planet needs generations of environmental stewards who will sincerely act on the trend and to ensure the survival of the world we live in.