After starting classes this week at HÍ (Háskóli Íslands, the University of Iceland) and being both shocked and delighted at how much new information I’ve already been exposed to, I started looking for current events that reflect the rather theoretical and abstract views thus presented to me. Although I do relish academia and could probably spend far too long wandering its halls, pontificating and answering questions with more questions, my ultimate goal in the next two years is to derive as much practical knowledge and understanding from my program as I can. In the words that follow and my coming posts, I hope to discuss the things I’m studying and my rapidly-evolving points of view. I want to send out a little disclaimer that I’ve only just begun my studies and am in no way an expert (I’m barely a novice) in the field of environmental science, natural resource management, or sustainability, but what fun would it be if I were, anyway?
I came across this article in the New York Times describing a young Yale student who, after dropping out his sophomore year, managed to make environmental activism, specifically against climate change, a bit more sexy, and, more importantly, lucrative. I think we’re all familiar with the idea of marketing in order to raise awareness for environmental issues, i.e. “green” products, but Billy Parish aims at larger investors rather than everyday consumers. The idea is basic; Mosaic’s website states that those interested “invest directly in solar projects and collect repayments with interest.” Parish has managed to attain the difficult goal of letting people see the impact their environmentally friendly contribution has – in this case, lining their pockets.
You might be thinking, “great, just what we need, more focus on money than what really matters” – but here’s the thing: I often see two very distinct sides painted of the issue of human reaction to environmental degradation. Either people are dread-locked sustainable farmers with recycling tattoos and bare feet, or money-hungry corporate sharks who dump oil into the eyes of seals every morning and live off of coral reef burgers. Of course this isn’t true, but it perpetuates the idea that in order to be an environmentalist or even interested in sustainable causes, you must be perfect. You must be altruistic, self-sacrificing, and a level five vegan. This notion only serves to discourage those who still enjoy using certain resources and don’t necessarily feel immense sadness when thinking about the rainforest from making any changes at all.
What an idea like Parish’s does is find a middle ground and strives to make a real difference. He doesn’t ignore the basic economic principles that our existence is currently so dependent on (whether those are right or wrong is a different story), but he’s doing something useful and valuable for the environment using them. At this point, I find it very interesting and look forward to finding out what kind of an impact it makes.