Hobbies and the environment

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Pablo Edronkin

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A hobby provides a good start for environmentalism.

A well-understood charitable attitude begins always at home; if we cannot demonstrate to ourselves and our families that we can actually be ecologically-minded, we will never be in a credible position to ask others to act as we suggest. You cannot ask for what you are not willing to give; that's a very simple rule for social responsibility and the development of leadership skills. People - and especially kids - are better predisposed to learning thorough examples than by listening to someone just talking. People essentially imitate attitudes, gestures and ideas that they see as positive; nobody - or at least very few people - believe in learning thorough coercion or punishment.

And as hobbies constitute undoubtedly pleasurable activities for those interested in them, no matter what they are, for all those involved, the time spent constitutes from an educational point of view, very high-quality time because participants in any hobby-related activity are open-minded while that lasts. So, whether you are interested in railroad modelling, collecting stamps or coins, pottery, doll houses, flying real aircraft, flying simulators or some sports, you, and those around you at the time become better teachers and informal learners or formal students. This means that a skilful teacher can inculcate many things to his "Padawans" by using such situations.

But in order to get authentic learning, whatever is intended to be thought should be related in some logical way to the hobby in question. Dictatorial regimes around the world tried to use to their advantage such situations, and so, instead of having the Boy Scouts in communist countries, the state and the party created the Pioneer clubs, which were almost the same as the scouts, but well seasoned with political indoctrination. However, the fact that such a technique ultimately failed - i.e. the political ideas convinced no one in the end - is easily proved by the fall of the Berlin Wall.

However, if there is one thing that is related to any hobby and any activity on this planet is indeed, the fact that the health of our home as an environmental system receives an impact from what we do. Thus, any hobby, no matter how innocent it might seem to us, could have a potentially negative effect: hunting and fishing are obvious examples but even R/C modelling could become highly contaminating, albeit at a small scale, because aircraft models and their radio control systems use batteries, fuel and other stuff that does contaminate in the same way as the stuff used by cars and trucks. Indeed, an RC plane is smaller that your average SUV, but irresponsible use of such devices could contribute in a very negative way to the state of our planetary environment.

Thus, those who practice any sort of hobby that might have a negative environmental impact are in a position to reinforce negative or positive attitudes very easily. In both cases - moreover if they are surrounded by other who might start to emulate - the effect could be multiplied. So, if it is in our interest to do good while enjoying our hobbies, it becomes evident that we should take advantage of the opportunities presented to reinforce positive attitudes and finish off those that might be negative.

Having said this, it becomes important to remember that introducing unrelated "ideology" is pointless, so overacting or forcing any sort of conduct or norm into the little universe of the hobby enthusiasts could backfire and send even very good ideas to the trash bin.

So, becoming environmentally-minded as a hobbist and part a group of hobbists should not be a matter of impracticality or hypocrisy. It shouldn't be seen as something cumbersome or against the common sense of other fellow hobbists. For example: prohibiting the use of certain batteries ipso facto among those who like R/C modelling would raise many objections, mostly related to budgetary reasons and going against the pocket is a sure way to fail. If battery types should be changed, than a recommendation to do so as they become consumed stands a far better chance than prohibition. Remember: you want others to emulate you, not to quarrel with them.

Easter Island... Our future?

Easter Island marks one of the limits of Polynesia and is famous for its fabled Moais carved in stone, but the island has a political and environmental lesson to tell to each visitor.

If you depart from Santiago de Chile it is a flight that takes four or five hours to reach Rapa Nui. You fly over the Pacific Ocean, ripe with life but deadly as a desert to any human being. There is nothing along the way and getting to Easter Island looks and feels like an intercontinental trip. Just imagine what was to get there five hundred years ago...

Once you get there you will, of course, see the dozens of statues carved in volcanic stone by the Long Ears, the race that dominated the island centuries ago. That is what everyone who visits the place wants to see and they are truly magnificent.

But you will notice that aside from the exciting archaeological remains there and the picturesque little towns there is a unique thing that becomes apparent as soon as you get off the plane: the island is almost devoid of trees. And what is curious is that Polynesian islands are usually lush with life. Some people might argue that the weather, the wind, the distance or whatever is the reason for the barren landscape.

But Hawaii and Tarawa are also far a way from almost any other place and yet, those islands and atolls are filled with all sorts of biological manifestations.

Then, discerning visitors will start guessing why would people cross the ocean to go to live to a place where there are no natural resources, no matter why they are not present there. And thatīs the key: the island used to have vegetation like any other island inhabited by Polynesians. The ancient culture there didnīt just came by; they had resources.

However, in the end it seems that the Long Ears caused their own ecological disaster by mismanaging their natural resources. Their culture became extinct, no more Moais were carved, and by the beginning of the twentieth century less than a hundred souls remained there.

The Chilean government has done a lot to preserve the island and give it a future; tourism is a prosperous activity there, but trees are still very scarce. The ecological disaster caused centuries ago still has effects on Easter Island.

This is something to think about when considering the state of the ecology and what politicians are doing at a global scale,a nd what we do by not being more environmentally-minded.

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