Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's really not about being 'green'

People get it wrong. They think I'm against plastics, styrofoam and the like because I'm an eco-fanatical tree-hugger sort. Well I'm not green; the grass is green, but I'm quite positively some shade of brown or tan.

I'm against wasteful use of synthetic materials simply because I like aesthetics. I take photos, I paint, I write. And my subject matter often comes from the world around me. Needless to say, plastic bottles generally don't look good in photographs—certainly not in nature photographs! And no one looks good eating out of a styrofoam container.

I believe in wildlife conservation not because I'm enraptured by the cuteness of dolphins, turtles and elephants, but because I think natural ecosystems are awesome. And when it comes to conserving an ecosystem—be it a coral reef, a rainforest or an arctic tundra—every member of the ecosystem needs to be conserved. In fact, it's often the small creatures that keep ecosystems alive; rainforests can survive without tigers, but they can't survive without the fungi and microorganisms that break down dead matter.

I endorse responsible and independent tourism, not because I think tour operators are crap (though of course, some are), but because, honestly, who wants to go snorkelling with hundreds of other day-trippers? Who wants to go for a jungle hike that feels more like a weekend school excursion? And who wants to take pictures of impressive architecture and sweeping landscapes with a menagerie of tourists in the foreground?

I support local agriculture and sustainable fisheries—and generally the whole 'going local' thing—not so much because I'm convinced of a creed or something, but more so because—let's face it—this is the only way that's going to work in the long run.

The December issue of National Geographic features an article on city living (link here—KL made it into the pages!), in which it is suggested that sustainable cities are the best bet for survival on earth. It must be realised, however, that sustainable can mean anything from perfectly synthetic (we don't need rivers because we can manufacture water) to a 'ruralisation' of cities (by going back to the natural way of things).

I know my opinions may well be a wet blanket in the dreams of many engineers, but I truly believe the key to the future is in the past, and that future cities really worth living in, will bear the unmistakable hallmarks of the best villages of the past and present.

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