Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 7 Issue 26 | June 27, 2008 |

  Cover Story
  Human Rights
  Special Feature
  Food for Thought
  Photo Story
  One Off
  A Roman Column
  Book Review
  Star Diary

   SWM Home


A Global Call

Nader Rahman

‘Awareness' is a word one can't seem to dodge these days. From information on cigarette packets to taking care of the world and its resources, people have become more aware of information that could potentially save their lives, the lives of many others and even the world. But in the end it all boils down to what people do with that awareness, if someone merely reads the warning on a cigarette pack and continues to smoke, then the message has not worked.

The main stumbling block behind any informative awareness programme is turning the words into deeds. As Al Gore is aware, many people may realise there is an inconvenient truth that we can't escape regarding climate change, yet people sit back and wait for someone else to do the real work. Often we are too comfy on our sofas listening and empathising with the problems of our world and yet we choose to do nothing about it. There is a way out; this year one lucky person could win the chance of a lifetime to speak at the IUCN World Conservation Congress where over 8000 leaders from governments, the United Nations, NGOs, business, scientific associations and community organisations will be present. There is a way to get there and have your voice heard by the movers and shakers at an event that is only held once every four years and the path to that moment begins at a simple website. Where ideas about the environment, the world and what the average person can do to save them is readil available.

The website is suitably named 'connect2earth' and in more ways than one it lives up to its name. The simple site is a portal and gallery of sorts where users around the world can log on, post videos, pictures and text about anything that is related to the environment. While there may be many a website that provides information, statistics, photos and even videos what makes connect2earth special is that it takes a bottom up approach to the problem. There are no experts with pictures and diagrammes proving the validity of climate change using satellite imagery and there are no long-winded scientific journal articles that expel a host of simple ideas coated in verbose language. The content of this website is provided solely by its users, their stories, pictures and videos are more compelling than any scientist can hope to be.

A picture submitted by a user from India.

It is one thing to talk about pollution and it is another thing to upload a picture of a lake where all the fish have died due to pollution. This example is straight off the website, where a user from India took a few pictures of a lake near his house that showed how the fish had died to the consistent pollution that flowed into it. The pictures give one a jolt, it is a wake up call, because it was not a scientist, nor a researcher, it was an average person and his story. Immediately it becomes real, the computer screen transports one to a real place with a real person.

A brief look through the website can give one an idea of what is going on in the world, not just what's wrong with it. It would be incorrect to say that the website simply showcases environmental problems and the downsides of a 21st century way of life. On the contrary there are many images, videos and articles that highlight different environmental projects around the world, from cell phone recycling to everyday tips that could help save the planet. They have also very clearly pointed out what they are looking for as the website says "We're about providing a space for you to tell the world why you care about the environment and why it should be protected." The length, breadth and scope of the website is great but like any other project under construction there is still work to be done. A good moderator could edit the English on the comments that people post, while it would also be nice to preview the text that users upload before clicking and being presented with the entire piece. The tags and categories that all the content is posted under work well along with a simple and easy to use layout.

The simplicity of the website is what makes it a joy to use but more importantly it has made it accessible to many people who may have had an idea, or picture that they wanted to share but were too technology shy to try. It starts with a simple from that needs to be filled up and the very next stage is where at the click of a button anyone can upload their text, photos or videos. Tagging them with key words makes them easier to find and also helps to categorise them. Currently there are 10 categories which include among others, global warming, low impact living, local and sustainable food and clean energy. They are all topics of great importance and that fact that people can share their ideas and views on these topics creates the best type of awareness, that which comes from a real source, not just a ubiquitous messages that are fed to us by the main stream media.

The website is combination of two well known global organisations along with a surprising partner. The WWF and IUCN jointly started the website along with Nokia in the hope that it would unite people and give them an opportunity to share their experiences. The mobile giant Nokia seems like the odd one out, but as companies around the world go green, even they have to move with the times and this venture gave them a perfect opportunity to partner with two of the most well respected environmental organisations in the world. The combination of the three provides a wealth of opportunities for the users of the site, as the top ranked item every month is rewarded with a Nokia mobile phone. But over and above the rather simple prize of a mobile phone there lies a reward so great that no amount of money in the world could make up for it.

In October the IUCN will hold its world congress in Barcelona and a panel of international personalities which includes the noted broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, James P Leape, Director General, WWF international, Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director General, IUCN and Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP and others will select one entry from the website that will be shown at the world congress. It is an opportunity for one person to meet the people who matter, and present his or her ideas. They offer a life changing experience where someone plucked from obscurity could be the next person who makes the leaders of the world stop and listen. This is truly the time to connect to the earth and if things fall in place one could connect with the people who matter, the world congress awaits.

On their website they say that connect2earth is "a community that, most importantly, is willing to express their concerns, frustrations, hopes and successes, online, loud and proud, through words and images and film." All that is left to be done is to sign up and start changing the world.

.Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2008