Environmentalism in the 21st century

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Illustration by Nenette

Earth day is upon us (April 22nd), so here is a round up some interesting articles on where environmentalism might be headed. One thing is becoming clearer by the day : To fight large scale pollution and destruction of the environment, citizens and organizations need to leverage technology to monitor, mobilize and lobby for better laws.

The first step is gathering more information. In developing countries like Brazil where anti illegal logging advocates risk their lives everyday, Google Earth is being used to monitor deforestation. You can’t fight what you don’t know.

Up here in Canada, the city of Waterloo does not even know how much water is taken by local industrial facilities! Waterloo is home to some of the greatest tech giants in Canada and yet there is a flagrant absence of basic monitoring. How can appropriate decisions be made if no data is available? Some citizens are taking matters into their own hands; they are mobilizing to build open-source air emissions monitoring tools. Using these basic tools on a large scale with millions of data points, citizens can gather important data on their local air quality. This will allow citizens to mobilize using social media and lobby government for change.

Pressure can come from the public and from the media, but you can’t count on the media to stick around for long. This study shows the short attention span of the media and the impacts it might have on legislators, who feel less pressure to act as the media tires of a story.

Opening up government environmental data is essential to empowering citizens and enforcing laws, which are sadly not respected in Canada according to EcoJustice. This becomes doubly important as the canadian government systematically reduces the legal process for approval of industrial projects and undermines the ability of civil society to take part in important projects.

There is a great deal of work left to do and many battles left to fight to create a cleaner and safer environment for our children. Environmental activists have an uphill battle ahead of them and the only way out might be to embrace social media, data analysis and crowd-sourcing.

P.S. Here are some of our favourite canadian environmental videos.