Coalition Report

By Madeleine Ruwitch, Intern
Missouri Coalition
for the Environment

Can We Click Our Way To A Healthy Planet?

In this day and age, it is pretty standard for my generation to care about environmental issues. We understand that climate change, deforestation, hazardous waste, and other threats are harmful to the Earth and to our wellbeing. People may define themselves as moral society members through recycling, limiting their consumption of red meat, conserving water in their homes, and similar lifestyle adjustments.

A critical tool facilitates this widespread identification with environmentalism: social media. On Earth Day, Instagram floods with photos of user’s favorite outdoor spots, their captions celebrating Earth’s glorious beauty or quoting famous environmentalists. People like, comment on, and share articles on Facebook about the President’s latest environmental policy blunder, provoking impassioned 35-character responses. There exists a never-ending stream of news and information to absorb and regurgitate, and because of this, environmental consciousness remains ever-present.

When it comes to effecting legislative change, which recycling, vegetarianism and 5-minute showers cannot alter alone, environmentalists have an opportunity to shake things up. Spreading awareness is important and is aided substantially by social media. Rarely, however, will awareness be enough. The impact of a social media post may begin to dissipate as soon as the next wave of viral activism emerges. This rapid reversal is dangerous in a world in which a movement needs extensive, dedicated support to succeed.

I have fallen into this trap- I’ve shared an article on Facebook, received positive feedback, and moved along with my day, convincing myself that somehow, somewhere, it would make a splash. And maybe it did. But I have found that I feel much more confident in my activism and hopeful about the future when I stay with an issue. The desire to change the world lives in the millions of social media users. We just need to take our passion for the cause and dig deeper.

Under our current administration, it is easy to feel disheartened. So, how can we make our environmental efforts stick? How can we utilize social media to make a lasting difference?

The answer lies in a simple concept: practice depth, not breadth. Try to closely follow one trustworthy organization dedicated to the cause that really matters to you. Start small. Sign an online petition. Subscribe to an email list. Donate to your chosen organization online. Then, track the petition to find out where it goes and whether it works. If the effort fails, read about what you can do to persist. Attend events, learn more, and spread your knowledge to others. Click away online, but make sure that your activism on social media is focused and productive.

Look for MCE online @moenviron and @moenvironment.