Awareness, Conservation, and Nature: Using Digital Media for Community Engagement
By Adam Dhalla
Far too often we see young people either nonchalant or unconscious of the natural world around them. The are at least two benefits that come from inspiring youth to care about the environment:
Being aware of nature is extremely fulfilling (and a permanent cure to boredom!)
Protecting the environment is an ongoing challenge that will require all generations, current & future, to get involved. Budding environmentalists today will be the leaders of tomorrow.
Digital devices and the internet are often blamed for the loss in interest of the natural world, and this might be partially true. But they also provide enticing new opportunities. Never before was it as easy to connect to so many people from so many disparate places in such a quick and direct manner. If used effectively, the internet, phones, computers, and tablets can be used to get people into sustainability and nature, to transition people, young and old, from “screen time to green time.”
During my time in the amazing YouthToSea program, I worked on two projects about conservation and sustainability that made this connection between the digital and natural worlds:
My first project was www.motmot.ca, a website that showcases local sustainable businesses. Through an online survey I emailed to British Columbia companies, I was able to collect detailed, quantifiable information on their businesses’ operations – their energy efficiency, waste disposal methods, and product sourcing were all recorded and analysed.
This project got some media coverage on Tri-City News and Breakfast Television. I was able to showcase a few local sustainable businesses on my website, connect with many hundreds of consumers (I tracked website hits via Google Analytics), and hopefully funnel sustainably minded customers to local businesses, some of which may need a sales boost during COVID-19. Motmot was made possible through a #RisingYouth grant from TakingITGlobal, as the funds paid for the various survey and website accounts.
Find the Birds
Over five years ago, while out birding, my dad and I came up with the idea for Find the Birds, an educational mobile game about birds and conservation. Since then, I have been gradually working on it in my spare time. Recently, a non-profit organization my dad founded, www.thoughtgeneration.org , finally secured some production funding, mainly from the Government of Canada. The team is working on it now and the game will be launching worldwide in early April 2021 from the Apple App & Google Play Stores as free-to-download/free-to-play for Apple and Android phones and tablets.
My volunteer role with the Thought Generation Society on this project included researching bird behavior (including seabirds) and habitats (including oceans), as well as creating some concept artwork. Thanks to the Youth Ocean Action Grant (YOAG) from Ocean Wise, the Government of Canada, and the Canada Service Corps, I was able to create and print promotional materials for the game, which I will use when hosting upcoming launch events.
Here are a few birds I drew for the in-game location that will be launched first: Arizona.
For updates about game launch (including access to the download links when ready) and to learn more, please visit: www.findthebirds.com
I am very grateful to the YouthToSea program for providing me with so many opportunities to both help my community and to connect with like-minded peers. I will treasure the memories from Camp Latona for a long time! I am eager to volunteer more at the Vancouver Aquarium in the coming years, before I graduate high school.
Here is a photo I took of sea lions while on a YouthToSea whale watching trip:
I highly recommend any young person taking part in the YouthToSea program - it is a life-changing experience. In these challenging times, I hope for a strong future for Ocean Wise and the Vancouver Aquarium – these invaluable organizations are a key part of British Columbia life and the global conservation community!