Twelve weeks have passed and my internship is over. I have spent this exciting and short time, at least to my perspective looking back, doing all kinds of things that have further armed me with the tools necessary to continue to walk the path towards a long and fruitful career in the preservation of our Mother Nature. During my experience at Everglades National Park, my work revolved around community outreach to find the best ways to communicate climate change in a culturally relevant manner, but that wasn’t all, I had the opportunity to shadow scientists across different fields such as in Butterfly surveys, science dissemination, and lobster surveys.
Everglades National Park is located at the tip of Florida in a subtropical environment. Home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, it is considered the thirds biggest national park in the continuous USA. Neighboring the 9th largest metropolitan area of the USA, its location and tropical environment not only makes it susceptible to direct land pollution, but it also makes it greatly susceptible to climate change. Having direct access to a big population provides this park with a great opportunity to disseminate science and stewardship towards the land. To do this we must find the most effective ways to engage with the different communities of the area, which is the work I did this last twelve weeks. From my interactions with the community I found 4 coon trends that if interpreted and used correctly in the development of educational material, can be vital in creating a deeper connection and understanding when disseminating climate change science to the public.
Through my interactions, I was able to find 4 common trends;
First, most of the people I spoke to had a formed idea about climate change, an idea that seemed to alienate them from the issues brought about by climate change. People expressed climate change as a problem for the developing world, describing places around the world that were suffering from drought, or the polar bears running out of ice. Giving scenarios of things that made it seem like a foreign issue that didn’t involve them. With this in mind, we can focus on the issues climate change creates close to home so that we can internalize it and see it as our problem too.
Second, people see climate change from an economic perspective where if they are not directly impacted in their personal economies, then they do not see it as their problem. Knowing this will help us create educational material based on the economic impacts of climate change such as; increases in taxes, increases in insurance, increases in food prices, repairs of homes and possessions, and any other factor that might affect the economy of the average American.
Third, climate change is often spoken of using projection models and scenarios that are in the future, leading the public to the notion that it is a problem that is likely to happen in the future, giving them the false idea that it is not affecting us now and that it doesn’t require action now. Understanding this is key so that we as scientists and educators can get away from portraying scenarios in the future and instead focus on the problems that we currently face due to climate change allowing people to see it as something that is already here and that needs immediate action.
Finally, after speaking to young activists I was able to see that this community focuses on the sides of climate change that affect social groups, problems that further increase inequality. Through dialogue, we found that it is possible to alleviate the impacts of climate change and climate change itself if we take proactive approaches from a policy stand. With this in mind, we can create programs that include information of the governing bodies of our natural resources and industries such as but not limited to, the EPA and FDA, so that people understand that when voting and assembling, we must consider the impacts that our government selection will have on our environment.
As previously stated, during my stay here I also had the opportunity to shadow scientists of all kinds and see all the work they do to preserve Mother Nature. I specifically felt a deeper connection to one particular event, the Lobster surveys. A few weeks ago I went out to the Black Point Marina, close to Biscayne National Park, and performed lobster surveys. This activity was simple, boats arrive and we measure the lobsters and collect locations of fishing, sex and species. Not such a big science, but in reality this easy but long activity can make a great difference in the preservation of this organism. The information obtained is then used to determine how the population is doing this year and along with the information from previous years, we can see how the population is behaving and if current fishing practices and laws are sustainable. Doing this kind of survey is vital so that policies can be placed when the populations are not doing well. For me this was an important moment because it allows me to see that every activity we do, no matter how big or small it seems, impacts our home. People being surveyed understood that this was important and that it would ensure that they could keep enjoying this activity thanks to the works of passionate scientists that every year take the time to go and perform this labor.
I leave this place with nothing but a revitalized and eager spirit to preserve Mother earth,
Thank you for following me along this journey!