A few weeks ago, I finally managed to visit my friend’s place. Her parents live in a small town in northern Germany, surrounded by nature. I couldn’t imagine a better place for a much need break from a busy city.
Unfortunately for us, it was raining cats and dogs. No fear! VR is here! My friend’s parents have recently purchased a VR set, so we couldn’t think of a better opportunity to test it.
In case you are wondering, YouTube has a whole bunch of VR content. Whether you want to dive and discover coral reefs, go on a space adventure, skydive, go for a rollercoaster right, you choose.
My VR experience
I chose to dive at coral reefs. Swimming in clear-blue, sky-like water, with hundreds of little fishes in craziest colour combinations, float alongside sea turtles. I spent a good 10 minutes starting at coral reefs. It was amazing.
But as I kept exploring the world underneath, I got a panic attack out of the blue. There was nothing scary in the video. It just really hit me I might be looking at something that might not be there in a few years. You know, these days it’s almost impossible not to read about coral bleaching, among many other issues.
Imagine your Instagram post twenty years from now
When I started writing this post, I wondered what might speak to the current generation. Since we seem to enjoy having a profile of a world-traveller who visited 70+ countries and gets hundreds of likes from strangers, tell me: How do you imagine your Instagram posts to look twenty years from now?
Will it look like the one on the left or will it resemble the one on the right (one of many, highly polluted Hawaiian beaches)?
What is going on in your mind?
When I travelled across Canada a few years ago, I took a hike in one of its incredible national parks.
You’d think the words ‘national park’ would mean something. It turns out; they don’t. As I was hiking, I spotted a nappy full of baby’s poo right next to the trail. What the crap, literally!? What kind of an example are you setting up for your kid?
How would you like it if someone came to their garden and would drop a bucket of poo in your yard?
My country (Slovakia) is no different. The trash in our national parks or along river banks is not something uncommon. Seeing a tourist drop a paper while hiking and not even bother to pick it up is nothing unusual. I visited Morskie Oko in Poland a few days ago. People had no problem to throw a take-away cup of coffee onto a fresh layer of snow. Many of them were kids. But how cool is it to take a picture of yourself with that exact coffee cup in nature that looks like a fairy tale?
I mean what’s going on in heads of all those people? And when have we become so disrespectful towards the one home we have?
It looks like we have forgotten about how unique our situation is. Have we completely lost touch with who we are? I borrowed the next few lines from one of my favourite authors:
We are taking more and more resources out of environment, while we pump back enormous quantities of waste and poison; thereby changing the composition of soil, water and atmosphere. (21 lessons for the 21st century, Yuval Noah Harari.)
Looking back ten years from now
While we all currently focus on the future, we seem to be forgetting the future does not start in ten or thirty years, but this very moment.
I hope to have kids one day. I hope when they are big enough, I can take them around the world to visit all the fantastic sites of the planet Earth I had a chance to see and even more.
As ridiculous as it may sounds:
- I wish they can breathe fresh air (not packed in bottles).
- And I hope they never have to face a danger of flooding, drought or worse.
- I would like them to experience a snow-flake landing on their faces or four seasons, at least. (You know that 2019 was the 5th year in a row my hometown didn’t have snow for Christmas. Some 20 years ago, we used to have as much as 50 cm.)
- I want them to be able to see a lemur, a tiger, a bee or a wolf in wild nature if there is anything left since we have managed to wipe out more than 60% of the animal population in less than 50 years.
Many might wave their hand and move on with their day.
It might seem ridiculous to be concerned about something we still have, although it might be at the brink of extinction.
As a species, are we willing to learn and change?
Even though we witness a small shift towards more conscious behaviour, business, and living in recent years, it will take a bit more to change the behaviour of roughly 8 billion people.
The problem is not that we wouldn’t be capable of doing so, but the fact that:
Whenever long-term environmental considerations demand some painful-short term sacrifice, [governments] might be tempted to put immediate national interests first….alternatively they may simply deny the problem. [Harari]
It’s not surprising. Which state would voluntarily sacrifice its economic and national well-being? Right? Think about your life. How much would you be willing to give up to achieve a more environmentally- conscious approach to life?
Would a vegan stop eating tofu made out of soybeans (a crop that is part of agricultural production, contributing to deforestation?)
How many of you would be willing to give up pizza delivery? Why? Once the pizza boxes soaked with oil, it is impossible to separate it from paper fibres during recycling. Think in numbers. Imagine individual orders pizza 2x per month. That equals to 24 boxes you cannot recycle in a year. Now imagine that there are around one million people who do the same, which leaves you with 24,000,000 pizza boxes that we cannot turn into reusable material. So what would be your alternative?
Nowadays, you will see nations or various groups shouting and pointing fingers at each other. How many of them are trying to adapt to the changes they are calling for in their own lives? How many create conditions to enable people to live more consciously?
To start with, how will you stop people from trashing the environment? It’s not as easy as you would think. I see it every day on the streets. What would you do if you tell someone: ‘Hey, there is a trash can! Why don’t you throw it there?’ And they would laugh in your face and turn around.
The world outside of virtual reality
While I enjoyed my VR experience, the moment I put those glasses down, I kept thinking, it’s not enough. I don’t want to live my life in virtual reality. I don’t want to live a life in memory of what we once had.
You don’t need to be a scientist to live in a more conscious and less harmful way. What you need is to use your voting rights and build habits.
I don’t want to wake up one day and think to myself: ‘God, I live on Trash Island!’
What kind of future would you choose? The one you can experience in reality or the one that will be preserved only as a memory of what we once had through images and movies?
NASA might be closer to finding planets that resemble the conditions of Earth, but they haven’t yet started charter flights to inhabitable planets that would allow us to live as we do now or have they?
So, are we willing to change?