[ad_1]Social Media & the Environmental Consequences Earlier this year I wrote about how social media has 'complelled' photographers to seek iconic shots often resulting in negative environmental consequences all over the globe and even on Phillip Island.
It is a special time on Phillip Island …. special because of shearwater chick season.
Short-tailed shearwaters are petrels. They are migratory birds that travel between Australia and the Bearing Strait near Alaska. It takes 4 weeks to make the journey, a distance of 15,000 kms each way. Millions of shearwaters are currently on the Island and the birds are either sitting on eggs or taking care of their newborn chicks. Thus, all burrows are occupied.
It is a special time but also a sad one. Many of these burrows will be crushed and the eggs destroyed, or birds and chicks killed, because walkers along the Phillip Island coastline, from Cape Woolamai to Summerlands, do not stay on the path.
And when I say walkers, I mean mostly photographers.
What happens when you crush a Shearwater burrow? You trap the birds inside because the entrance collapses. They suffocate to death. You crush the eggs and the hatchlings. These birds fly 15,000 kms to breed and nest here … and they die because the desire to get that perfect “instagrammable” shot for a photographer is too tempting.
Instagram has a lot to answer for its contribution to the destruction of the environment. The platform's capacity to promulgate millions of images from “instagrammable” locations causes much destruction. See for yourself. Just google “places ruined by Instagram”.
Despite many photographers being environmental advocates, the desire for ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ overrides their affiliation with nature. Take the Pinnacles, for example, in Cape Woolamai. Many photogs seek that long exposure sunset shot or an astro shot from the bottom of the rock formations. The location is beautiful and makes for a spectacular image capturing the majesty of nature.
But to get down there, many walk down the hillside … where there are hundreds of shearwater burrows hidden within the lush expanse of the New Zealand spinach hugging the cliff face. The cliff face appears inviting because of its undulating topography. It seemingly suggests there are solid footholds on the way down. But those undulations are burrows. They are there for birds, not for human feet.
There is an old penguin track that takes you to the bottom - the remnant of a penguin colony long gone from the impact of human activity. But to get to the track you have to walk off the path. There is signage there saying not to go further … because there are burrows there too, amidst additional dangers.
For those of you taking photographers out there, please do not encourage them to go down to the bottom. If you absolutely must ‘get that shot’, walk from the beach at low tide and during a small swell when the sea is not so angry.
And most importantly, don’t encourage photographers to share those shots on Instagram. If these shots are so special, why not print them out, frame them and hang them on your wall rather than share them on social media where there are thousands of other shots just like yours?
Because when these shots are shared on Instagram, others will come by the thousands, and these thousands won’t know how to get to the bottom. These thousands will crush the burrows to get to the bottom just to capture that perfect “instagrammable” shot … for the sake of “likes” and more followers.
I, too, have been guilty of this. I have walked off the path, down that old penguin track to get that shot. But no more. I won’t do it. The flora and fauna on Phillip Island contribute to the ecosystem beneficially. We humans do not. I do not.
William Butler Yates wrote a poem called ‘He wishes for the cloths of heaven’. It goes like this:
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
This is a love poem, but I think it also captures the voice of nature, asking humans to take care, to tread softly and not shatter the dreamscape that mother nature has given us to treasure.
So please tread softly … because Instagram likes and follows are cheap. That’s why the platform allows you to buy them for a few dollars. “Instagrammable” shots are easily duplicated; they are neither unique nor original. Moreover, they are ephemeral, lasting as long as a scroll down the page. Nature can’t be duplicated and edited. She won’t be here for ever.
If nature disappears, so do you.