Are Gamers this Generation’s Environmental Heroes?

One of the environmental movement’s largest obstacles when it comes to getting people involved is the lack of convenience. But now, this obstacle may be overcome. Tim Shields, a desert biologist who recently gave a TED Talk at UC Berkeley, may have found the perfect solution to our modern-day problem: drone technology. When most people first hear the word “drone” images of government agencies spying on people come to mind, but not all drones are used for

In his TED Talk, Shields introduced us to his company Hardshell Labs, which is currently working towards creating environmental “games” aimed to protect tortoises whose populations have been rapidly declining.  These games can be accessed by anyone with a smart phone or a computer, which is basically everyone in America these days. His basic concept is to make environmentalism “fun”, which is not a commonly used word when talking about environmental issues. By making environmental action accessible, even fun perhaps, we can involve a greater majority of the population.

Even beyond the realm of fun, drones are a crucial development in environmental justice, for they are capable of capturing viewpoints not usually available to scientists, juries, or the general public. In this way, environmental violations can be documented much more efficiently and reliably. Feedlots have been recorded dumping blood into waterways, the Sea Shepard’s Society has used drone technology to track down and record illegal whaling ships, and more recent efforts to try and stop the poaching of endangered animals such as rhinos utilize this technology. And the greatest part? You don’t even have to get out of your chair to bring environmental justice to our world.conservation-drones-537x396

It is certainly valid to say that our society as a whole has developed to make convenience a top priority; this means environmentalists need to, in a sense, cater to this new lifestyle. Drone technology, in this way, seems to be our best bet right now. While scientists lead the research on using drone technology for environmental purposes, it certainly will not be long until the average gamer, or average working person, will be able to save animals that are going extinct, or capture incriminating images of corporations violating environmental laws.

Drone technology truly gives meaning to having a bird’s eye view on all that is harming our world, and now we might actually be able to do something about it. lead_large

JoAnna Saunders

JoAnna is a 2nd year Society and Environment Major and Spanish Minor. She hopes to work internationally on environmental policy and find a solution to our global food crisis.

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2 Responses

  1. Christine says:

    There are so many opportunities in general to do good with technology. For instance, on mobile, if you go to, for every ten minutes not using your phone, a day’s worth of clean water will be donated to someone in need.

  2. Meredith says:

    Hi Joanna, thanks for this blog. I was at the TED talk as well, but was less optimistic about it. I find myself very apprehensive of remote environmentalism, as for me, environmentalism at its core is about engaging with your home, the place where you live, being present in the physical world. An app that allows people to “help the environment” without leaving their chairs might help some scientists with their research, but I don’t think I would really call it environmentalism. I don’t think it will solve our true problems. Our problem is not that species are going extinct, it’s that we’re not engaged enough in our surroundings to feel that extinction in our hearts and work to prevent it. I may be in the minority here, but I don’t think this sort of technology solution will do it for us, and it would be counter-productive to have people believe that they’re doing enough by playing a game on their phone.

    I don’t mean this as a criticism to your article at all – simply wanted to share another viewpoint. If you have a response to my comment I’d love to hear it.

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