Photo Credit: SER Texas A&M Student Association - Bastrop Park Fire Restoration

On Interning at Island Press: Melting Icecaps

In this week's installment Editorial Intern Amanda del Sontro elaborates on what drives her to strive for a better environment.

I’ve spent the last seven years of my life learning about the environment in some academic way. I went to a high school dedicated to it, and added an Environmental Studies minor to accompany my Writing degree. Knowing the state of the world, with its shifting climate and declining resources and diversity, can make one feel downtrodden at times. You can lose hope, seeing how things are going, how slow change can be and how people hold on to an ignorant bliss. But working as an intern at Island Press has reinvigorated me. Twice weekly, I sit in on meetings where I am surrounded by three to twenty people, dedicated to get the environmental message out in the form of written word. These books are written by one author, or teams, or entire organizations, and then sold to people in the thousands, who receive and perpetuate the message. Beyond that, my assignments have filled me with hope; I’ve reviewed many books with focuses and ideas that both breed interest and innovation, I’ve read a manuscript that shows cities can live symbiotically with the ocean and I’ve contacted photographers that will throw their licensing fees out the window to help support an environmental cause. One assignment in particular got me thinking and increased my morale by tenfold.  In front of me were 200 hundred videos, featuring 30 or so people from people all over the continent talking about greening their cities. They, as Directors with their teams, have made tremendous impacts on local levels. Even if the country, as a whole, may be ambivalent at time, they are excited and making change when and where they can. Sustainability and real green stuff grows on a local level. In any conversation about the sustainability, you will hear things about avoiding sprawl, supporting the local economy, using native species and growing your own food. That is because the closer you are to your environment and the more intimately you understand it, the more likely you are to take care of it. When I think about it, I realize the thing that made me an environmentalist was forging a connection with my home's local ecology: from the watershed, the plants, even the frog calls. Now I care about the whole country, the whole world, because I understand where and how I live fits in.

Show people a distant melting iceberg, and that's difficult for them to understand. That's far away, it's not in my back yard, what does it matter? And even if they do understand, such an image does not create hope--it is too distant, too large to be helped. What can I do? But show them the farmers market, the public transit, the lakes and rivers, and they will find something they interact with on a daily basis. They may not understand where it fits in overall, but there will be this "hey, this effects my life" moment. Show them how beautiful their plants are, and what is taking them away. Make them aware of how intricate their local ecology is, and what factors shrink it. If people are shown how wonderful their backyard is, they will tend to it. And whether they mean to or not, that will have a larger, more global environmental change.