‘If you must fly, fly with purpose’, says environmentalist

Songqiao Yao, founder of WildBound

If flying is inevitable, do it with purpose and intention, says Songqiao Yao, founder and Chief Exploration Officer of WildBound, an international environmental group.
Her group is an innovative earth-inspired organization that educates the next generation of citizens through education, advocacy, and public communication, in order to build a future where humans live in harmony with nature. The group also organizes educational trips for students.
“Our students go on expeditions to different ecosystems around the world, and primarily it’s a learning journey for these students,” Yao told the Times. “They learn about [why] these ecosystems are crucial, so that they have some first-hand experience to see penguins and whales. Furthermore, they contribute to science projects [conducted] in the region.”
These students will assist with essential but safe jobs on the continent, and these experiences have been proved beneficial. After their trips, the students may come back to host their own photography exhibitions, to write column articles for regional or national newspapers or even become a delegate to the United Nations Climate Conference, said Yao.
“It’s like an experience that prepares them for the next level of engagement in terms of environmental protection,” she explained.
Yao was invited by the International School of Macao to offer an educational presentation yesterday, as part of the school’s second consecutive year of its Activist in Residence Initiative.
“We thought it’d be a wonderful connection to look more around the environmental aspect, such as climate change and biodiversity,” explained the school’s head, Mark Lockwood, when asked about the decision to invite Yao. “Songqiao’s name came forward. We really were excited about her [… because] she really has lessons to share with students. She’s not doom and gloom about the topic.”
Some environmentalists have recently been criticized for traveling extensively, leaving a significant carbon footprint, but grilling others for causing pollution. When asked about this, Yao told the Times that she believes flying with a purpose should be excused.
“I think there’re two aspects to [comment on] this. One thing is that I’m really in support of meeting in person and visiting different places to actually experience nature. I take students to Antarctica, a faraway place, which many of us have to fly to,” she said. “If we think about impact on a place such as Antarctica and the rainforests, our daily actions are actually causing a bigger impact than just one single act of flying to the place, with a purpose to feel it.”
She holds the belief that everything we do causes environmental impact in certain ways, but we need to be clear about the reason behind our actions. She also noted that it is prominent to avoid mindless shopping.
In addition, she pointed out that even if all environmentalists refused to fly, the flights would still set off, “because there’re enough people flying business class to support the industry,” Yao added.
“That brings me to my second point: individual actions also need to lead to the effort changing the entire industry. For example, we need to press the airline industry to use cleaner fuels. We also need to promote innovation and technology [advancement].”
“We haven’t been able to do that very well. Some airlines have pledged to go plastic free to offset the flight’s carbon footprint, but it hasn’t been a sufficiently popular practice,” she pointed out.
“Only a couple of industry leaders are doing that. We need far more than that. Maybe there will be one day we can fly on solar energy planes. We only need to make that happen faster.”
Innovative technologies of late boast that they can save energy and shrink their carbon footprint, among other advantages. But since even the outermost layer of an LED light bulb is actually made of non-biodegradable materials, some accuse these same innovators of solving one problem by causing another.
“I think we’ve fallen into a trap of trying to think about the fanciest technology and forgotten that nature has the power to solve its own problems,” Yao pointed out. “Just having our forests produce more carbon dioxide will do more than any other mechanism that people devise on our planet.”
“We focus so much on what the best electric car is or what the latest solar panels are. We’re making fancy technology, trying to save our planet but we’re actually losing our forests every minute,” she stressed.
“Our forests are more effective [in offsetting carbon dioxide] than any electric car. We have forgotten all these natural solutions,” added Yao.

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