Have you ever been called a colossal “tree-hugger” when you were young, impressionable, and fascinated with nature?

No? Just me then? Alright… good to know, I guess.

Well, in any case, some of you may find it relatable if one is more immersed in nature than others. Maybe even to the point of bringing up a handful of trivia that may drive one’s family members, friends, or co-workers bonkers.

Many kids in their prime can map out a goal based on what they experience around them. Among them include the one whimsical goal of being an “animal/tree doctor” (their words, not mine) or something along those lines. While growing up, that could turn into a much broader term that could encompass an ecosystem itself. And as someone who had the imagination of being some kind of “environmental rescue ranger” growing up, while fueled by public-oriented morals from TV shows, movies, and cartoons (looking at you, Captain Planet), it could be a disappointment to know that life doesn’t always offer you that straightforward path without tribulations.

Of course, tribulations are necessary to achieve any goal. Hard work is what puts the weight and merit into your passion, after all. And this can apply to the vast field of environmental activism and advocacy. Regardless of what area you’re exploring as an environmental advocate, your contribution counts in one way or another to the larger goal of saving the planet. Whether you’re more leaning towards plant life or animal life, or the type of terrains like woodlands, deserts, mountains, and oceans, or even the planet’s climate and beyond – if you’re tackling any of these with the welfare of the planet in mind, you’re indeed a “tree-hugger”.

The boom of environmentalism may have picked up since the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, but it is by no means the beginning of it. The effort of paying heed to the environment had dated back as far as the 7th century – from the prohibition of burning down trees to the acknowledgment of environmental science and its associated impact assessments. Preservation of plants and animals and their respective habitats followed afterward as policies started being put in place to deter over-clearing of natural resources to fit a civilization’s needs. Some of these policies have lingered on even today – albeit with some tweaks to adapt to the modern era, while other policies may have faded away over time, for better or worse.

Throughout this timeline, environmental actors were aplenty. It doesn’t matter if a few of them ended up becoming noteworthy icons revered throughout history, or if many of them did just enough to create a ripple effect for a better outcome; their impact – in my opinion – have equal merits, even if their advocacy was made through different fields.

And this is the main point of this piece: dedicating your life to an environmental cause puts you on a road with countless forks ahead. I know that the adventurous passion would be to traverse swathes of land and sea to gather data, save endangered animals in a heart-pounding face-off against poachers, or nurture said animals as veterinarians. But you have to start from somewhere.

To be an active forest expert or a member of an environmental group, experience is essential. Fortunately, these groups can offer the necessary lessons that, nowadays can be accessible to you regardless of where you are. With such groups capable of collaborating with their counterparts from across the globe, you can grasp the general scope of how each party is operating – allowing you to choose which one you want to be a part of.

And, as mentioned before, environmentalism has a lot of ground to cover. Relaying data and findings from those in the field to the general public via multimedia and social platforms is just as big of a deal as the fieldwork itself. Engaging in that area makes you the indispensable bridge between those field workers and the public. Consider yourself as the translator, deciphering their works as a PR move that can influence the interested minds like how Smoky the Bear reminded everyone that only they can prevent forest fires.

Not everyone is overly passionate and fully engaged in environmental activities despite caring about the cause, and that’s alright too. You don’t have to be a pro at ecology to tag along with the experts, and one other way to show for it is to be a documentarian. Their insight plus your personal experience can make quite a duo for the public to absorb with better clarity.

Today, multimedia plays even a greater role in connecting the modern populace to the field experts. Social media platforms and their user base are finding niche ways to present fun facts and much-needed information to their target demographic. The world can offer a mix of spectacular, perilous, breathtaking, bizarre, and outlandish surprises, and that can be more than enough to attract curious minds. And even if those experiences don’t prompt them to set out on their own journey to live out their newfound passion, it can at the very least keep those people on a gradual path of enlightenment that can also be shared with their social circles.

Much to the contrary of the belief that being an eco-friendly advocate requires being on the field, that requirement is simply a drop in the ocean, as is the necessity of being an expert yourself. Not everyone has the interest and/or the resources to invest in such a field; keep in mind – forestry experts always welcome interested candidates, and wouldn’t leave you out of the loop if you’re really passionate about the field. But the bottom line is, even if all else fails, there are still numerous other paths ahead of you.

That’s the beauty of being a tree-hugger. It isn’t just about saving the forests; it’s a network of initiatives and concepts that draw you to becoming more environmentally conscious. You’ll have to expand your mind and realize that saving the forests doesn’t only mean being in that place at that moment, but also sharing what you know with the rest of the world and hoping some of them will reach out to you and explore a broader world. An environmental expert of today may thank someone who showed them what they wanted to know through a form of media, even if that someone did not need to be an expert in the matter himself/herself. Or another promising environmentalist may be grateful for the creators of a social media post, a piece of literature, or multimedia for steering him/her in the right direction to play their preferred role in saving the planet.

So, if you think you’re not doing enough by simply sharing an environmental message online, don’t be. You’re just as vital to the cause as the next person. Your noble intent to save the planet is the certification needed to become an environmental advocate or activist.

And finally, it’s never too late to live out your childhood imaginations as an environmental rescue ranger (or whatever name you had planned). When you think it’s safe to step out into the world once again, be a part of a local eco-community and work your way up to achieve that spot. In the meantime, don’t give up on the fact that each of you can make a difference – no matter how different it may turn out to be – in saving the planet. As the environmental cartoon superhero from the 90’s says it best: “the power is yours”.

To Be a Certified Tree-Hugger: An Opinion

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