Envirovet has taken a turn towards the feathered. Today our schedule reads "Avian Influenza Workshop" and a lecture on "Flamingo Die-offs in East Africa." We have 3 days of lectures left after today and then we board a plane for Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. It's hard to believe this family will soon be making the journey across the Atlantic to our classroom in the African landscape.
I'm still having such a good time and learning so much about wildlife and ecosystem health. I continue to have thought-provoking conversations with my colleagues and faculty. Just last night I was joined by an Envirovet lecturer in the lobby of the hotel and we proceeded to have a discussion on land use and sustainable development. As Americans, the world's top consumers, we have set a precedent for developing countries. They look to us as role models, whether we are fit for that title or not. Indonesian women want to buy Hermes bags like they see on "Sex and the City." Nigerians want to drive their personal vehicles even though they have adequate public transporation. And even though they prefer open windows, people in Thailand keep the air conditioning running because it is a sign of wealth.
Everyone wants their "fair share" and unfortunately, if Americans are used as the barometer for what is fair, life on Earth simply isn't sustainable. What is it going to take to convince Americans that we must desire less? Is our overabundance really all that it's cracked up to be? Is the American lifestyle the key to happiness? Well, ironically, in a study on the world's happiest places, the U.S. doesn't even make the top 10.
Saving the planet may require reprogramming human nature. We are designed to always want more and to want what we can't have....the ol' "grass is always greener on the other side" mentality. This became humorously clear when I discovered the beauty products of my Thai roommate. All of her creams and lotions contain "whitening agents" to make her skin more like mine. Cruise down the aisle of any American drugstore and you will see lotions with added tint and bronzing agents, promising the slimming effects of tanned skin. We are all suckers! If we could get marketing executives to come up with a pitch for eco-friendly living, we might just have a chance!