Our time is often referred to as the digital age and it has been proven often that anyone with access to the internet is capable of starting a global conversation, irrespective of the subject line. This trend has become a common phenomenon since the grand entrance of social media. Everyone turns to social media to express themselves. It is no longer possible to miss out an incident, no matter what the scale of the incident is or whether it is local or global. One’s interest or the lack of it, in a specific topic does not carry much weight either. With each passing day blocking out the information overload is getting more and more difficult.

In the past, there were very few avenues through which people could express their opinion and get the attention of the traditional media. If small scale efforts didn’t work, the last resort was to take to the streets. Today, we can connect and communicate like never before. Access to the rest of the world is just a click away and as mentioned earlier social media platforms have played a key role in connecting people all across the globe.

However, this magnitude of social media is both its blessing and its curse. There is a dark side to all this. Conservation and climate change topics are no exceptions and get ruffled during the online discourse; be it illegal hunting, food security, melting glaciers, droughts and floods due to unpredictable weather patterns, species extinction or their mistreatment.

People are not just aware of the subjects but are using social media to get involved. From sharing their opinion, to supporting various conservation campaigns. They are showing their support from opting for a simple pledge to symbolic adoptions of animals that might not even exist in their home country, like the giant panda, snow leopard or the orangutan. An example of large scale involvement of people from around the globe were the various campaigns that were conducted to the run up to the Climate conference in Paris that happened in December 2015 (COP21).

Apart from being an information bank, social media has provided a space for like-minded people to connect and join forces in searching for solutions for a sustainable planet. Organisations are using this medium to connect with their audience directly, educating them about conservation and climate change and coming up with solutions that can be adopted.

With all the positive that is happening, one cannot ignore the negative side. At times while expressing their views people lose the ability to center themselves and in the heat of the moment they get carried away to the extent that are openly calling for violence. Those sitting away from ground zero, most of the time show a gross lack of understanding of the situation. Just by clicking a button they feel entitled to influence the on-ground factors. When this doesn’t happen they don’t hesitate to call for violence, to the extent of calling for and celebrating death of the hunters and poachers.

The climate change conversation despite all the scientific research gets entangled between the climate believers and the climate deniers.

Instead of working towards the solutions the dialogue starts to resemble a heated ping pong match. Both sides very quickly start alleging the other of conspiracies.

One of the reasons that many resort to such a brash attitude is the lack of accountability in the virtual space and the cover of anonymity further gives them room to operate as they please. Freedom of expression should come with responsibility. The same level of ferocity is not shown when individuals are face to face.

In the context of conservation and climate change it has been noted that such loud voices have the least understanding about the topic. The undercurrent is that as long as one is really passionate about it, scientific facts can be ignored. Passion not backed by actual facts and practical solutions end up hurting the cause of conservation and climate change. This is especially true when it comes to the context of countries like Pakistan; where many still consider it to be ‘western concept’, despite the fact that we are among the top ten countries most affected country due to climate change. The frequent floods, droughts, changing weather patterns, declining groundwater levels, and not to forget our endangered species. These facts should serve as the writing on the wall that these are not alien concepts but problems that need attention and sustainable solutions.

It is important that for any practical and long term results, there is a connection between the real and virtual campaigns. Additionally, it is time to stop using it as a veritable battleground. Violent rantings over social media is not going to change or save anything. A good starting point is that people start taking responsibility for their online activities and use this powerful medium responsibly. Used in the right manner this medium can be of great service to the community.

Seth Godin said; “Ideas that spread, win.” When global communication is just a click away, spreading some good ideas will ensure that we are able to pass on nature’s gifts to future generations for them to enjoy the way we have been able to. Considering the current state of the world, spreading the wrong ideas is the last thing that we can afford.