Conservation through Music: Respect the Environment / Hajao ty Tontolo Iaina

By Christi Turner, Education & Youth Outreach Coordinator

Does anyone remember the cartoon movie Ferngully: the Last Rainforest?  I’ll never forget watching it as a child, and starting to think about the disappearing forests on the other side of the American continent and its effects on our entire human community.  I remember hearing the song Men in Helicopters (by Adrien Belew – thanks daddy!) for the first time, a song that got me thinking about human overexploitation, disrespect and destruction of our natural resources.  And did anybody else watch Captain Planet every Saturday morning in the late 90s?  These are just some of the audiovisual influences that have helped guide me toward conservation and sustainable development in my personal philosophy and professional life, partly because they made it “cool” to my young mind.  Thank goodness for forward-thinking music and television producers, or my brain might have been totally fried by Animaniacs and Gem and the Holograms.

With the right images, sounds, and words, important messages stay with us forever.  Advertising and marketing execs know this all too well, and they invest billions of dollars in finding the colors, fonts, jingles, and slogans that will get us to buy their products.  Thankfully the ideas behind corporate marketing can be leveraged in “social marketing” as well – “selling” positive ideas to communities in order to help improve their lives and livelihoods.  And of course, the younger these ideas are adopted, the greater the impact.

Here in Velondriake, a community-managed marine conservation zone off the remote south coast of Madagascar, Blue Ventures has partnered with UNICEF in a new social marketing and educational outreach endeavor: engaging the region’s young people to promote conservation through different audiovisual technologies.  UNICEF has helped BV to establish a new Junior Reporters Club here in Velondriake, whose members are learning to use Flip Cams to document local conservation issues and activities, and sharing them with the wider youth community in inspirational ways.  In another complementary activity, known as Connecting Classrooms, students from around Velondriake’s 24 villages are engaging directly in issues facing their local marine environment, and learning to share stories of their environment and their community via the internet, even learning to create their own wiki pages on the UNICEF-moderated CC portal, www.connectingclassrooms.net, complete with photos, films, and sound bites from their environmental education activities.

We’re actively pairing our environmental education (EE) activities with opportunities to exhibit artistic and musical talent, most notably through the environmental song and poetry contest we held last month to launch this exciting partnership with UNICEF.

The winners of the song contest got to make their song, a catchy, hip tune called “Respect the Environment” (Hajao ty Tontolo Iaina), into a music video.  These kids – among them the leader of the local environmental youth club, members of Connecting Classrooms, and students sponsored by Blue Ventures through our schools scholarship program – are the future of conservation in Velondriake, and they know it.  They love it.  They are up to the challenge of engaging in sustainable natural resource management and all of the related issues – ensuring access to quality education, to health services, to family planning options, and the other elements of sustainable, healthy communities and ecosystems.  And with songs like “Respect the Environment”, they are helping to inspire the rest of the youth of Velondriake to do the same.

The “Respect the Environment” music video is now a part of Blue Ventures’ community EE outreach activities, especially our “Village Outreach Tour”, an EE roadshow that hosts EE films and lessons in 10 villages around Velondriake, on a monthly basis.  The song has made the youth of Velondriake the inspiration and envy of kids (and adults!) in Morombe, the center of the district, where our Velondriake management committee recently used the music video as part of their community outreach activities with their partner organization in Morombe.  And the music group has just written two more songs, to be recorded over the holidays!

We’re planning many more activities to showcase young talent in the name of conservation, through music, film, radio, and the internet – and focusing especially on how to share their dedication to conservation with the wider youth community, in southwest Madagascar and across the western Indian Ocean region.  Stay on the lookout for our LiveWithTheSea.org website, an exciting new online forum for youth-to-youth and community-to-community environmental education and conservation exchange!

And as an organisation, Blue Ventures and Velondriake are building our own capacity to produce high-quality, scalable, audio-visual materials in the region, and limit the need to outsource this work to the regional capital (a grueling 8 hour offroad car ride from Velondriake).  Radio shows, music videos, interactive educational audio…  these are all key ways to rapidly spread important conservation messages to target zones and populations, especially the youth.

Stay tuned for other exciting new videos & radio shows from Blue Ventures and Velondriake!

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