A few days ago the thought struck me that humans are the most connected species on the planet. And by far the most sophisticated communicators. This is a rather large claim when you consider the incredible communication skills animals have so allow me to explain.
Lions are intensely territorial animals. As such they have specially shaped vocal chords which allow them to roar and thereby advertise their position and boundaries. Despite this they are limited to hearing and being heard by other lions up to 10km away. Elephants have specialised cells packed into their feet and trunks that allow them to pick up vibrations made by the low rumbling of other elephants relatively far from their position. This is incredible and yet it still limits them to a radius of 15km. Essentially they’re only really aware of what is happening in their immediate vicinity.
You may argue that birds can fly and communicate with other birds across the globe. This is true but the migratory visitors currently inhabiting Londolozi will only learn what’s been happening in Europe or north Africa when they reach there in the next month or so and by that time the news will be six months old.
Humans on the other hand live in a significantly ‘smaller’ world. When something happens on Wall Street, Alaska (literally the furthest point from us in South Africa) or the moon, we can know in a matter of seconds. Despite time zones and the physical size of planet earth, we live in a virtual global realtime news feed.
The internet has literally changed our reality.
In 1993 there were only 623 websites on the internet. Today more than 100 000 domain names are registered every single day. A few decades ago, we relied on the postal service. Today we send emails. 204 million of them every minute to be exact.
My question is, has it stolen our peace or has it given us the opportunity to become more connected?
Researchers say that this new rate of communication has weakened our attention spans and increased our stress levels. We tend to panic about events happening in far flung places unlikely to actually impact us and that every day we spend more time glued to our devices. In China, there are even camps now where people can check themselves in for internet addiction.
I like to think of the rise of the internet as a huge positive though. Rather as something we can use to our advantage and for good. Despite the above impacts all being true, it has also created communities where none could exist before. Friends and family can stay in touch despite vast geological distances and people can learn about and rally around issues that they believe strongly in. Information and experience can be shared and virtually lived. We can now learn from each other faster, make shifts at a global level quicker and ultimately make new decisions about how we choose to live and relate as a species.
Thirty years ago you would have either had to learn about Londolozi by word of mouth or read about it in a magazine. If you wanted to know what was happening with the Sparta Pride, you would have had to visit. Londolozi could have landed on a conservation philosophy with great potential for other game reserves and yet it would slipped by unnoticed. Now, people from all over the world can be connected to and have an experience of this wilderness from their very own homes at any moment they choose. If you live in the middle of a bustling metropolis with limited or no access to wilderness, you’re still able to tap into the energy of a place like Londolozi in just a couple of clicks on a device.
It allows you to get a taste of the Londolozi experience before you get here and savour it long after you’re gone. Our understandings of time and space have broadened; connection now has possibility that extends beyond a face to face meeting with someone at a specific time and place.
Essentially what the technology has allowed us is to create a global family connected to nature through a series of invisible threads.
The importance has become so apparent that organisations such as the Good Work Foundation are setting up Digital Learning Centers in rural communities allowing the people living there to access the internet and technology and engage in this new world. Imagine the children that maybe can’t travel the world but can now experience the Amazon or Mount Everest or the Antarctic. In amongst them may be the next great conservationist. It opens up a world of possibilities for those with less power to have greater influence. Possibilities that I think we haven’t even begun to wrap our heads around yet.
The speed at which we now operate, volume of information we’re hit with daily and diversity of news we have to digest may be making our lives more difficult in some ways. Our hope though is that via whatever medium you choose, the internet is now giving you a portal to the wilderness. And that from the comfort of your bed you can access a bit of this peace and beauty. There’s no doubt that the world we’re living in is changing rapidly, the question is how can we make the best of it?