I recently read an article on the question “Is Conservation Extinct?, which explored the change in rhetoric on conservation. Conservation has traditionally been focused on the past in order to secure a future for a species or resource. “But while this strategy may still work in certain specific cases, as an overarching vision it no longer fits. You can’t ‘dial back time’ in a world of 9 billion people demanding water, food and energy.” By accepting that change is inevitable and managing this change we can more effectively sustain vulnerable species and ecosystems.
I really appreciated the author exploring the proactive theories on conservation and pointing out the reality that giving people the facts does not result in meaningful behavior change. Belief systems and self-reinforcing social groups are serious barriers to overcome. Conservation needs more than science, it needs behavior psychology.
This article was geared around conservation, but the need to manage change and shift from reactive, “in the past” defense is a lesson that is valuable for all aspects of environmentalism today. Maryland’s environmental community is strong, but so often we are on the defense as we try to achieve progress and systemic change. A proactive agenda is easier said than done, but it is a shift that is deeply needed.