Being positive about conservation

Over Christmas I was out walking in the Pennines with family and friends.

I got to talking to one of our old family friends (in that I have known her for a long time, not that she is old – I’d never be that rude) about what I was doing for my PhD.

I can’t quite remember the conversation but it went something like this:

Her: “The natural world is screwed. What kind of world do you think we’ll leave for our children and grand children if thinks keep on like this?”

Me: “I agree. But not everything is terrible. People think that deforestation in the Amazon is unsolvable, but recently deforestation has been going down.” (Note: this was true at the time, it’s just shown a ~30% increase)

Her: “Really? I didn’t know anything about that.”

Me: “Yeah, and the Brazilian government can now monitor deforestation monthly using its own satellites and potentially work out who is deforesting what.”

Her: “Wow. I didn’t know that either. Why don’t conservation people talk about these things more often?”

She had me there.

Why don’t we?

I think it’s fairly easy to understand why: tropical forests are being cleared rapidly, pollinator populations are in decline, as are carnivore populations and apparently populations of long-lived trees, not to mention the crisis in fisheries, the lack of a solid deal on carbon emissions… the list could go on.

However, buried amongst all that conservation has made some practical contributions to help save species and unique ecosystems from obliteration. We need to talk about these more often. If people think that everything is beyond hope – what is the point in doing anything?

Species like the golden tamarin have been brought back from the brink of extinction - so why don't we talk about them? Photo credit: 1000 wishes on Flickr
Species like the golden tamarin have been brought back from the brink of extinction – so why don’t we talk about them? Photo credit: 1000 wishes on Flickr

This is not a new idea. The late, great Navjot Sodhi and colleagues wrote a paper a few years ago identifying conservation successes at small, medium and large scales and others have been banging on about it for even longer. Shamelessly I am going to steal this idea.

So starting from now I will have an occasional series of posts called ‘Positive Conservation’, Or #positiveconservation for those of you on Twitter.

I ran through a series of names for this series #ponservation probably being the least appropriate, though #poncervation would  be a great name for hipster types doing conservation whilst rocking their oversized glasses (subnote – I don’t hate hipsters, I think I might be one).

I’ll keep this series as positive as possible and will write about individual case studies of conservation success, what the problems were and how people found solutions to them. Like upworthy for conservation but less cheesy, hopefully. If there are any examples that you particularly like and I don’t write about – send them my way. Let’s see how this goes.

2 thoughts on “Being positive about conservation

  1. Great idea, and good point! The press, certainly in the UK, only ever seems to report on conservation disasters. A friend of mine wrote a whole thesis on how negative reporting affects people’s attitudes to conservation – you can guess the results.
    You should have a look at “Wild Hope”, a great book by Prof Andrew Balmford at the University of Cambridge (surtitle: “On the front lines of conservation success”)

  2. I’m looking forward to this series – there are so many positive things happening that we either never hear about or they get over shadowed by the bad things.

    It must be a human thing; we seem to love doom and gloom, and the continuous focus on bad news on TV and the radio only makes this worse. Why do journalists and such feel that good news stories aren’t interesting/worthy enough to publicise as much?

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