By: Kat Powelson
How do we do conservation education? Listen, and be educated. Perhaps those in need of an education are the conservationists who fail to see the values that motivate others!
Working with diverse groups of stakeholders and advocating for conservation amongst a plethora of competing interests seems to be a skill that is invaluable and outside of the scope of training of the average conservation practitioner. I was recently reading book about conservation planning and while reading I came across a few sentence that gave me pause,
“Despite the discouraging signs we believe that the basic connection of organism with habitat is apparent to most people, and with proper education, more people will come to understand that such things as the quality, size, and configuration of habitat patches determine the suitability for species. With education people will notice the wounds and want to see them heal. “ (The Science of Conservation Planning, , pg. 20, Noss, O’Connell, and Murphy)
Before I go any further I want to make clear that I think this a great book. I am singling out this passage because it started a lively debate in our class about the importance of being an educator when working on planning processes in groups with stakeholders that are not part of the “conservation community”. In our class people seemed to land firmly in one of two camps. The first was that educating people about the importance of conservation was critical to getting people to make choices that benefit conservation. The other group believed that trying to disguising persuasion as conservation education could be a detriment to advancing durable conservation action. I am currently residing in the second camp.
I agree that education is important, but when negotiating perhaps it is more important to be educated about the beliefs and values of whoever you are negotiating with. Not treating their concerns as being valid is a prescription for moving from a negotiation to a standoff. A lasting and more sustainable solution can be achieved if both parties can find where their common interests coincide. This is only possible you understand the needs and hopes of the person or groups involved in the negotiation.
Perhaps if conservationists focus less on trying to recruit people to their positions they may find some unlikely allies. It would not be the first time! The close partnerships between conservation and hunter funded groups is a great example of this. These groups have similar desires (a robust waterfowl population) but the values that motivate these members of this group’s actions range from biocentric to anthropocentric. For example check out the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers their values statements (BH&A values), but they have also worked in concert with well-respected conservation groups like the Sierra Club to oppose legislation blocking the clean water rule (link) and they are encouraging grass-roots involvement in land conservation (link) form people that the conservation community would. Another example is California’s multispecies conservation planning process (link), this planning process successfully bridge the chiasm between conservation and developers. It may be a little early to tout it as a success but check out this video (start at 1:33:25, link) to hear a little more about this process. If you disagree with me please feel free to comment, our team is constantly debating what percent of our readership is robots!
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