*Note: This blog is participatory. If you have an opinion and don’t mind taking 5 minutes to share it, I would really appreciate it.
Many conservationists spend considerable time thinking about how to communicate to the public in order to increase support for conservation actions. There is a growing understanding that increasing social capital for doing conservation is critical for many conservation successeses. Mark published a really nice, thought-provoking article on this in Conservation Biology back in 2008 (read it here). He argued that, “Conservation biologists…need to think big… in terms of the numbers of concerned and mobilized constituents for conservation. A focus on developing conservation social capital – rallying the public around the need to take conservation of biodiversity seriously – may suggest a shift in conservation emphasis not entire based on ecosystem targets and wildlands objectives.”
It is encouraging that there has been a lot of progress in this area. Local conservation organizations, such as land trusts, that rely on support and participation from local citizens are growing rapidly and are collectively conserving huge areas across the United States. Citizen science and participatory monitoring programs are becoming increasing important venues for data collection and public engagement. There is growing emphasis on restoring and managing social-ecological systems – bringing conservation into urban and agricultural lands, while also tying conservation to issues of public health and social justice. All of these trends rely on a growing consciousness regarding conservation issues among the public.
We also recognize that this proportion of the public that is actively engaged in or motivated by conservation issues is relatively small, and that we must continue to grow it. However, the amount of time that any one person’s attention is available for learning about conservation related issues is limited. The amount of information we are capable of sharing is also limited. This requires us to prioritize what information we think is most critical for increasing support for conservation.
And this is where I start really needing help. I am fairly certain that the ideas that most strongly motivate me to support conservation aren’t the right ones to use to open a dialogue with someone who has never before considered the need for or value of conservation.
So, here is my question to you:
As a conservationist, is there one thing that you wished everyone knew or understood about the world or conservation in general?
What concept do you think is the most important for motivating someone to support conservation? Why?
Here are a few notes that came up in conversation when we asked ourselves this question at a lab retreat a couple of months ago. It is a little vague, and certainly incomplete, but it gives an idea of the types of things we considered that day.
b) What is your community? Where do you draw the boundaries?
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