Parochial conservation

30 01 2010
© cagiecartoons.com

A little bit of conservation wisdom for you this weekend.

In last week’s issue of Nature, well-known conservation planner and all-round smart bloke, Reed Noss (who just happens to be an editor for Conservation Letters and Conservation Biology), provided some words of extreme wisdom. Not pulling any punches in his Correspondence piece entitled Local priorities can be too parochial for biodiversity, Noss essentially says ‘don’t leave the important biodiversity decisions to the locals’.

He argues rather strongly in his response to Smith and colleagues’ opinion piece (Let the locals lead) that local administrators just can’t be trusted to make good conservation decisions given their focus on local economic development and other political imperatives. He basically says that the big planning decisions should be made at grander scales that over-ride local concerns because, well, the big fish in their little ponds can’t be trusted (nor do they have the training) to do what’s best for regional biodiversity conservation.

I couldn’t agree more – he states:

“Academic researchers, conservation non-governmental organizations and other ‘foreign’ interests tend to be better informed, less subject to local political influence and more experienced in conservation planning than local agencies.”

Of course, being part of the first group, I’m probably a little biased, but I dare say that we’ve got a lot better handle on the science beyond saving biodiversity, as well as a better understanding of why that’s important, than your average regional representative, village council, chief, Lord Mayor or state member. Sure, ‘engage your stakeholders’ (I have images of shooting missiles at people holding star pickets with this gem of business jargon wankery, but there you go), but please base the decision on science first. I think Smith and colleagues have some good points, but I am more in favour of a broad-scale benevolent dictatorship in conservation planning than fine-scale democracy. Granted, the best formula is likely to be very context-specific, and of course, you need some people with local implementation power to make it happen.

Dear Honourable Minister, you may sign on the dotted line to make policy real, but please, please listen to us before you do. Your very life and those of your children depend on it.

CJA Bradshaw

ResearchBlogging.orgNoss, R. (2010). Local priorities can be too parochial for biodiversity Nature, 463 (7280), 424-424 DOI: 10.1038/463424a

Smith, R., Veríssimo, D., Leader-Williams, N., Cowling, R., & Knight, A. (2009). Let the locals lead Nature, 462 (7271), 280-281 DOI: 10.1038/462280a

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13 responses

6 02 2010
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Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by conservbytes: Parochial conservation: http://wp.me/phhT4-T3

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3 02 2010
comdenom

This is thinking?
“Scientists from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation have conducted years of research on homes lost to bushfires. They discovered that 90 percent of homes were not destroyed by the advancing fire fronts but instead were consumed by other small fires started by embers lodged around the structures after the flames had passed. Houses occupied when fire burned around them had a three to six times greater chance of survival. This improved outcome was a result of residents preparing their structures with proper bushfire defensive techniques prior to a fire’s arrival. Occupants who remained inside their homes kept destruction at bay by actively patrolling attic spaces and other rooms, using buckets of water to extinguish any developing threats. Once the intensity of the fire subsided, homeowners went outside to extinguish any embers or direct flames threatening their structures.”

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3 02 2010
CJAB

What are you on? Relevance to discussion…? Please enlighten us.

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3 02 2010
comdenom

This certainly reads like conservation arrogance, under the assumption that nobody but you guys know what’s best for the earth while simultaneously biting the hands that feed you. Don’t think for a moment you haven’t benefitted from US funding, the US pumps hundreds of billions of dollars annually across the globe.

Always being the first on scene delivering aid in a catastrophe at the same time delivering the most financial aid than any other nation, is that what you mean when talking about how they treat everyone else?

Or are you talking about the push weight and popularity promotion from the US on climate change despite the IPCC’s science was based on a Climbing Magazine article that’s given you the very opportunity to capitalize on that market from your pompous podium? You blatantly reveal immaturity by calling people vicious names that disagree with your agenda and still assume your critique is credible.

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3 02 2010
CJAB

Oh yes, we bow down to your great sacrifice for the benefit of the world. Without the US’s benevolence, why, what a terrible world it would be.

Please – try pushing your arrogance (and you have the nerve to call ME pompous!) on the other conspiracy theorists, Luddite CC denialists and backward imperialists. There are plenty of sites where your warm and fuzzy views will be applauded. Unfortunately for you, this site generally appeals to thinkers.

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2 02 2010
Mark Jordahl

While I agree that local communities often do not have the skills or expertise to make scientific decisions for biodiversity conservation, it is disingenuous for Noss to suggest that “Academic researchers, conservation non-governmental organizations and other ‘foreign’ interests” don’t have their own agendas. The conservation NGOs need to maintain their budgets, as do researchers. I’m not sure what “other foreign interests” he is referring to, but I’m sure they have their own agendas as well. You can read Conservation Refugees by Mark Dowie to see how well that can work out.

I haven’t read the full Nature article yet, but it seems to draw from the arrogance that taints a lot of development and conservation work here in Africa. If the local expertise isn’t there, how about using some of those conservation or research dollars to TRAIN locals in the conservation sciences who have a deeper understanding of the sociological realities of the area?

Would we let a conservation NGO from Zimbabwe come to the U.S. and start evicting ranchers from their lands in Wyoming to save the wolves? I don’t think so.

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2 02 2010
CJAB

Why not? I would, but Americans can be a bit sensitive about being treated like they treat everyone else.

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31 01 2010
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30 01 2010
Geoff Russell

I’ve seen enough local parochial ignorance to side with Noss, but it is
too simplistic to say “base the decision on science” because science
can’t give you goals, it can, at best tell you how to reach a goal, but
not what it should be. Second, experts usually “fly in and fly
out”, and don’t have to live with or implement their advice. Third, it will
rarely be true that individuals optimising their own interests will optimise
globally (agreed) interests. The third problem is the toughest of
all. A groundwater irrigated dairy industry is an example. In most
cases, the groundwater is slowly depleted. The
wells keep getting deeper, eventually the groundwater will run out, but
that might be 50 years away … who thinks that far in front? The Victorian
dairy industry is a similar example, but instead of just groundwater, it’s
the Murray. Of course the individuals here aren’t just the dairy farmers
but also the dairy consumers … each of whom is acting in their own
best (taste) interests while agreeing with the importance of the
global interest (the health of the Murray).

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30 01 2010
comdenom

” but I am more in favour of a broad-scale benevolent dictatorship in conservation planning than fine-scale democracy” That’s exactly how a socialistic dictatorship starts, with a convenient inroad in the name of environmental concern. It could be also said of the ecco-movement narrowly focussing on the percieved threat of consumption and population as parochial.

Take away the power from the people and put it in the hands of those that will exterminate the population to conserve an unrealistic cause of protecting the earth’s finite resources…well keeping it for themselves is more accurate.

Don’t be so sure you will be one of the lucky ones.

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30 01 2010
CJAB

Little bit paranoid and conspiracy theorist, aren’t we?

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30 01 2010
comdenom

You perhaps draw no connection between the environmental movement and dictatorship regarding a non-constitutional control of resources, including the air you breath.

Our Founding Fathers put their wealth, sweat and blood into the checks and balances (institutional safeguards) of the Constitution, the very thing that has saved us thus far? I can only imagine it has something to do with lessons from history, if abuse of power has been repeated, it is certainly plausible for it to happen again, neither theory, conspiracy nor paranoid.

I’ve heard the overall message “save the planet kill yourself”. If that’s not the message then where will it responsibly end?

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30 01 2010
CJAB

Classic American arrogance, xenophobia and disconnectedness. Wake up – there’s a world out there.

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