Thought piece: an Open Letter to Conservation

A #BiodiversityRevisited thought piece by Elliot Connor, founder of Human Nature.
The content of this thought piece represents the author’s own views and does not necessarily represent the views of the Biodiversity Revisited initiative nor of any of its collaborating institutions.

An Open Letter to Conservation

To the people who act for life,

You know we are all connected to the Earth. Yet few of us act for it. And those who do, do so alone. This needs to change.

On 15th March, 150,000 students across my home country, Australia, chose to follow the example of a single Swedish girl the same age as myself and strike against our widespread inaction against climate change. After decades of denial, popular pressure for environmentally sustainable policies is mounting at a rate never before seen. This is overwhelmingly positive news… and yet it is not enough.

Whilst many in the younger generation have seen the light with respect to our carbon footprint, even the most ardent supporters of this movement remain clueless when it comes to the equally pressing issue of biodiversity loss. We may change our ways and live ‘green’ as can be, but the threats posed by habitat degradation, animal trafficking, and invasive species will continue ad infinitum unless an equal miracle can be wrought here too.

Imagine if anyone could, on a whim, contribute in a meaningful and quantifiable way to conservation. It’s not impossible – underfunded, poorly resourced and unappreciated, environmental organisations ought to be dying for the chance to get a few eager and skilled volunteers under their belt. And yet few do. I myself have contacted literally hundreds of such groups, and can safely say that only half of them responded; an immense problem in itself.

Imagine if people could be engaged with caring for our nature. If they could sit down for dinner on a Friday evening and tune in for a presentation by Chad Frischmann of Project Drawdown, or perhaps the great E.O. Wilson of Half Earth Project fame. Both of these ideas have the potential to change the world if only people were listening.

Imagine if conservation were for the many, rather than the few. I have volunteered with more environmental groups than I can remember, and never have I met anyone even close to my age. Natural sciences aren’t taught at school, and the vast majority of those old, retired volunteers I have worked with honestly believe that us youth don’t give a damn about nature. Most don’t – some do.

I’ll quit with the poetry now, and speak to you straight. 

The way I see it, conservation organisations are falling behind. You are preaching to the converted, squabbling over funds that don’t exist, and using the same methods and goals that have been flaunted in these circles for the past half-century: safeguarding the most iconic species, protecting patches of habitat.

The great conservationist Gerald Durrell once said: 

“Animals and plants have no MP they can write to; they can’t perform sit-down strikes or, indeed, strikes of any sort; they have nobody to speak for them except us, the human beings who share the world with them but do not own it.”

Once every so often, we would do well to heed his words and consider briefly just how well we represent the animals and plants that are our kin.

Best wishes for all of your pursuits,

The future.

Related Reading: Biodiversity Revisited