Conservation Is Not About Nature

Posted on September 7, 2011

Conservation is not about Nature

This is the title of an article by Dr Joe Zammit Lucia published as an Expert Opinion by IUCN. (Download pdf)

‘Conservation is all about people’ says the opening line of the paper quoting from the web site of IUCN’s Commission for Education and Communication.

A Re-think for the 21st Century

“We need to re-think what conservation and environmentalism should be about in a 21st century world” claims Dr Zammit-Lucia. “We have to make more tangible, more real, more meaningful and more immediate the benefits that people get from investing in conservation activities.”

No more “critters before people”

He argues that the conservation community can no longer afford to be seen as scientists indulging their personal passion for preserving animals and forests or talking about abstractions like ‘biodiversity’ and ‘ecosystem services’ or ‘climate science’. Neither can they be perceived as putting animals and trees before people. “We have to stop glorifying nature at the expense of people and start formulating every single conservation project in terms of how people will benefit from it in tangible ways.”

Not just a cosmetic matter of “better communication”

Dr Zammit-Lucia argues for a “putting people first” approach to conservation and environmental issues. This is not a simple matter of better communication, he argues, but needs “a more fundamental re-think of what we’re about“.

He proposes two main pillars on which this change can be built:

– developing the skills and capabilities to address the people-related elements in conservation

– working more effectively with others – especially industry and business on which people’s livelihoods depend. “Conservation can achieve nothing without the deep and active involvement of industry“, he claims.