The conservation movement is full of facts. Scary facts like the Earth is getting irreversibly warmer, causing the sea level to rise; humans are causing species extinctions 1,000 faster than the background rate; there’s a ball of plastic the size of Texas in the middle of the ocean; and a football field size of forest is lost every two seconds. Well. Those things are true. However, as you read them you probably either glossed over them OR thought “wow” and moved on. The may even make you feel sad or upset, but do they make you feel inspired? Probably not.
This is where the job of conservationists, my job, gets tough. We know the solution to these problems lies with changing behavior- at an individual level, a community level, a nation level, and a global level. But, how do we inspire behavior change? If you were told about the Texas-sized plastic ball in the ocean and that pieces of plastic are found in the stomach of dead birds, fish, and sea turtles, would you stop buying plastic?
So far, conservationists have shown people these facts and have told them what will happen if we don’t stop the actions that cause these problems. For instance, we’ve told them the countless number of species that will go extinct if we keep using forest land for cattle pasture and oil exploration. Yet, for someone who works in, say, Michigan, and isn’t faced with the direct effects of deforestation on a daily basis, are they going to care? Are they going to change their ways? If they are sympathetic, they may feel bad. But who likes to feel bad???
No one likes to feel bad and so maybe Conservation, as an public educator, is going about things the wrong way. In this blog, I try to showcase studies and works of humanity that show how we can live sustainably, how human actions can increase biodiversity. I firmly believe in humanity’s good, loving, and understanding nature to both our own species and others. And those are good feelings. The will to conserve nature is best brought out with good feelings. Conservation should remind people how they feel when walking through a sunlit forest, how they feel watching a sunset on the beach, or when they see a wild animal run through a meadow. We can always use more of a good thing.