Saturday, September 15, 2012

Contrarian Conservation





It is actually going to play out over the next five thousand years while we properly optimize ninety percent plus of the surface of the Earth and fully employ another ninety five billion people.

In the meantime it is good to find a conservationist who has the same agenda.  It is all about properly managing what you have now that we truly have the knowledge and power and tools.

Let us start with a simple task.  How about grooming our woodlands by converting dead wood into lumber and chips on a regular basis and use the chips to mulch pathways to access the woodlands.  It is a beginning that opens up selective harvesting and selective replanting of beneficial species as well as the typical native selection.

In a thousand years all our forests will be hold a full spectrum of old growth through understory nut producers and a dynamic multi species ground cover.  Our first centuries in the Americas saw indiscriminant destruction after centuries of deliberate native selection and grooming and the last century has seen a sharp recovery but a purely wild or monocrop recovery, neither of which is particularly clever.

Some of our wild is intact, but Yellow Stone has certainly shown us that we can get that wrong also.

Contrarian conservationist: Nature Conservancy’s chief scientist riles old-school greens


Photo by Dave Lauridsen.


Peter Kareiva has some unconventional ideas about conservation. Chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy, Kareiva is known in scientific circles as a provocateur who constantly questions the status quo — a habit that has made him a few enemies among old-guard conservationists.

Among his crimes: He thinks environmentalists should empathize more with the “other side” — the loggers, fishermen, and developers. He works with big smoke-puffing, water-polluting, chemical-creating corporations such as Dow Chemical, which he calls a “keystone species” in the corporate ecosystem. And he refuses to accept the conservation mantra that nature is fragile; in fact, he thinks nature is resilient in most cases.

By working with a broader constituency, Kareiva hopes environmental issues will become human issues, incorporated into our basic social, economic, and political fabric. His advice for conservationists? “Don’t be a special interest. We all want a better future

… We just have to make it clear to people how healthy nature contributes to a better future.”

When told to respect history, Kareiva says, “Honor the past? I think we should build the future!” He’s ready to innovate, to create and design new landscapes that keep up with a changing global system. And as a bigwig with the largest conservation organization in the world, he’s in a good position to do just that.

Don’t think that Kareiva takes this challenge lightly, however. Humans have been having massive impacts on the planet since we evolved as a species, Kareiva says. The difference now is that “we have such dominion over the planet that we can actually decide what we want to do with it,” he says. This is “a tremendous responsibility and a tremendous opportunity.” [ if this blog does anything it argues this cause which is the way of the future that involves every human being – Arclein ]

“The Anthropocene means it’s in our hands,” Kareiva says. “If we’re smart, we could have a very, very good planet with a lot of wild areas, enough food, enough energy. And if we’re not smart, we’re going to blow it. And it’s all going to play out in the next 20 to 30 years.”

In this interview, I talk to Kareiva about conservationists, corporations, the push and pull between science and values, and why he thinks many of our plans to save endangered species are wrongheaded.

This interview is part of the Generation Anthropocene project, in which Stanford students partake in an inter-generational dialogue with scholars about living in an age when humans have become a major force shaping our world.

Jenny Rempel is a recent graduate of the Stanford Earth Systems Program, where she focused her studies on conservation biology and sustainable agriculture. Jenny is leaving behind the Bay Area for a fellowship in the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Program at the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation in New York City.

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